Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not So Fast

We posted yesterday on what we believe to be the counterproductive impacts of the initiative-put forward by Speaker Quinn to restrict fast food locations by changing the city's zoning code. After our post someone brought to our attention the following from the Queens Crap blog:

"The city has awarded ICIP benefits to fast-food chains like McDonald’s, White Castle and Dunkin’ Donuts, effectively giving them tax breaks to move into low-income communities. This contradicts recent actions by the city targeted at the chains, such as new requirements to post calories. Last spring, a Health Dept. report linked obesity in Harlem to a lack of healthy-food options. In East Harlem, 31 percent of adults are obese. A White Castle there, top, gets an annual $13,942 ICIP benefit, while a McDonald’s, bottom, writes off $21,824 a year. While the number of franchisees getting ICIP benefits is unknown, the companies are benefitting too. As of 2005, McDonald’s owned 15 properties getting the tax break. It will deduct $28,990 from this year’s property taxes on its spot at 42nd Street near Madison Avenue. That’s roughly a $288,200 break over the life of one ICIP exemption."

So, it appears that the city likes to eat out of both sides of its mouth-but the policy of subsidizing these retail outlets is, in our view, the right one, and Quinn is taking the wrong approach (along with DOH)-and this underscores the issue of economic health that we made previously: "In our view, this is at best a non sequitor, and at worst counterproductive-restricting the kind of business activity that is crucial to the health of low income neighborhoods."

Many of these businesses are not only owned and operated by minority entrepreneurs, they employ thousands of New Yorkers in tough economic times. In addition, they enliven neighborhoods and act as traffic builders for the other Mom and Pop shops in the neighborhoods.

At a time when we are trying to preserve jobs-and even grow employment-should we really be looking for ways to further regulate commerce in this city? Health is not a one dimensional issue-and working is healthy for everyone, although you'd never guess it by the incessant efforts to restrict the ability of folks to operate a successful enterprise in this town.