NYC's last milk processing plant closing; 273 to lose jobs

AP News
|
Posted: Aug 03, 2016 12:20 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — The closure of New York City's Elmhurst Dairy this fall will mark the first time since the nation's largest city was called New Amsterdam that no one will be processing milk within city limits, according to the company.

"The decision to close Elmhurst Dairy followed many years of attempting to find a method of making the operation feasible in this difficult market," said CEO Henry Schwartz, adding that the company had "no other option."

Schwartz said more than 20 milk processing plants have closed in the city over the last 25 years

The shutdown reflects trends in the milk business as consumers changed buying habits amid concerns about fat and cholesterol. Andrew Novakovic, a professor of agricultural economics at Cornell University, told The New York Times milk consumption peaked in the late 1940s and has declined sharply in the last few years, to about 120 pounds per person in 2015 from about 240 pounds per person in 2010.

"People for whatever reason are not consuming as much milk as they were 30 and 40 years ago," said Schwartz, whose father and uncle started the dairy in 1919. "My family was dedicated to trying to keep the plant open long past the years that it was economically viable."

Elmhurst's red farmhouse and silo logo has been a ubiquitous site on milk containers in 8,300 grocers and 1,400 public schools. The closure, set for the end of October, will put more than 270 people who worked at the facility in the borough of Queens out of work.

"We know the company has been having difficulties, the whole industry has," Demos Demopoulos, a union official that represents the dairy workers, told The New York Daily News.

"They pulled the rug out from underneath us," Lorenzo Segui, a utility worker at Elmhurst for 27 years, told The New York Post. "I thought it was going to last forever. You could actually see it was going to close, just by the way everything was being handled, but you never really expected it."

Schwartz said the company said it would work with local officials to transform the 16-acre dairy site, possibly into a hotel or entertainment complex.