Typically it is the merchants who make the case for terminal markets, but as successful businesspeople themselves, their arguments are often perceived as self-serving. Recently, though, the head of the Union that works not only at Hunts Point but up and down the east coast at food facilities, wrote a letter to the Mayor of New York stating the case for public support for a new produce market in the city:
August 6, 2015
The Honorable Mayor De Blassio
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor De Blasio:
My name is Daniel J. Kane, Jr. I am the President of Teamsters local 202 I.B.T. Our Union has for almost 100 years represented the workers in the New York City Produce Industry. Our Industry started in lower Manhattan where my grandfather worked. In the 1960’s the city decided to move the Market to Hunts Point. It was an infrastructure project led by a republican governor and a republican mayor.
In 1967 Mayor Lindsay opened the New Terminal Market at Hunts Point, and for the past 48 years we have provided the most diverse high quality produce of any city in the world. In short, the produce Market feeds New York City. While providing this valuable service, the Market also does other beneficial things like:
1. Provide good paying jobs for a community that needs them the most. Our Union represents close to 1,300 workers at the market. Over 800 of those workers live in the Bronx. They work hard and are proud of the work they do.
2. The Market also provides the city with the most diverse product in the country. This benefits every restaurant and grocery store in our city. New York City is the food capital of the world because of the availability of the diverse products that our Market helps provide.
Our city’s biggest industry is tourism. One of the reasons people come to our city is the diverse menu our city provides that is not available elsewhere. The Market is a big part of this. In short, the infrastructure investment made over 47 years ago at Hunts Point has paid off for our city and its citizens. Now after 47 years the Market needs to be rebuilt for the next 50 years.
For over 20 years the Market has been in need of new investment. The previous two administrations did very little to address this problem. When you were elected, I was hopeful that you would be our generation’s “New Deal Mayor”. That you would invest in infrastructure, infrastructure that would help build the middle class and help working families.
I hoped that our project at Hunts Point, with its relatively small cost and its proven benefits, would be 1st on your list. Sadly I was wrong. Not only have I not seen any progress on the Market project, your administration has moved backwards. It seems as though you are not aware of how important this is to the city and why it needs to be done now. I am still hopeful that you can address this project and do something your predecessors could not do — build a new Market and make sure New York City continues to have the best food supply in the world.
I ask that you come and visit our Union and the Market. See the faces of the people who do the work. I think it will help you see why you should make this project a priority.
In closing, myself and my family have benefited from policies that came from the new deal. I grew up believing that progressive politics had made it possible for poor families to enter the middle class. I believed this because of what I saw that came from these policies.
The people of New York City benefited from these policies. Hunts Point Market was a project born out of the progressive policy of public investment. In today’s world the right wing says that government is bad; that it can’t do things. They are getting an audience because we on the left are not doing what we used to do and build infrastructure. Because of this people see government negatively.
When Roosevelt, Wagner, and the rest of the democrats from New York got power, they did things and made a difference. Your choice is clear, will you just talk about progressive policies or will you do things that make a difference? At Hunts Point people are waiting.
Daniel J. Kane Jr.
Teamsters Local 202 I.B.T.
Bronx, New York
All too often, arguments for public support for building new markets are made in a very small sense. Studies are done and show how many jobs the markets create and so forth. This is all true and good, but it really is a very limited way of looking at markets.
A place such as Hunts Point certainly provides opportunities for its workers, many of whom are using these highly paid union jobs as a rung up on the ladder of immigrant success in America. In turn, these good jobs help build stable families, and stable families help build stable communities.
The South Bronx is a long way from the days of Ft. Apache and, in no small part that is because of stable jobs provided at the produce, meat and seafood markets all clustered in Hunts Point. Yet vibrant markets serve constituencies far afield from those who actually work at the market.
On one side, you have growers, and it is hard to overstate the importance of markets in helping growers. Large retailers and distributors buy what they need and want. It is terminal market wholesalers who help growers sell what they have to sell.
This could be sizes or varieties that large chains don’t order, or it could be handling surplus product beyond what large chains will issue a PO for. It could be handling rejected loads.
In any case, the terminal market is the great receiver, ready to help growers sell more when they need to do so.
Some earnest PhD ought to do a study to determine what percentage of grower profits come as a result of these markets. In many cases it exceeds 100%.
But as important as the markets are to growers, they are just as important to cities such as New York.
What urban life needs to fight is the “great homogenization” — where every store and restaurant is another chain indistinguishable from outlets in other cities. Think about tourism and how much people come to a city like New York specifically to dine at great establishments.
But it is the terminal market that serves as the distribution center for the independent retailers and restaurants of New York.
Only a vibrant market and its vibrant distribution center can assure independent restaurants and retailers of a supply chain of the depth and breadth necessary to remain innovative and unique.
Politicians are kidding themselves and hurting their constituencies if they look at the issue of ensuring vibrant markets as a quick economic calculation.
The diversity that terminal markets create on both the sell and buy side means that a failure to ensure a modern and vibrant wholesale market remains in New York and other great cities is a failure to build a legacy that ensures prosperous farmers and exciting urban life in the decades to come.