Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Produce Stop-Gap

In this morning's Metro, there's a story about the efforts of the folks on Myrtle Avenue to provide fresh produce for area residents who are hurting since their Associated Supermarket was torn down ti make way for a development project: "The lack of affordable and fresh produce was so dire along Myrtle Avenue that a local group had organized a free shuttle bus to the Pathmark on Atlantic Avenue. That was until “we ran out of money,” said Eddie Leigh, board member of FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality).” Neighborhood leaders are now finding other creative ways to bring some fresh food to the area — projects that may also enhance public space and community involvement."

The new way here is a "Community Supported Agriculture group," and the effort appears to be getting some good local support: "Already, a decrepit corner of Fort Greene Park at Myrtle Avenue and Washington Park is transformed every Wednesday into a gathering space for members of a Community Supported Agriculture group, including Leigh, who last week got collard greens and squash from a Jersey farm."

We wish our friends from Furee well, but we know that the group's prime objective is to promote the return of an affordable supermarket that could provide the neighborhood with the full range of grocery products. Unfortunately, that may not happen since the new residential complex is expensive to build and John Catsimatidis, the development's owner (and our client), cannot simply subsidize a new market so that it can sell at a price structure the low income residents can afford.

This is ideally where city policy should come in. The policy makers and the developer should determine just how much the supermarket retail space is worth, and then a subsidized purchase arrangement should be worked out so that a supermarket can occupy the space with an ownership position that will insulate against the vagaries of the rental market. Everyone benefits. But without the city being proactive it's hard to see how Myrtle Avenue will ever see an affordable supermarket any time soon.