Monday, October 26, 2009

Fresh Initiative Hearing Today

The City Planning Department's initiative to bring new supermarkets uinto areas that have been labeled as, "underserved," will be heard today at the City Council's Zoning and Franchises Committee. Our own analysis is as follows:

Mike Bloomberg’s administration is promoting a program of new supermarket development in the city-and hopes to bring an additional 15 stores into New York over the next decade. What is missing in this effort, is the recognition that, under Bloomberg’s watch, the city has lost 300 local markets

The Fresh Initiative, then, avoids confronting the larger problem of why the city is losing neighborhood supermarkets-a problem that devolves from the city’s high cost of doing business (high taxes, rents and over-regulation primarily). A focus on marker preservation, rather than new market construction, would force attention to be paid to the policies of the current administration that have contributed to the efflux of these important local businesses.

In addition, concomitant with the disappearance of these local food stores, , is the loss of good paying union jobs with pensions and other benefits; a situation that has been exacerbated-promoting more store closures- by mega-development policies that have led to the proliferation of non-union box stores such as BJs. So the loss of local markets has been accompanied by the loss of good jobs and their replacement by part time and low wage employment.

A sensible policy of supermarket retention-providing low income New Yorkers with better access to healthier foods-needs to be developed along side of any program of subsidized new store development. If retention policies are ignored, new store promotion becomes at best a palliative; but at worst a contributor to even more losses as subsidized markets put older stores at greater risk of failure. And, it goes without saying, that any public subsidy effort in this area-or any other, for that matter-must include a provision for living wage so that New Yorkers get the most mileage out of the use of their tax dollars.