Originally printed in the July 2022 issue of Produce Business.
The Hunts Point Produce Market merchants are appealing for public funds, beyond the $100 million already secured, to build a dream market — a new, modern facility that would allow small retailers and independent restaurants to have a supply chain that will make them more competitive against their bigger competitors.
The dream facility also would allow growers to be able to market produce of all sizes and grades, as opposed to wasting loads of produce when giant retailers insist on only a specific size or grade.
Phillip Grant, chief executive of the Hunts Point Produce Market, breaks down the ways in which this new dream market might differ from the existing facility.
Q. What are some of the models envisioned? What would this type of facility look like? How would it differ from what exists today?
Grant: We are happy to announce that the Hunts Point Produce Market has actually received a commitment of approximately $130 million from the office of New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, within his first 100 days in office. The envisioned new Hunts Point Produce Market will be an ecosystem of businesses; a cold-chain-compliant and sustainable facility that will allow our merchants to better leverage their multi-generational expertise and continue to keep New York City fed.
The most recently built terminal market in America is the Philadelphia market. Its unique innovation in American markets is that it is completely enclosed. The advantages, in terms of product quality, are clear, as this allows for temperature control. Yet its shape does not allow for the easy crossing of produce from receipt of product to distribution to client trucks.
Q: Is the thought that a new market would be enclosed?
Grant: The new Market will be an enclosed facility that will meet all requirements for cold chain compliance.
Most of the newer terminal markets received public land where they could operate, often far from rail lines. Yet trains are environmentally friendly, economically advantageous, etc. Although Hunts Point was built with the expectation that trains could pull up right behind each warehouse, doing so necessitates the removal of tractor trailers that are backed up behind warehouses.
Q: Will a new market integrate the use of rail?
Grant: Rail is an essential component to our business ecosystem here at the Market, which many of our merchants depend on.
We are optimistic about the future of rail within the Market since rail cars are a sustainable form of transportation that remove approximately 4 trucks from our congested roadways.
In 2018, there was a study by the State University of New, City University of New York and the Merchant Marine Academy of the possibility of waterborne transportation to offer an alternative to the primary use of trucks.
Previous proposals considered the possibility of waterborne transportation being integrated into the market. This might be more economical and environmentally friendly.
Q: Is there a thought of integrating water-borne transportation in the new market?
Grant: This is an idea that has been discussed for years and we are open to the concept, especially as we see the City of New York starting pilot projects with this mode of transportation.
The Javits Center has built a rooftop garden that is aligned with the New York State Department of Agriculture.
Q: Is there a possibility that the roof of the facility could be greenhouses?
Grant: While we don’t have any specific plans to build greenhouses on top or within our facility, it is an exciting idea that has been proposed in the past. We are excited by this prospect and are open to coordinating with our local city and community partners to make it happen.
Mayor Eric Adams has made Urban Farming a part of his administration’s agenda.
Q: Are there any plans for ensuring that trucks and trailers can all be plugged into electric outlets to avoid carbon emissions?
Grant: Yes. Provisions will be made to make trailer plug-ins possible.
Q: Are there any thoughts of building a training facility so that people from the South Bronx can be trained and given jobs?
Grant: The Market is currently working with The Hope Program, a local job and skills development not-for-profit, to install a NYC CoolRoof — a white paint that reduces indoor temperatures and helps reduce our energy consumption.
The Market hopes to develop more of these community-focused programs that help support job growth in The Bronx.
SOLAR AND WIND ENERGY
Q: The refrigeration needs of the produce industry are substantial. Surely the new facility will have proper insulation etc., but what about integrating solar, wind, and maybe even geothermal energy, so the market is self-sufficient in energy?
Grant: Our future market build will likely feature a solar array to help us achieve our vision of a more sustainable market. We are open to thinking creatively about ways to become more self-sufficient.
MARKET SUPPORT SERVICES
Q: Merchants depend on many services, such as banks, UPS/FedEx/Postal service, accounting firms, etc. Any possibility of providing space for some of these support services to operate in a new market.
Grant: Our new market is envisioned to be an ecosystem of businesses that will make the work of keeping New Yorkers fed as easy and sustainable as possible. We are open to inviting new businesses into our market that will support this vision.
Q: With the demand for recycling packaging, reusing pallets, etc., how could a new market boost sustainability interest?
Grant: We envision that our new market will come equipped with a state-of-the-art waste disposal system that will allow us to increase our whole-market recycling efforts.
The market is famous for being very generous with produce helping many people and organizations. Yet the ideal facilities may extend shelf life and make it easy to sell produce.
Q: How can we make sure that charitable needs are served as the market evolves?
Grant: Giving back is an important aspect of our market’s culture.
Our merchants are passionate about giving back to the communities that have supported them throughout our long history in New York City, especially our local communities. In fact, approximately, 60% of the employees at the market are from The Bronx. All that is to say that our give-back programs will continue and even evolve!
Q: An ultra-modern, world-class market: What would it mean for shippers, for buyers and for market operators?
Grant: The current Market was built in 1967 and has been supporting New York City’s food infrastructure ever since.
Building a state-of-the-art facility will mean that buyers and shippers can continue to depend on our multi-generational expertise for generations to come.