Grocery Union Rallies Outside NYC Planning Department

Questions Remain Over NYC Plan for Tax Subsidized Supermarkets

QUEENS VILLAGE, NY (09/22/2009)(readMedia)–



On September 23rd at 9:30am, as the City Planning Commission votes on the (“Food Retail Expansion to Support Health”) FRESH program, community and labor organizations will rally outside the offices of the City Planning Department to say that FRESH needs clearer standards to make sure subsidies only go to responsible businesses. Over 32 community organizations have spoken out for standards during the public review process so far; as well as Borough Presidents Markowitz (Brooklyn), Marshall (Queens), and Stringer (Manhattan); and a majority of the affected community boards.

FRESH will ease zoning restrictions and offer tax incentives to developers and supermarket owners, in the hope that these incentives will encourage supermarkets to open in neighborhoods that need them the most. Without good supermarkets, areas like Northern Manhattan, South Bronx, Central Brooklyn, and Jamaica Queens do not have sufficient access to healthy, affordable food. These neighborhoods also are the most plagued by diabetes, obesity, poverty and unemployment. By encouraging supermarkets to open in New York City, FRESH aspires to increase access to healthy, affordable food and alleviate diet-related illnesses.

“The FRESH program addresses the need for healthy food in NYC ‘food deserts,’ but ignores the need for good jobs in these same communities,” said Matt Ryan of New York Jobs with Justice. “Anyone can look to the headlines and see examples of unscrupulous supermarket operators in the city that cheat workers out of wages and violate health regulations. Without standards in the FRESH program, the city risks sapping good out of a well-intentioned proposal.”

Six organizations are organizing the September 23rd rally: Families United for Racial & Economic Equality (FUREE), New York City Coalition Against Hunger, New York Jobs with Justice, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1500, New York Faith & Justice, and We Act for Environmental Justice.

“We strongly support efforts that will bring good jobs and good food to low-income neighborhoods.” says Joel Berg, executive director New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

Lisa Sharon Harper, executive director of NY Faith & Justice, added, “The FRESH proposal has incredible potential, but the City Planning Commission has a choice to make. Without good jobs attached to good food, this honorable initiative could trigger the unintended consequence of further gentrification. By attaching jobs standards to FRESH markets, the commission would set the scene for true empowerment and transformation of these communities. Access to healthy food plus access to good jobs will make all the difference.”

The coalition is calling for the following standards to be incorporated into FRESH. A store, in order to participate, should:

  • accept EBT and WIC
  • not charge a membership fee
  • involve community in planning process
  • pay living wages with health benefits
  • create at least 25 new jobs
  • hire locally
  • provide good, quality food
  • engage with the community

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