Thursday, April 24, 2008

UFCW Pushes for Supermarket Development Plan

In response to the exodus of supermarkets in NYC neighborhoods, the UFCW Local 1500 has launched its own political effort to spur supermarket development and retention. As the latest issue of Supermarket News points out: "The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 on Tuesday applauded a recent study by the city’s planning commission showing detrimental public health and economic effects of a lack of supermarkets in certain city neighborhoods and unveiled a 14-point statement of policy suggestions designed to assist communities gain greater access to food stores. The policy suggestions encourage the preservation and development of supermarkets in low-income communities by making economic incentives available to food retailers to build and operate stores, and to discourage supermarkets from being evicted."

Given the wave of losses, most recently in Bay Ridge where a Key Food store is being converted into a CVS, and also given the fact that the availability of affordable food is rapidly becoming an important political issue, the union's push here is a timely one. Where waiting to see just how sincere the Bloombergistas are on this; and how much resources they will be willing to commit to insure that low income New Yorkers especially have access to healthy foods.

Up until this point, the mayor and his health minions have relied on industry compliance-forcing changes on restaurants in the form of calorie posting on menus; and have looked to flood produce peddlers into neighborhoods where markets are struggling to make money. The supermarket program, however, would mean that the administration would have to use its own money (or rather the tax payers' cash) to effect change-always a more formidable barrier.

The real interesting scenario is whether Mike Bloomberg will intercede on behalf of the Soundview neighborhood to prevent the loss of the one major supermarket in the community; and in doing so confront Vornado, a real estate entity that has become engorged at the public trough. A real test case.