Photo: The Hunts Point Express. Trucks at the Hunts Point Terminal Market.

The Hunts Point Produce Market has been awarded $110 million in federal infrastructure funding to modernize its facilities and reduce air pollution, its first significant upgrade in 50 years.

Plans call for the market to be enlarged into a 1 million-square-foot freight facility with over 800,000 square feet of refrigerated warehouse space that will eliminate 1,000 refrigerated trailer units that now run on diesel fuel, according to announcements this week from Rep. Ritchie Torres, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Mayor Eric Adams.

Funding will also go to create the largest electric truck charging hub in the city and auto charging stations, and to install solar panels or a green roof. Improvements to how trucks circulate within the market and redevelopment of a nearby road to better coordinate inbound and outbound traffic, and provide greater access to rail lines, will further improve air quality, the city’s announcement said.

Funding comes from a U.S Department of Transportation (USDOT) Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant and will allow New York City to strengthen a critical freight and food supply chain while improving air quality in the South Bronx.

“These funds will help increase food security, meet growing food demands, maintain and produce new good-paying jobs, reduce diesel emissions in an area with a sky-high asthma rate, and so much more,” said Schumer.  He credited Torres, Teamsters Local 202, Hunts Point merchants and market administrators for pushing the plan.

On Saturday many neighbors and local businesses had not heard about the market’s windfall.  Hunts Point resident Dariella Rodriguez, who volunteers at The Point, raised questions as she strolled in nearby Hunts Point Riverside Park.

  “Who is allowed to be part of the planning process? We want the investment, but it comes with the work of holding them accountable,” she said. “We want to get rid of the diesel trucks. The park is so beautiful but it’s empty because people are afraid to cross the street with the Truck Depot.”

The Museum of the City of New York’s recently opened exhibition, “Food in New York: Bigger Than The Plate,” described the market’s role as a handler of more food than any other distribution center in the nation–responsible for 4.5 billion tons of food for the region and about 2.5 billion tons of food for New York City each year.

The market accounts for 45% of the fish, 35% of the meat and 25% of the produce consumed in the city, according to the exhibit. About half of the customers at the market are independent restaurants and cafes, while supermarkets and bodegas make up around 40% of the shoppers.

The weight of the market’s responsibilities revealed itself in 2021, when the uncertainty of COVID-19 compelled much of the tri-state area to close. Market management remained open by taking preemptive steps like stocking sanitizer and soap, staggering work schedules and regularly collecting data on the spread of illness at the site.

Maria Torres, president of The Point Community Development Corporation, expressed skepticism over how the money might be managed, but was pleased at the increase in cleaner energy sources. She would like to see upgrades that will allow more goods to travel by rail, and more fresh food from the market available to local residents.

“With food insecurity being such an issue for local residents as well, we hope to see these investments result in real access to fresh affordable foods for our local Hunts Point community,” Torres said.

The grant application was prepared by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), and the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS).

“This critical funding is going to catapult our efforts to transform the produce market into a state-of-the-art environmentally sustainable facility that its 2,000 workers, local businesses, and community neighbors deserve,” said NYCEDC President and CEO Andrew Kimball.

The funding comes in addition to ‘Hunts Point Forward,’ a $40 million plan released by the Mayor in June to create economic opportunity and improve quality of life for New Yorkers in the Hunts Point neighborhood. The collective plans are part of the mayor’s Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery plan that aims to invest $140 million in Hunts Point infrastructure and community priorities.

“The importance of the Hunts Point Produce Market to the South Bronx, New York City, and the tristate area cannot be understated,” said New York City Councilmember Rafael Salamanca. “Supplying billions of pounds of fresh produce throughout New York, the produce market also employs thousands and thousands of Bronxites, many of whom live in District 17.”

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