Gentrification Dealt Another Blow
7 Busted for Dealing Drugs in HP Market, Near School, Rec Center
By Dan Gesslein
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark announced the indictment of seven people running a heroin and fentanyl ring out of the Hunts Point Market and a private residence around the corner from a school. It was also near the Hunts Point Recreation Center.
“The defendants allegedly handled this toxic, deadly substance among fruits and vegetables in the Hunts Point Produce Market, which supplies produce to millions of people throughout the New York area,” Clark said. “They also allegedly sold drugs from a residence around the corner from a school. We will not tolerate callous, careless behavior that could put people’s health at risk.”
The investigation stemmed from a report of drug dealing from the NYC Business Integrity Commission (BIC). The DA’s office launched an investigation in May 2017.
During the course of the investigation, undercovers made numerous buys of $20 glassine envelopes containing fentanyl and heroin. These were made in the employee-only areas of the market which are not monitored by surveillance cameras.
Investigators then snared dealers in a wiretap which led to the arrest of 31-year-old Angel Capote as the alleged supplier of heroin and fentanyl.
Prosecutors said Capote was selling $3,000 worth of heroin and fentanyl a week. Capote pled guilty to criminal posession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to six years in prison.
During the next phase of the investigation, authorities zeroed in on 617 Coster Street. This private residence was allegedly used to deal heroin and fentanyl. The house is down the road from PS 48 Joseph R. Drake School and the Hunts Point Recreation Center.
Prosecutors indicted two people who lived in the house. Wanda Alvarez Ortiz, 54, and Mark Fontanez, 39, were charged with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and criminal sale of a controlled substance in or near school grounds.
Commissioner and Chair Brownell said, “The produce market in Hunts Point is one of the largest public wholesale produce markets in the world and one of this City’s great, unique institutions. BIC has been overseeing this and the other public wholesale food markets in the City since 2002. In addition to making sure that the companies operating within them are free from the influences of organized crime and other corrupt forces, BIC also works to protect the overall well-being of the markets themselves.
“Selling and using illegal drugs around the markets is dangerous enough, especially given that many large trucks and other motor vehicles are constantly operating in the area. When you add to this the fact that some of these drugs were laced with the dangerous opioid fentanyl, potentially exposing the public at large to harm, that causes even more alarm. BIC will continue working with other law enforcement agencies and the managers of the markets themselves when appropriate to ensure that New York City’s public wholesale markets continue to thrive,” Brownell said.
The drug ring operating out of Hunts Point Market is shocking considering the push being made to clean up the area’s image. Everyone from real estate developers, to Manhattan media, to Hollywood has been singing the song of Hunts Point gentrification.
During the 2016 AMC series “Feed the Beast” David Schwimmer’s character tries to open a restaurant in Hunts Point. And he and other characters repeatedly make mention of NY Times’ articles saying that the South Bronx was next DUMBO.
Glowing stories in real estate trade magazines gush about the plans to build a Hip Hop Museum along with condos and a host of amenities to attract affluent millennials.
The only problem is the HP Market bust highlights how ingrained crime and the drug trade is in that area.
Community leaders cheered the arrests but were concerned. Much has been made about the publicity touting gentrification, but residents have seen little in the way of actually cleaning up the streets. Many hope the HP Market busts will be the first step.
No word about whether the local prostitutes will be given affordable housing.