HUNTS POINT — The federal government offered $10 million Tuesday to help modernize the massive Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market — but first, the market's merchants and the city must agree to a new lease.
The current lease extends until 2014, but an agreement to negotiate exclusively expires on June 29, after which the merchants’ cooperative would be free to resume talks with New Jersey officials, who would like the market, with its $2.3 billion annual revenue, to relocate to their state.
New York’s congressional delegates lobbied the U.S. Transportation Department for the $10 million redevelopment grant, in part, to convince the merchants to stay put.
“This grant will help keep the Hunts Point market — and its jobs — right where it belongs,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, “in The Bronx, not in New Jersey.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Reps. Joe Crowley and Jose Serrano also pushed for the grant.
The merchants currently pay the city $4.5 million per year in rent. The market, which is the second largest wholesale market in the world, supplies 60 percent of the city’s fresh produce and employs more than 3,500 workers, according to the city.
If the 115 firms that operate in the market decide to remain in The Bronx, the 45-year-old space will need major renovations.
The two sides have set the redevelopment cost at $332.5 million, split between $160 million from the produce co-op and the rest from public sources, according to the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is a party to the negotiations.
“The produce market really does need to be brought into the modern age,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at an unrelated press conference Wednesday.
The three “core challenges” at the market are insufficient storage space, inadequate food quality protections and a truck-based transportation system that limits delivery sizes and adds to air pollution, said EDC spokesman Patrick Muncie.
The $10 million grant would be used to develop rail infrastructure at the site, Muncie said.
But before the redevelopment work can start, the two signs must sign a long-term lease.
Last week, the city secured $5 million to go towards pre-development work at the site, according to Muncie, which he called “a real sign of progress.”
The merchant’s co-op could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.