Judge To Rule Against City in Hunts Point Bid Process

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A Bronx Supreme Court judge will rule to squash a real estate deal made by the Bloomberg administration because the city’s process for soliciting bids for a city-owned site unfairly favored one applicant over the others.

Following closing arguments in a five-month lawsuit, Justice Lucy Adams Billings said yesterday that she would rule in favor of the plaintiff, the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative. The collection of produce merchants had claimed that the city’s Economic Development Corporation rigged the bidding process for a 15-acre site in Hunts Point to favor another produce distributor, Baldor. The plaintiffs said the city awarded the lease to Baldor so that it could use Baldor’s existing Bronx location to solve a growing political liability.

A lawyer representing the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative plaintiffs, Randy Mastro, said yesterday: “The city conducted a sham competition, when it had in mind all along that it wanted to steer the property to Baldor.”

Last summer, the city was seeking to evict a group of merchants from the Bronx Terminal Market, a separate market near Yankee Stadium, to make room for a new shopping mall developed by the Related Companies. The merchants created a public stir when they filed a separate lawsuit against the city, claiming that the city’s process for awarding the site to Related was unfair and illegal. A judge later ruled against them.

According to Mr. Mastro, the city favored Baldor’s bid because Mayor Bloomberg wanted to find space for the merchants of the Bronx Terminal Market to quiet the controversy arising from the lawsuit during last year’s election season.

The current lawsuit claims the city had earmarked Baldor’s existing site for the Bronx Terminal Market tenants. In order to make that site available, the city offered the Hunts Point property to Baldor.

The lawsuit said the city and Baldor consulted about the Hunts Point property in advance of the public request for proposals, and then gave the respondents only seven days to present bids. The lawsuit said the plaintiff’s bid for the site was more than double Baldor’s, but the city awarded the lease to Baldor anyway.

The city’s eagerness to clear Baldor’s existing site for the merchants of the Bronx Terminal Market went for naught. The Terminal Market merchants turned down the offer to relocate based on the size and location of the Baldor site, according to a representative of the tenants, Richard Lipsky.

A senior counsel with the city’s law department, Terri Sasanow, said yesterday in a statement: “We are disappointed in the judge’s preliminary rulings this morning in court. We believe that EDC’s decision-making processes were fair and legal. Once we receive the judge’s written decision, we will consider all our legal options.”

That decision is expected later this month.


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