"Everything that grows anywhere in the world finds its way into this market because we are the largest, and secondly, because there are 17,000 restaurants in the five boroughs," Gordon says. "One hundred percent of the produce used by these restaurants comes from this market either directly or indirectly. We are feeding a very sophisticated population because what people see in the restaurants they visit they want to be able to use at home. And our restaurateurs are always looking for something new and exciting. Produce I never even heard of or saw a few years ago has now become commonplace in this part of the country," she says.
Produce arrives at the market by a number of transportation modes, including boxcar, intermodal and truck. About 2 percent of incoming seafood and other highly perishable foods arrive by plane. Produce and products, such as bananas coming out of Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela, arrive by ship through nearby ports. "Most of our produce arrives on semis from California and Arizona," says Gordon. Potatoes and onions arrive by rail from Montana and Idaho using the Southern Pacific and Northern Pacific railroads to Chicago, where shipments are then picked up by CSX for delivery right into the market. About nine miles of rail spurs feed into the market, facilitating deliveries to individual produce companies.
Merchants are shipping to foodservice companies, supermarket chains and upscale green grocers in the metro New York City area. "They also supply 2,500 Korean green grocers and numerous bodegas catering to the Latino population," Gordon says.
Hunts Point was chosen because of its accessibility to all the major highways in the region. "It's just a short ride to the George Washington Bridge and to I-95 north and south; or to the Major Deegan Expressway and the FDR Drive into Manhattan. So many regions can easily be served from this area," says Gordon.
The cooperative market manages the real estate and everyone is a member of the cooperative. Each merchant has a stall of 1,875 square feet, in addition to a 25-foot loading platform in front of the unit. There is a total of 1 million square feet under one roof at the market.
Currently, plans are being considered to re-build the market and construction will begin in about two years. "We will be re-building on the current site and we have enough room in back of the market to do this while keeping our merchants in business so their businesses are not disrupted," Gordon says. The reason for the expansion is to offer merchants more room to operate their businesses. "Our primary concern at this point is to provide our current merchants the opportunity to expand and then we will bring in incubator companies who would like to do business here but cannot because there is no space at the moment."
Gordon says being located in an Empire Zone allows merchants to save 4.25 percent on the state tax. "There are also employee credits available if you hire people who live in the Empire Zone," she says.