As Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces is set to take effect on March 12 in New York City, the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation have joined in the lawsuit aginst it, advocating for smaller minority businesses that might be affected.
The proposal made last year by Bloomberg, who has already reduced salt and banned smoking in public places, was approved by the Board of Health over concerns about the increasing obesity epidemic. Next month, all sodas and other sugary drinks over 16 ounces will be banned from city-regulated fast food restaurants, movie theaters, street carts and bodegas. But the soft drink industry and business owners who could be affected financially continue to fight it in state Supreme Court.
Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State Conference for the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People, said in a press release that Bloomberg is not thinking about the impact the ban will have on owners of small businesses.
“Our stand against Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban is about basic economic fairness,” Dukes said.”Bloomberg’s ban attacks the little guy, while giving a pass to big corporations.”
Exempt from the ban are stores that do not prepare food on premises and thus are regulated by the state and not the city, such as 7-Eleven, known for its oversized Big Gulps.
Shane Balkan, 31, of Richmond Hill and owner of Subway located at 118-14 Jamaica Ave., said the ban is just ridiculous.
“I’m worried because business has been good for us here, and if this occurs then we’ll lose sales and maybe even customers,” said Balkan. “Bloomberg is not catering to the lower-and middle-class people, it’s only for the rich upper class. That’s what he’s doing.”
According to Dukes, small mom-and-pop stores, which are disproportionately owned and operated by people of color, will suffer financial consequences complying with the law. Meanwhile, she adds, national chains like 7-Eleven, which could handle the loss, and are exempt, leading her to say that you can’t be serious about banning large sodas when you have a loophole for Big Gulps.
But not everyone agrees. Rego Park deli owner Ayman Alim doesn’t believe that he will be affected by the ban.
“What happened before? They banned salt in food, and today people are still putting salt in their food,” said Alim. “People might buy the soda and probably put sugar in it as well.”
Alim has been in business for six years and said that regardless, customers will still order a sandwich and just buy a small soda or juice.
But Dukes said if Bloomberg is serious about taking on the issue of obesity, he cannot single out bodegas that will struggle to adapt and compete with corporate franchises.
“The New York State Conference of the NAACP supports an inclusive agenda to take on the epidemic of childhood obesity, including limiting the amount of unhealthy food, increasing opportunities for physical activity and investing in opportunities that promote accessible land spaces to improve healthy living,” Dukes added.
Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation, told the Daily News his group joined the lawsuit for the right reasons, not because of donations received from soft drink companies throughout the years.
“We got involved in this lawsuit to help protect small business owners concerned about being unduly hurt and put at a competitive disadvantage by this law,” Calderon was quoted as saying. “We accept donations and contributions from a lot of corporations. It’s part of the work that we do to make partnerships.”
Chris Gindlesperger, spokesman for the American Beverage Association, told the Queens Chronicle that the city Board of Health doesn’t have the authority to enact something like the ban.
“The American Beverage Association believes that we have the right to eat and drink what we want,” said Gindlesperger. “The NAACP joining the lawsuit makes a small difference, but it’s still an important one because we have other third-party organizations supporting our position as well,” said Gindlesperger.
He said no further developments have been made in the case since the last hearing requesting a court junction against the New York City Board of Health.
Ana Chacon, 29, of Rego Park, is one Queens resident who agrees that the ban doesn’t make sense because people should be able to drink what they want.
“I love soda. My favorite is Coke and I cannot live without it,” said Chacon. “Every day I need to have it. People should have a choice in eating and drinking what they want taking care of their own diet.”
Styrofoam ban planned
He's at it again. After successfully limiting the size of drinks in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg is now concerned about the environmental impact of the cups they come in. The administration is considering banning Styrofoam cups and containers sold in restaurants, delis, and vendors, according to a Sanitation Department official.
With less than a month left before the large sugary drinks ban takes effect on March 12, Bloomberg and the Sanitation Department are preparing a recycling announcement, which will be issued soon in the coming weeks to clean up the city's landfills and cut garbage disposal costs. But store and restaurant owners and vendors have yet another issue to worry about because the Styrofoam ban could affect their business.
“We are studying all different things in our waste stream. We want to make sure that everything in our waste stream is recyclable,” Ron Gonen, deputy commissioner for recycling at Sanitation, told the New York Post.
The packaging - popular among delis, restaurants and food vendors around the city but long maligned by environmentalists - is nearly impossible to recycle, Gonen added.
It costs the city an average of $89 per ton to landfill some 2 million tons of regular garbage like Styrofoam every year. Recycling ends up being far cheaper, coming in around $10 a ton for paper and about $14 a ton for glass and plastic, the most likely packing alternatives to Styrofoam, according to the Post report.
Some residents are skeptical, however.
Sabrina Katidjo, 22, of Richmond Hill, said that Mayor Bloomberg isn't thinking about how the ban will affect companies in the long run.
“Banning Styrofoam will hurt producers who distribute the cups. It will kill their business making the economy suffer even more, and also people who work for companies losing their jobs,” said Katidjo.
Katidjo added that it's people's choice as individuals to decide what they want and that Bloomberg won't feel the impact of a ban like other people would.
It's not Bloomberg's first time imposing such rules. Known for his successful restriction of salt in foods, he then prohibited smoking in public places such as parks and restaurants, and added calorie counts to all fast food restaurants in the city. Numerous subway advertisements about sugar intake, fatty foods, and smoking are another method of having New Yorkers think about their health and how much food and sugary drinks they're consuming.
The administration says its health initiatives have increased longevity in the city.
— Carlotta Mohamed