Food / Transportation

Conversion of Food Center Drive on hold

Business owners, police say second entrance to meat market is needed

The city’s Economic Development Corp. announced it may delay its planned conversion of Food Center Drive to a on-way road after angry business owners in the Cooperative Meat Market loudly criticized the plan at an October meeting.

Several owners argued that by making the 1.2-mile roadway one-directional, the city would be inconveniencing truckers by forcing them to take a longer route into and out of the market, while also raising their fuel costs when the additional 1.25 miles per trip is added on.

But not only would the change be bad for business, it would hurt residents too, the owners said, arguing that longer truck trips would further pollute the peninsula’s already dirty air.

Police from the 41st Precinct who attended the closed meeting also raised red flags, saying the EDC should shelve the plan until it devises an alternate route for emergency vehicles to get in and out of the market.  They echoed the owners’ demand that the city add an access point to the meat market on Halleck Street, but an EDC spokesman said his agency has no jurisdiction over that area, which is owned by the transportation department.

Some merchants argued that converting Food Center Drive to a one-way would be acceptable if the city were willing to compromise on the second entrance. One said a second entrance to the meat market would reduce congestion, fuel costs and pollution while allowing traffic to the market to flow more easily.

“I think the best solution, and probably the only way to maximize safety and minimize carbon monoxide, is right from Halleck into the market,” said Mark Solasz, vice president of Master Purveyors, Inc. at a Community Board 2 meeting later that day. He added that tractor-trailers making left-turns at intersections would snarl truck traffic in the one-way scenario.

More than 150,000 trucks use Food Center Drive every week.  The circular thoroughfare – the only roadway linking the fish, produce and meat markets to each other and to the rest of the peninsula– connects with Halleck Street at either end.

Plans for converting Food Center Drive into a one-way are nothing new.  The proposal is part of the South Bronx Greenway proposal, a key component in the Hunts Point Vision Plan, which was devised in 2003 by a task force of local advocates, residents, businesses and city officials, to provide more and safer public access to the waterfront.  It calls for the creation of bike lanes and pedestrian walkways to help residents reach the peninsula’s new riverfront parks in an area long dominated by trucks and heavy industry.

But in the decade since the plan was conceived, the food markets and their trucking fleets have grown significantly.  Many advocates say the city has done a poor job adapting to the increase in traffic.

Benjamin Mosner, vice president of Mosner Family Brands in the meat market, said that although building the greenway is good for the community, the city has a lot of juggling to do to achieve the right balance between the food markets and residents’ need for access to the waterfront.

“It’s important to keep all these things in mind,” said Mosner.  “As one big strategy, not little, individual strategies.”

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