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Sour grapes over city snoopers

Bronx Times

Some Hunts Point business owners are crying foul over what they see as overreach by a city agency.

Businesses outside of the sprawling Hunts Point Produce Market and other markets there have been subject to oversight by the Business Integrity Commission since 2009.

A lawsuit by a neighboring business, Baldor, forced the agency charged with keeping organized crime out of the market to also monitor the surrounding industrial area.

Edward Taylor, owner of Down East Seafood on Manida Street, is angry about intrusive questions he says BIC is asking him and his workers.

He argues that since he is not in a public market and owns his own building, that he should not be subject to BIC regulations.

“It is a violation of the Fourth Amendment,” he said, that BIC can enter his premises any time, day or night, ask to see workers’ BIC-issued IDs and fine the them $200 and Down East $700 if the card in missing.

The BIC license, he said, is the most expensive one he has from the city, costing $4000.

Each employee is subject to background checks, have to pay $100 to get bonded, and fill out an 11-page application with questions employears are normally not allowed to ask. Some include the names of people they are or were married to, the address of all residences and vacations homes in the past ten years, any registered motor vehicles, any arrests (even if they have not been convicted), and any involvement in civil lawsuits.

Taylor said that BIC’s presence outside public markets will drive small businesses out of Hunts Point.

Hunts Point Economic Development Corp. executive director Josephine Infante said BIC’s intrusiveness has been one of the issues stalling negotiations for a new coop produce market in Hunts Point.

The cooperators have threatened for years to move to New Jersey rather than rebuild.

“The overreach of the Business Integrity Commission has got to subside and change,” she said.

BIC started to enforce Local Law 28 of 1998 after the Baldors’ lawsuit, which designated an area in Hunts Point roughly bound by Edgewater Road, Halleck Street, Ryawa Avenue, Tiffany Street, Oak Point Avenue, Barry Street, and Garrison and Lafayette avenues as in its jurisdiction.

Infante argued that the world has changed since that law was enacted.

A spokesman for the agency said that its methods were necessary.

“BIC’s role is intended to ensure a safe, fair and competitive environment for businesses operating in the Hunts Point Markets and the immediate surrounding area,” said BIC spokesman Jay Kairam.

“Recent denials of companies with organized crime affiliations clearly justify how and why we are doing this, and how our regulations ultimately protect the interests of legitimate operators and their employees.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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