Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sounding Off on Soundview

In this morning's Crain's Insider, the newsletter highlights today's rally in front of Key Food in the Bronx, and our city campaign to bring Vornado Realty to heel: "Vornado Realty Trust and Mayor Bloomberg are the latest targets of a citywide campaign by United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 and lobbyist Richard Lipsky to help supermarkets. A rally this afternoon outside a Key Food in the Soundview section of the Bronx will call on Vornado to extend the store’s lease and demand that the mayor intervene."

Crain's also focuses in on our effort to make Mayor Mike take the lead in insuring that the real estate giant and Bloomberg favorite, doesn't move to evict a supermarket that is instrumental in maintaining the health of that South Bronx community: "The mayor is not known for getting involved in private deals of this kind, so the rally’s prospects are dubious. Nonetheless, City Council members Jimmy Vacca and Annabel Palma of the Bronx are expected to take part. “We’re going to lay it out as the mayor’s responsibility to use his bully pulpit with a company like Vornado,” says Lipsky, who represents small and midsize supermarkets."

Well, we don't agree with the dubious characterization, but we'd agree that the mayor certainly hasn't been known for standing up for the little guys, but the time is ripe to bell the cat; especially since he has made public health his signature issue. As we told Crain's: "Lipsky says rising rents and food prices are squeezing supermarkets, and the mayor is obligated to act because his health department has bemoaned the lack of healthful food in poor neighborhoods."

So the ball's in his court and we will rally this afternoon up at Bruckner Plaza at 4 o'clock. Next Wednesday we'll make this a city wide issue down at the steps of City Hall. Our press release for the rally is reprinted below:

Press Advisory
Soundview residents rally against supermarket closing

When: Thursday, May 22, 2008

Where: Bruckner Plaza in the Bronx (off Bruckner Boulevard)

Time: 4:00 PM

On Thursday, May22nd, residents of Soundview will rally at Bruckner Plaza to protest the possible eviction of their local Key Food supermarket. The market is being forced out by the shopping center’s landlord, Vornado Realty and Trust. Vornado wants to rent the supermarket’s space for $50 a foot, a rate that is unaffordable for a supermarket in this low and moderate income neighborhood.

The rally, and the community’s concerns, addresses the fact that the city has recognized the role that local supermarkets play in maintaining the health of New York’s neighborhoods. The city has identified communities throughout the five boroughs where the lack of access to health fruits and vegetables is contributing to our growing obesity and diabetes epidemics. Soundview is one of those communities, and the eviction of Key Food, a store that sells over $2 million worth of fresh produce very year, is a direct and serious threat to the health of this South Bronx neighborhood.

The rally on Thursday, led by Council members Anabel Palma and Jimmy Vacca, as well as by Local 1500 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, is being held to confront Vornado and to insist that this multi-billion real estate company, a firm that has accessed considerable profits from the public sector, act as a good corporate citizen. It is all part of a campaign to call the company to account for its assault on the public interest. Vornado cannot continue to come to those in government asking for special dispensation, while it acts in a manner inconsistent with the health and well being of New Yorkers.

The rally at Bruckner Plaza will be joined by hundreds of local residents led by Community Board #9’s chair, Enrique Vega, and Mary McKinney, the head of the Concerned Residents Organization of Soundview. In addition, residents of Pelham Gardens will join with the group in a show of solidarity since that community is also being threatened with the loss of their local supermarket.

The rally is also part of a city wide effort on behalf of neighborhood supermarkets. Many in attendance on Thursday will be joining groups from all over the city next Wednesday at City Hall for a large press event that will dramatize the seriousness of the supermarket/grocery price rise crisis in the city.

Contact: Richard Lipsky (914-572-2865)