The 23 tenant businesses in the Bronx Terminal Market targeted for relocation as part of a Bloomberg administration shopping center plan have been peppered with more than 250 eviction notices in recent weeks.
Ralph Lelia, co-owner of L&S Fruit and Produce, said he got one eviction letter by certified mail addressed to his father, Louis, who has been dead for 14 months.
"What kind of message does that send?" Lelia said Tuesday. "That doesn't make you feel very good."
The tenant business owners, some with decades at the site, displayed stacks of the eviction notices during an emotional late afternoon meeting Tuesday at the market. The meeting was organized by Queens Councilman Hiram Monserrate, a Democrat who represents the area.
The notices are emanating from the partnership controlled by The Related Companies, which struck a deal last year with the city to develop a shopping mall on the site. Related president Stephen Ross is a major fund-raiser for the city's Olympic bid.
Adrian Zuckerman, a lawyer for the tenants, called the letters part of "a pattern of intimidation."
Jesse Masyr, a lawyer for Related, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
During the meeting, Cecilia Asiedu, 49, a native of Ghana, said the uncertainty that looms over her 2-year-old business, Nasem Pride, led her to send her three children back to Africa.
"You don't know what tomorrow will bring," she said. "I'm just getting to the point where I am breaking even, and now I have to move. This is not fair."
The city Economic Development Corp. has offered a buyout package said to be worth $8 million, but the tenants declined, saying they need to be relocated together and the cash offer is too low.
"As we've said since we announced this project, the city remains committed to helping the tenants stay in business," EDC spokesman Michael Sherman said. "We believe the $8-million assistance project developed by the city, Borough President Adolfo Carrion and other Bronx elected officials can help the tenants relocate to cleaner, better space, while remaining in their current location until March 31, 2006."
At the meeting, council members said they would consider holding a hearing at City Hall on the deal.