Thursday, May 29, 2008

Poor and Old: Disparate Impacts of Supermarket Disappearance

The threatened closings of two Bronx supermarkets puts the poor and the elderly at the greatest risk because these two groups simply lack the mobility to conveniently shop elsewhere. This is brought home clearly in this week's edition of the Bronx Times-Reporter: :A crowd of more than 100 angry and equally distraught seniors gathered at 2504 Eastchester Road, Monday, May 19, to protest the closure of their only neighborhood supermarket, Met Food.“I’m 81. Where are we going to go? Where are we going to go,” 40-year neighborhood veteran Lina Tripodi questioned sadly as she balanced her weight against her wooden cane.Tripodi was one of numerous local seniors shocked by the news of the pending store closure, with proposed plans for a Walgreens to take its place."

So, once again, it is another drug store that is slated to replace the community's local market: "“We don’t want a drug store. I won’t patronize the store, even if they’re giving things away,” Gloria Saplicki said as she held the arm of her 95-year-old mother Rose Polidoro, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 50 years and continues to depend on the store’s convenient delivery system.“We really have to protect our seniors,” Sal Conforto said. “This is a vital lifeline for them to do their shopping.”For the many neighborhood seniors who don’t drive, the nearest supermarket would be the A&J Food Market at 1000 Allerton Avenue.“They’ll have to leave the safety of their neighborhood to go to another neighborhood they aren’t comfortable in,” Conforto continued."

Councilman Vacca reiterates this point: "Vacca said this unfortunate scenario is becoming all too familiar. “This is déjà vu,” he said. “Wherever you see a supermarket closing, you see a chain drug store take over. How many sick people do we have? This is ridiculous.” And, as the paper reports, Pelham Gardens is also a neighborhood that is lacking in needed supermarkets-making this possible closing that more compelling.

Finally, we told the Bronx Times that this is another example of the need for an immediate call for action: “The city needs to act promptly in order to develop a policy to preserve and promote supermarkets,” said Richard Lipsky, a representative of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, who took part in the rally. “New York has already lost more than one-third of its markets and can’t afford to lose any more.”

This common theme is highlighted in many neighborhoods throughout the city. Tonight State Senator Jose Serrano is doing a listening tour of East Harlem, an event that will culminate in a state hearing on the supermarket crisis. Here's the press advisory:

Office of Senator Serrano Invites NYS Council on Food Policy to Harlem

Where: ACP, Jr. State Office Building, 163 West 125th Street, 2nd Floor

When: Thursday, May 29th

4 p.m. – The Office of Senator Serrano will host a reception for the Council and those residents participating in the listening session.

5 to 7 p.m. – NYS Council on Food Policy official listening session.

Senator José M. Serrano (D-Manhattan/Bronx) continues his fight for supermarkets this Thursday evening, as the New York State Council on Food Policy visits Harlem for an official listening session. The Senator will host an opening reception, at 4 p.m., and submit written testimony during the session itself. Media outlets are welcome to attend.

Senator Serrano has been on the forefront of the supermarket closures crisis. Earlier this year, he organized the Supermarket Closures Task Force, comprised of residents and community stakeholders, which meets monthly to investigate the root causes of the problem and develop comprehensive solutions. The Senator is currently in the process of crafting legislation to introduce in the State Senate.

The Senator has undertaken community organizing efforts to encourage local residents to submit testimony to the Council on Food Policy, a body established by the Governor last year that will ultimately make recommendations on developing a State food policy to ensure the availability of safe, fresh, nutritious and affordable food for all New Yorkers, especially low income residents, senior citizens and children.

The listening session, the first of its kind in Upper Manhattan, is open to the public. Residents who wish to participate will have three minutes to present their opinions, and must also provide comments in written format.

In recent weeks, the issue of supermarket closures has received widespread attention, with the release of Department of City Planning Report – which found that three million New Yorkers live in neighborhoods characterized by a high need for supermarkets and grocery stores – as well as the high-profile efforts to save the Key Foods, in the Soundview section of the Bronx, from rent hikes by its corporate landlord