Forget about soft drinks and hot dogs – how about some celery or apples with your city street vendor’s license?
The City Council passed a measure Feb. 27 to issue 1,000 new permits for “green carts” that would sell fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods considered “underserved” by grocery stores.
While Mayor Bloomberg, health advocates and shoppers hailed the move, the green carts victory had owners and employees of local delis, supermarkets and bodegas seeing red.
Business Loss Feared
“We have to pay utilities, we have to pay employees and the vendors don’t. It’s not fair. The mayor, what is he thinking?” asked Park, an employee at Lee’s Fruits Market on 116th and Third Avenue in East Harlem. “If my boss starts making less money because of this law some people will lose their jobs. What are they going to do?”
But Teresa Ramos, a mother of three and a resident of East Harlem, said she likes the idea.
“Right now I only buy fruits and vegetables from the deli. The supermarkets are very expensive. And in the summer I only buy it from the street vendors because it looks fresher, I think,” said Ramos in Spanish. “It would be better if we could buy more fruits and veggies from street vendors because it’d be cheaper.”
Health Concerns Cited
The city’s 4,100 existing food carts primarily sell pretzels, hot dogs, soft drinks and chicken and lamb platters, among other streetcorner delicacies. Only about ten percent offer fruits and vegetables.
The Bloomberg Administration contends the high incidences of obesity and diabetes in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem and southeast Queens are related to the lack readily available fresh fruits and vegetables. City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden believes the measure will give people living in these neighborhoods more access to fresh produce.
“Access to healthy foods varies widely throughout New York City, and in many lower-income neighborhoods supermarkets are few and far between,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “There is demand for fruits and vegetables in these neighborhoods. This regulatory change will enable the market to meet that demand.”
The permits for the new fruit and vegetable carts will be phased in over two years.