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New York City’s largest meat distribution center is operating without backup generators on a vulnerable peninsula in The Bronx — more than three years after the City Council approved $3.5 million for the emergency power supply.
The Hunts Point Cooperative Market, which distributes more than one-third of the city’s meat, narrowly avoided a power outage during Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, local officials and market reps say.
Now the generators, intended to protect the crucial food hub, are mired in bureaucratic “regulatory delays,” city officials said.
“We need the backup generators,” said Vincent Pacifico, owner of Vista Foods. “We didn’t request these backup generators because we didn’t need them. And we need them more than ever.”
When Councilmember Raphael Salamanca learned shortly after taking office in March 2016 how devastating a prolonged power outage would be for the market and its customers, he helped secure the capital funding for generators by June, records show.
The money was allocated the following month to the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which manages the market property. But the generators still haven’t been installed.
“Almost three to four years and still no generators,” said Salamanca (D-The Bronx). “What happened? Why is it taking so long?
“We have to give them time,” he added. “But some time has passed by and they still haven’t delivered.”
The lack of emergency backup power adds to the concern of Hunts Point residents, workers and advocates over the fate of the Cooperative Market and nearby fish and produce markets.
As THE CITY reported last week, the de Blasio administration has no plans to build coastal flooding protections for the $3 billion hub, known as the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center.
Instead, the EDC is focused on shoring up the power supply of the markets and two nearby schools with a $71 million plan to install a so-called microgrid able to generate electricity. The project is set to be completed by March 2022.
The meat market backup generators are separate from the electrical independence work.
City Blames Feds
EDC officials said the consultant on the generators project — McKissack & McKissack — has been experiencing “regulatory delays” with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
They said the firm tapped by McKissack to build the generators was sold during the design and fabrication phase, contributing to the EPA delays.
Messages left with McKissack and Centrica Rudox, the company making the generators, weren’t immediately returned.
Salamanca and a rep for the Cooperative Market also said the consultant purchased the wrong type of generator, contributing to the tie-up. But EDC officials insisted no mistakes were made.
They said McKissack purchased generators designed to comply with older, less strict environmental rules known as Tier 2. Their intention was to convert the devices into generators that comply with updated emissions rules, known as Tier 4.
That plan was nearly 60% cheaper than the next lowest bid, EDC officials said.
The officials added that they’re planning to install the generators in the summer of 2020 and will seek EPA approval that fall.
EPA officials couldn’t immediately confirm their involvement with the Hunts Point generator project.
Pacifico, a Cooperative Market board member, credited the EDC with trying to resolve the issue.
But he worries that any power outage longer than 36 hours could put the entire meat market out of business.
“Even if we do everything right in our market, we’re still at the mercy of the people that bring the power in from the outside,” said Pacifico.
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