Wednesday, October 12, 2005

BTM Hearing: Parties Meet With Judge Cahn

The ongoing fight over the attempted eviction of the wholesalers at the Bronx Terminal Market got more heated yesterday as lawyers for the Related Companies, facing a refusal of the merchants to pay rent to a company that is derelict in its landlord responsibilities, urged Judge Cahn to eject the tenants. In turn, the lawyers for the merchants defended their clients’ refusal to pay the rent and cited Related's illegal construction work and the city's unwillingness to negotiate in good faith about relocation in defense of their tenant's refusal.

The core of the battle, however, remains the contention by Related that the Commissioner of Small Business Services, as the sole authority over the so-called Public Markets, has the absolute right under the City Charter (Sec.1303) to abrogate the leases of the market's wholesalers. In other words, the argument is that the Commissioner's authority over the Markets extends to actions that effectively lead to the elimination of the Markets under his control.

That's quite a leap. Remember that when Mayor Giuliani decided to rid the Markets of organized crime and place the unions under city authority he proposed legislation (that led to Local Law 28) to so empower the Commissioner. Given the city's current eviction action it now appears that if the same measure had been proposed under Mayor Bloomberg's watch he would have felt it unnecessary to enact any enabling legislation. That's how broad EDC is interpreting Commissioner Walsh's power under Sec.1301.

In addition, it should also be pointed out that the only document with Commissioner Walsh's name on it is a city 63 month lease entered into with Related-- TO RUN THE BTM! There is no existing documentation that Walsh has ordered the evictions of the tenants in the Public Market under his jurisdiction.

Without such an edict there isn't even a pretext to evict anyone (even if one agrees that such an audacious authority rests with the Commissioner). The fact that Related isn't even pretending to run the market as the lease states, and is using the tenant's rent money to amortize its loan used to purchase the property at a below market price, only exacerbates the abuse of power here.