Monday, November 14, 2005

Related Got the Goldmine and the BTM merchants got the Shaft

After more than a year of construction delays and legal wrangling, the historic Fulton Fish Market has moved to its new home in the Bronx. The new $85 million facility was built by the city so that the 36 fish wholesalers could have a sanitary, climate controlled locale to conduct their business. The location also is more accessible to trucks and is proximate to the Hunts Point produce and meat markets.

Despite some missteps, the city admirably handled the relocation of these merchants, realizing how important they were historically and economically. However, for some unknown reason, the New York Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the Bloomberg Administration have treated the wholesalers at the Bronx Terminal Market in a totally opposite manner, dealing with them as if they were little more than nuisances. This treatment comes despite the fact that the BTM is over 80 years old, provides hundreds of jobs and grosses over $400 million dollars a year.

Analyzing the specifics of the Fulton Fish market and Bronx Terminal Market relocation deals further underscores the city’s lack of consistency and fairness. The 36 fish wholesalers are moving into an $85 million dollar facility, at a cost of $2.36 million per business. The original 23 BTM merchants were offered $7 million which works out to approximately $300,000 in assistance per wholesaler. But the discrepancy is made worse when once considers that the Fulton Fish deal a) included a single location where the merchants could continue functioning as a viable market and b) probably provides additional moving expenses on top of the 85 million (we are going to check on this).

But, as EDC council Terri Sassanow said in her infamous letter, the city, unlike at the Fulton Fish Market, is not the BTM’s landlord and therefore has no obligation to construct a new market or offer any relocation assistance. This is a curious supposition considering that the city is claiming that the NYC charter enables them, as landlords, to terminate the leases of their merchant tenants. And if both the Fulton and Bronx Terminal Markets are on city land why does the former receive plentiful assistance and the latter short shrift? Does the presence of a sub-landlord at the BTM (the Related Companies) somehow absolve the city of its responsibilities?

The actual stinginess of this “generous relocation package,” as flak Frank Marino describes it, is put into even sharper relief when compared with what the city has offered Related. There is no reason to again go into the details of the Doctoroff-Ross sweetheart deal but suffice it to say that the BTM merchants are being treated poorly relative to both the Fulton Fish Market wholesalers and the politically-conntected developer. In other words, to paraphrase Johnny Paycheck: “Related got the goldmine and the BTM merchants got the shaft.”