The historic Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx may have to close or relocate. Both alternatives would be disastrous for New York. The Market provides most of the fresh fruits and vegetables that may be in your home or in your favorite restaurant, but the market is in danger as a major makeover is essential to its survival. Major money is needed to make it happen and Chuck Schumer is fighting to get it.
“Project value is estimated to be anywhere upwards between $620 and $720 million,” Phillip Grant, CEO of the market, said.
The market is integral to the city’s – and the tri-state’s – food infrastructure, but it’s in need of a revitalization.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer visited the market in the south Bronx a few days ago and he’s pushing for $380 million from the federal government through INFRA and Mega grants. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has committed $150 million. The money would allow the market to upgrade and expand, something that is essential if it is to survive.
Built in 1962 as a 40-acre facility with six buildings, the Market consists of seven large refrigerated/freezer buildings on 60 acres, with a total refrigerated space of approximately 700,000 square feet (65,000 m2). It is governed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) “The moment this market was built in 1967, we were already out of space,” Grant added.
The largest food distribution center of its kind in the world, it earns annual revenues of over $2 billion.[The 112-acre facility provides 25% of New York City’s produce. About 2.5 billion pounds of produce pass through annually, sourcing from 49 states and 55 countries.
The grants would expand refrigeration capacity and transition from diesel-powered trailers to electric. If the grant isn’t received, the market may have to shut down or find a new location.
“Things could go to New Jersey,” Schumer said. “It would be terrible. Can you imagine all these produce trucks having to go over the George Washington Bridge or the Lincoln Tunnel? No one will ever get through.”
Keeping the market in the Bronx doesn’t only mean retaining an economic driver in the borough. If they get money to transition from diesel-powered trailers to electric, Congressman Ritchie Torres says it will drastically improve public health; childhood asthma rates in the south Bronx are the highest in the country.
“Every day from and to the food distribution center, there are 15,000 truck trips – diesel truck trips,” Torres said. “Those truck trips create massive amounts of congestion that unleash air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Gabriela D’Arrigo’s family have been merchants at the market since it opened. “Our livelihood is wholeheartedly dependent on whether we receive this,” D’Arrigo said.
It also means thousands of jobs are at stake. Roughly 2,000 employees are based in the facility, of which 65 percent live in the Bronx. There are also 5,000 indirect jobs between farmers, shippers, and buyers. The grant would increase the union jobs locally and the indirect jobs nationally.
The INFRA and Mega grants are issued by the Department of Transportation. Schumer says he’s been in touch with Secretary Pete Buttigieg, so they’re hopeful for a positive outcome. The grant awards will be announced in the fall.