SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — At its monthly meeting held online, the board members that make up the Central New York Regional Market Authority defended how it handled lease negotiations with the owners of Buda’s Meats and Produce.
Last week, the owners told NewsChannel 9 that the store will close later this week because their rent is being increased by 71%.
At that time, the executive director of the Regional Market did not respond to NewsChannel 9 for comment.
Tuesday, her comments and those of the board members who appointed her were available to any member of the public vieweing the meeting.
Executive Director Amanda Vitale called the phone calls from angry customers “aggressive.” There’s also been passionate defense of the business on social media, the board said.
She said: “It’s people screaming. They’re swearing. People saying: ‘I’m watching every step you make.’ They’re very aggressive.”
“All the publicity we’ve been getting does not tell the true story of the December 14th minutes,” board member Martin Broccoli said, referring to what the board “offered to do with Buda’s” at last month’s board meeting.
He added: “That needs to be public record because we’re being painted as the really, really bad people here.”
The board voted to post video of December’s Zoom meeting to the Regional Market’s website.
“As a board, we feel we have given ample opportunity to discuss any issues they had and to bring an acceptable offer to the table,” said board member Anthony Emmi.
It’s a statement from a new board member, Geoff Palmer, who acts as a representative for the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, that summed up the reason the Regional Market and Buda’s couldn’t agree.
Palmer said: “Buda had a signed lease that set their rate for 20 years, that expired. It had an elevator clause in it which sets the current terms. Buda did not like that rate as it was a large increase from their agreed upon 20 years rate.”
The failed negotiations have gotten the attention of Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, State Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, and State Senator John Mannion.
In an interview with NewsChannel 9, Mannion said: “One good thing that has come out of this is that the state and legislators like myself are looking more carefully at how the Regional Market Authority was established, how it functions and how the state has oversight or doesn’t over it. We’re really continuing to investigate that.”
Mayor Walsh said: “Ultimately, this came down to a landlord and a tenant, and unfortunately, when it comes down to those two parties, even the city government isn’t in a position to influence it.”
Walsh says his administration has been in touch with both Buda’s ownership and market management over the past several months.
With the negotiations failed and closing imminent, Walsh’s next focus is making sure people who used Buda’s for groceries have somewhere else to shop.
“People focuses on the larger chain grocery stores,” Walsh explains, “and whether or not they exist determining whether or not a food dessert exists. Where Buda’s was, approximate to other assets of the Regional Market, approximate to the North Side where we have a lot of New Americans, it really did fill a gap. I don’t think people fully appreciate that, but it’s one of those things you’re going to notice when it’s gone.”
Buda’s said Tuesday that it will likely close this Friday, a day early, as customers empty its shelves.