Attention Shoppers

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As the City Council promotes the idea of building a massive public market at the World Trade Center site, a similar proposal has been tossing around in Hunts Point, home to one of the country’s largest wholesale markets. With that market slated to get even bigger when it absorbs Fulton Street’s fish operation in 2004, local residents say it’s time their neighborhood got a fresh food store they can shop in.

Sustainable South Bronx (SSB), a local environmental group, has asked the city’s Economic Development Corporation to help the group secure waterfront property for a project they’ve already dubbed the RiverMarket. The land topping its list: An unused 13-acre lot that the city leases to the wholesale Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market. According to Majora Carter, executive director of SSB, the market uses the land as a dump for old cars and trash. Officials at the market would not say how they use the property, but said they plan to expand and can’t afford to lose the space.

A spokesperson for the city’s Economic Development Corporation said agency officials have discussed the idea, but will not comment on it until they get an expanded proposal in writing.

The city has given it enough thought to survey local residents on the idea, though. According to a poll of 334 Hunts Point residents conducted this spring, most people love the idea of a market, but would rather it were not on the Bronx River. The waterfront site is too far from “the center of activity” and is not seen as “inviting during evening hours,” said the poll, which was obtained by City Limits. Carter refutes those findings, saying the city only spoke to people who do not live near the river.

The terminal market lot is ideal, insists Carter, since it is right next to Hunts Point Riverside Park and the future site of a boathouse and cultural center which The Point Community Development Corporation hopes to open in late 2004.

City Councilmember Jose Serrano agrees, and his staff says he is excited about the idea.

Carter and Paul Lipson, director at The Point CDC, hope the city moves fast on assessing the proposal, particularly since the situation in their neighborhood is not getting any better. Pointing to the truck traffic that rumbles through their streets to and from the terminal market each night, and contributes to the area’s high asthma rates, Lipson said, “Residents have been shouldering the burdens without enjoying the benefits.”

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