‘Green Carts’ Produce Fresh Views

Friday, February 29th, 2008

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.

Union Slams Senior Care Company

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

A small group of union-backed protesters railed against labor and living conditions at one of the nation’s largest senior care providers’ facilities Feb. 27 on the Upper West Side.

The company, in turn, accused protest organizers of waging a publicity stunt to collect more union dues.

Standing outside Atria Senior Living on West 86th Street, between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, eight protesters wore SEIU stickers and called for unionizing service workers at all 23 New York Atria homes.

Union Effort Stymied

Rabbi Michael Feinberg, a community activist, held up an anti-union flier Atria purportedly distributed to its workers.

“This filer says nothing about the fact that it’s their democratic right to improve their workplace situation, to improve care for residents,” Feinberg said.

Protest organizer Daniel May charged that in recent years Atria has increased rent, made medication mistakes, locked-in patients and otherwise neglected its senior population. Atria should “begin to sit down with workers and talk about how they can address providing adequate staffing, adequate training to make sure the residents get what they need,” he said.

‘Half Truths’

An Atria spokeswoman countered that the company, which provides residential services to more than 13,000 senior in 27 states, is the victim of an ongoing smear campaign by the powerful Service Employees International Union.

“The SEIU’s press release and protest are part of an ongoing corporate attack campaign to tarnish Atria’s reputation and get more members and dues money,” said Amy Risley, the spokeswoman. “The SEIU continues to lose credibility by attacking our company with distorted claims and half-truths.”

While the SEIU forces picketted, Susan MacArevey spoke about her mother’s death at an Atria care facility in Albany.

Her mother hit her head after suffering a heat attack and stumbled around, said MacArevey, who traveled from Wisconsin to attend the protest. A family member discovered the body the next day, MacArevey added.

One Woman’s Story

No one had checked on her mother that night, she said. Only one worker had been assigned to look after approximately 134 residents all night, she said.

Atria confirmed that MacArevey’s mother was a long-time resident at Atria Shaker in Albany but refused comment on her case.

Since May 2007, SEIU has continuously campaigned against Atria care facilities nationwide, including a Jan. 28 protest at one Davis, CA center over rising rent costs.

On March 4, SEIU plans a protest outside of Rockefeller Center against Lazard, Ltd., the investment firm that is affiliated with Atria’s private owners.

Linnea Covington and Daniel Macht contributed reporting

Coney Island's Changing Views

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

As residents, developers and the city duke it out over Coney Island’s future, artists, curators and editors are looking back to its past.
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Teens Learn Love Lessons

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Some Bronx teens spent Valentine’s Day learning a lesson in true love.

The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence held a series of sessions last week, where 600 teens were taught how to treat loved ones properly and avoid abusive relationships.

On Valentine’s Day, a group of about 20 youths entered the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center skeptical, and left with a new perspective.

“I thought this was going to be boring, but I really learned,” said Anibal Oller, 14.

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