Monday, June 02, 2008

Albor Day for Supermarkets

In yesterday's NY Daily News, columnist Albor Ruiz highlighted the growing danger to the city when supermarkets disappear: "As if the skyrocketing price of groceries was not bad enough, now New Yorkers face a bigger problem: The city's supermarkets are rapidly becoming an endangered species. Essential as they are for the financial and physical health of city dwellers, if something is not done soon to reverse that trend, supermarkets face extinction."

And just as we pointed out with the threatened closings of the Key Food in Soundview and the Met Food in Pelham Gardens, it is the elderly and the poor who are hardest hit: "Such loss impacts not only the economy but also the public health of the city's neighborhoods. Add to this the inconvenience and expense it creates for residents - especially elderly and low-income families - who have no choice but to shop at bodegas and delis that, while performing a service, are more expensive and offer much less access to fresh produce and affordable groceries."

Ruiz knows what he's talking about. His own Woodside neighborhood has been hit when two years ago the local Met Food closed and was replaced by a CVS. This hasn't been well received in the community: "We needed another drugstore like a hole in the head," said Ramona GarcĂ­a, a long-time Woodside resident who, at 67, needs a cane to walk around. "I had no idea what I was going to do when 'el supermercado' closed after many years in the neighborhood. Now my son, who lives in the Bronx, has to help me do the shopping."

The supermarket crisis is being addressed by a city wide coalition, led by the Alliance and the UFCW; and the mayor has appointed a commission, but we need to see some concrete action-especially in the Soundview situation. Ruiz highlights the coalition's call to action: "In a written statement the coalition stated its goal as "to continue to push the city to act quickly before more and more supermarkets bite the dust. In this push we will be calling on the administration to begin to examine lowering the cost of doing business - high taxes and overregulation being key variables in the disappearance of so many of our neighborhood food stores."

He also highlights the strong words from Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn BP and potential mayoral candidate. Markowitz wants to see immediate action: "And what's closing? Our supermarkets. Not everybody gets Fresh Direct, not everybody goes to exclusive gourmet grocery stores," he said. "They go to the Key Foods and the Associateds. We have got to get the government to approach this with ideas that make it profitable for supermarkets to open new stores."

Time is running out, and we'll give Albor Ruiz the last word: "The city better hurry. Right now the people of Soundview in the South Bronx are involved in a fight to save a Key Food, the last big supermarket in their neighborhood, which is in danger of being evicted by its landlord, Vornado Realty Trust. It is a story that is being repeated in many New York neighborhoods. It is also a problem that Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council can do much to resolve."