Volume 78 - Number 30 / December 24 - 30, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

Puzzling lack of arrests

To The Editor:
Re “12,000 bags seized” (Police Blotter, Dec. 17):

It is gratifying to read of the major bootleg merchandise bust in the Police Blotter section of your Dec. 17 issue. According to your article, more than $1 million worth of illegal goods were seized and a large illegal vending operation was stopped. I was surprised to read that no one was arrested. The reason for the lack of an arrest was not mentioned in your article; however, anyone with a questioning mind would like to know why not.

This particular enforcement action appears to be targeted against distributors and retailers, not manufacturers of illegal goods; and, as we know, counterfeiting and bootlegging will continue to thrive as long as the illegal goods continue to be manufactured. That is why legal vendors, veterans and street artists have called for action in this regard, though to date little has been done.

For instance, the huge bootleg art industry goes on unimpeded by enforcement action. You can walk down almost any street in New York City and see illegally copied artwork being sold to an unsuspecting public in spaces on the sidewalk that should be used by real artists and legal vendors.

Frankly, I will be far more gratified when I read of enforcement action against the huge bootleg art industry and the manufacturers of illegal merchandise in a future issue of your paper.
Lawrence White

Editor’s note: The raid was made before business hours, so no one was at the scene to be arrested. It was not immediately clear why the authorities chose to carry out the raid before business hours and why there were no subsequent arrests.

Grand St. bike ‘lame’

To The Editor:
Re “The new Grand bike lane isn’t, Little Italy merchants complain” (news article, Nov. 19):

I am a regular bike rider who finds the highhanded nature of how the Deptartment of Transportation installs bike lanes totally wrongheaded. I know because we are fighting D.O.T. Downtown for insisting on imposing, by fiat, a bike lane through upper City Hall Park, despite Community Board 1’s disapproval and outrage from park users and neighbors. D.O.T. insists bike riders will only use this small, narrow path one-way, but we have months of photos showing two-way bike riding. Yet, nothing has been done.

A planned meeting with our group has never happened. This mayor listens to no one but those who agree with him.

Grand St. businesses don’t want this new bike lane. Grand St. bike riders can’t really use it. How could Community Board 2 approve it? Did they? What follow-up actions are they allowed? Even a good idea can go horribly wrong in the execution. Sounds like the Grand St. bike lane needs a do-over fast.
Jean B. Grillo
Grillo is a public member, Community Board 1

Putting cart before the stores

To The Editor:
On Nov. 14, the New York City Council conducted an important hearing regarding vendor licenses and food cart permits. Earlier this year the council and the mayor passed legislation to increase the number of food carts that sell fresh fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. Further legislation is also being considered that will increase the number of food vendors on New York streets.

The introduction of these bills comes at a time when economic pressures are making it difficult for supermarkets to survive in the city. Some groceries will be forced to close, resulting in a further shortage of food stores critical to our neighborhoods. While supermarkets provide excellent employment opportunities for immigrants, many street vendors pay workers below minimum wage.

Carts are being permitted to operate in front of groceries and fruit markets, causing further financial stress on these establishments. Fruit and vegetable carts may have a place in some underserved areas but not where food stores already exist. The proliferation of these carts near established food stores, combined with the downturn in the economy, has resulted in the expected closing of six stores where we represent workers: five in northern Manhattan and one in southern Queens. These neighborhoods will lose an important anchor to the community that has provided hundreds of good jobs and quality food products to local residents.

The rationale for increasing peddler food vendors is based on the limited opportunities to purchase fruits and vegetables in certain neighborhoods. There is general agreement that more supermarkets should be located in the city’s low-income communities, and New York City needs an effective strategy that will add quality food stores in more neighborhoods. Various incentives, tax breaks and other strategies will be required.

Long-term planning is needed rather than a quick fix.

According to a 2002 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables through supermarkets has been shown to correlate with greater consumption of fresh produce. For every additional supermarket in a location, fruit and vegetable consumption increases by as much as 32 percent. The number of supermarkets, however, continues to decrease in low-income neighborhoods.

With the cost of rent and doing business in the city, as well as the small profit in the food industry, quality supermarkets are disappearing from communities. City government needs to be involved now. It’s time for this administration to develop policies that encourage the supermarket industry to open more stores, in areas of need, throughout the five boroughs. Unlike temporary carts that come and go, supermarkets and green grocers stabilize neighborhoods by providing access to quality produce and healthy foods to the communities they serve.
John R. Durso
Durso is president, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (R.W.D.S.U.) Local 338; international vice president, United Food & Commercial Workers, and president, Long Island Federation of Labor.

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