The U.S. Department of Transportation has released $10 million under its TIGER grant program to modernize the infrastructure and warehouse facilities at the Hunts Point Terminal Market in New York City’s Bronx borough.

New York lawmakers hope the grant from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program will help keep the wholesale food distribution center in its 45-year-old home, on about 60 acres in the South Bronx.

New Jersey has made overtures.

The grant is part of a $332.5 million public-private redevelopment project that includes a $137 million investment by the state and city, and $160 million from the Produce Market Cooperative, a group of business owners.

“This grant will help keep the Hunts Point Market — and its jobs — in the Bronx, not in New Jersey,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said in a statement late Tuesday.

City officials and market representatives signed a three-year lease extension in June 2011, and are in exclusive negotiations for a long-term lease.

“If we don’t nurture it, we will lose it,” deputy mayor for economic development Robert Steel said during a recent economic development presentation on Staten Island.

The public-private redevelopment project includes a $137 million investment by the state and the city, and $160 million from the Produce Market Cooperative, a group of business owners.

Hunts Point is the world’s second-largest food hub in the world, serving more than 22 million people per year. Officials say the Tiger grant will underwrite improvements that will enhance better operating efficiency, food safety and environmental sustainability.

City and borough political and business leaders have long maintained that trucks destined for the market clog local streets, creating congestion and pollution problems. U.S. Rep. Jose Sarrano, who represents the Bronx, said the grant will “help to get more trucks off the road and to keep them from sitting and idling for long periods of time.”

“Addressing the market’s growing transportation infrastructure needs and modernizing its rail facilities is of great importance to the city,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bronx borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said his office and that of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. would continue to work with the Bloomberg administration and business owners to close a long-term lease deal.

More than 115 food wholesaling and processing firms operate out of Hunts Point, which serves an estimated 22 million people. City officials say the produce market employs more than 3,600 workers, generate more than $3 billion in sales annually and serve 6,000 small food retailers.

In addition, more than 50% of the market stocks regionally grown produce from farmers across the state.

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