Europeans first settled Hunts Point in 1663. At this time, Edward Jessup and John Richardson arrived on the peninsula and purchased the land from the Wekkguasegeeck tribe indigenous to the area. After Jessup died, his widow Elizabeth, entrusted the land to Thomas Hunt Jr., her son in-law for whom the area is named.
In the years between the Hunts’ inheritance and 1850, several other wealthy landowning families occupied the peninsula. Legend has it that George Fox (1624–1691), founder of the Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers), preached in the area in 1672. William H. Fox, a descendant of the Quaker leader, and his wife Charlotte Leggett, owned much of the land that is now Hunts Point.
As time passed and more New Yorkers became aware of Hunts Point, more City dwellers flocked to the area between 1850 and 1900. Later, the property wound up in the hands of Fox’s and Leggett’s son-in-law, H.D. Tiffany, a member of the family that owned the famous jewelry and decorative arts store Tiffany & Co. now on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Fox, Tiffany and Leggett Streets derive their names from these former landowners. In 1909, the Fox mansion was demolished.
Hunts Point’s status as a home and vacation spot to the city’s elite came to a rather abrupt end in the period following World War I. At this time, IRT Pelham Line was built along Southern Boulevard. Apartment buildings replaced mansions, streets replaced meadows and Hunts Point became a virtual melting pot for the City’s masses.
Aside from being a period of residential growth for Hunts Point, the 20th century has also been a time of industrial expansion for the peninsula. As more people moved to the area, the city’s business owners began to realize the advantages of locating to Hunts Point. Among these advantages were the convenient access to the Tri-State region, the existing rail lines running through the Hunts Point area and the abundance of space available for the development of industrial and commercial activity.
This discovery led to an influx of businesses to the area. As the momentum of incoming businesses increased, the reputation of Hunts Point grew accordingly among business circles. With the openings of the New York City Produce market in 1967 and Hunts Point Meat Market in 1974, and culminating with the designation of Hunts Point as an In-Place-Industrial Park in 1980, Hunts Point has grown into a successful economic zone. The Hunts Point Industrial Park hosts over 800 businesses providing an array of products and services to points throughout the world.
The second half of the 20th century, however, proved a difficult time for the district’s residential community. Characterized by frequent arson and mass abandonment from the 1960s through the 1990s, this period marked a low point in the area’s history. Living conditions became so difficult that almost 60,000 residents, approximately two-thirds of the existing population, left the neighborhood during the 1970s. The first full-service post office did not open in the neighborhood until 2001.
Hunts Point Food Distribution Center
Hunts Point is home to one of the largest food distribution centers in the world, covering 329 acres (1.33 km2). The Produce and Meat Distribution Center were opened along the Bronx river in 1967 and 1974, respectively. In 2005, Hunts Point became the site for New York City’s New Fulton Fish Market, which replaced the 180-year-old fish market formerly located in downtown Manhattan. Over 800 industrial businesses, employing over 25,000 workers, are located on the peninsula. A large concentration of food wholesalers, distributors, and food processing businesses are located in the New York City zoned industrial business park. Below are some of the facilities that make up the Food Distribution Center in Hunts Point:
The New York City Terminal Market carries fresh fruit and vegetables from 49 states and 55 foreign countries. The market consists of four buildings, each one-third of a mile in length. More than 65 fruit and vegetable wholesalers own and operate the coop, which has 475,000 square feet (44,100 m2) of warehouse space. Each year approximately 2.7 billion pounds of produce are sold from the Market which as recently as 1998 posted $1.5 billion in revenues. The market caters to the largest ethnically diverse region in the world with an estimated population that exceeds 15 million people (New York metropolitan area).
The Hunts Point Cooperative Market handles the production, processing, distribution and sale of meat, poultry and related products. Spread over 38 acres (150,000 m2), the market’s six main buildings offer 700,000 square feet (70,000 m2) of refrigerated space. More than 50 independent wholesale food companies operate facilities here. In 2002, a state-of-the art, 100,000-square-foot (10,000 m2) refrigerated warehouse was added to accommodate the ever-expanding needs businesses.
In November 2001, shortly before leaving office, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani broke ground for the new Fulton Fish Market building in Hunts Point. Nearly four years after the structure was completed, which cost $85 million to build, 55 businesses moved into a 450,000-square-foot (42,000 m2) complex, located within the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center. The facility generates an estimated $1 billion in yearly revenue, as it allows seafood distributors to store their goods in a temperature controlled warehouse with ease of access to NYC, New Jersey and Connecticut.