Categorized | Bronx Beats, Southern Bronx

Flood-proofing Hunts Point with resilient power

The Hunts Point Produce Market is a $2 to 2.3 billion industry supplying 60 percent of New York City’s produce, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

However, it does not have centralized air conditioning, according to the Hunts Point Resiliency Project.

The project is a joint effort by the Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency. Its main aim is to provide the area with more resilient power.

The resiliency project proposed installing a system supplying power, heating and cooling, as well backup power to the fresh produce and meat markets. It is also going to supply heating to the meat market along with cooling and electricity to the produce market.

“All of the buildings are pretty much giant refrigerators,” said Louise Yeung, an employee of the Economic Development Corporation, during a meeting held at The Point in September, referring to the produce market buildings.

The market is currently cooled using industrial rooftop air conditioning units, with each vendor having an individual unit. “The way that they keep all of their produce cold, is pretty much the equivalent of having window AC units on all of the different stalls,” Yeung said.

The market measures 113 acres and has 36 merchants, according to its website.

Myra Gordon, the Executive Director of the Produce Market, declined to comment and requested that vendors not be contacted. Vendors also declined to comment on the phone.

The markets are all cooperatives, and are jointly owned and run by vendors. The land is owned by the city of New York, which also owns the land leased to larger merchants such as Baldor and Dairyland.

Hunts Point is vulnerable to climate and weather-related disasters, particularly flooding. The Food Distribution Center, which consists of the Hunts Point Produce Market, the Hunts Point Cooperative Meat Market and the New Fulton Fish Market, is situated close to the water, putting it at an even higher risk for natural disasters. These disasters could cause a power outage, which would be costly for these markets, as a large portion of the city’s food would be damaged from lack of refrigeration, which was why the Hunts Point markets were chosen for this project.

The Resiliency Project was funded through programs designed to protect against natural disasters and emergencies. The Department of Housing and Urban Development launched a competition in 2013 in response to Hurricane Sandy. The earlier version of the project entered in this competition and was awarded $20 million in 2014. In 2015, New York City gave the project an additional $25 million as part of a grant to address disaster recovery. An additional $26 million in city capital was allocated to the project in May, bringing the total budget up to $71 billion. The funding has to be used by 2022.

The project, launched in 2016, has allocated $61 million to the plant.

The proposed plant will require potable water in order to operate, according to Yeung. She assured attendees at the meeting that the water will not need to be replenished regularly and the system is not expected to require a large amount of water.

The potable water is required mainly for safety reasons, such as eyewash stations, said an employee from the Economic Development Corporation, and the water has to be free of impurities. An environmental review revealed that the amount of water required was too small to affect the water supply.

Employees of the Economic Development Corporation said the system will also use natural gas, chosen for its efficiency and availability, which they said is cleaner than diesel.

Yeung said that more sustainable sources of energy, such as battery or solar power, would not be able to power facilities of this size. “The goal here really is to provide backup power to these really, really large facilities,” she said.

The purpose of the project is to provide three days of power in the case of an outage, according to Jessica Colon from the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency.

The Resiliency project is also installing a grid that will use renewable energy at the Fish Market and solar panels and battery storage on the top of two Hunts Point schools, PS 48 and MS 424. The proposal also includes a program to use mobile diesel generators to provide backup power to local businesses in the case of an emergency.

The cold water from the plant at the produce market will be used to power 50 refrigerated trucks, reducing the diesel emissions from the trucks. The hot water produced by the plant will take the place of boilers in the meat market, reducing the use of gas to power those. The grid will be elevated and flood-proofed.

“You have to think of this as a suite of projects,” Colon said, “so overall we want to improve the resiliency of the neighborhood if there were a power outage.”

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