2008-03-21 / Community

Bloomberg Sending 'Green Carts' To Rockaway

By Nicholas Briano

One hundred mobile vending carts will soon be dispersed throughout select neighborhoods along the peninsula and in Broad Channel, giving Rockaway the opportunity to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for years to come.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law this week a bill that will put 1,000 new mobile food carts, exclusively selling fruits and vegetables, onto New York City's streets in an attempt to promote good health and wellness, particularly in areas the city considers to be low-income and devoid of healthy choices in commercial establishments.

"This legislation is an important public health initiative that responds to the need for fresh produce close to home," Bloomberg said.

The cost of the program will be $1.5 million, paid in full by a hefty donation from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, which will contribute to the cart designs and assisting vendors in buying them.

Officials at the local community board say that they were caught unawares by Bloomberg's new initiative.

Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, who is regularly notified about all public initiatives in Rockaway, says he was not notified about the prospect of having one hundred food carts spread throughout the peninsula.

"No one ever consulted with us," he said. "The city should have asked us if we wanted this and if so, where."

Bloomberg said last week at a press conference, however, that the carts would play an essential part in granting New Yorkers access to healthy foods.

"Eating more fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer," Bloomberg said. "Given that diabetes and obesity have doubled in the past decade, it is essential that New Yorkers have more access to healthy food."

Gaska has a different point of view.

"These things have a tendency to become a nuisance," he said. "They also create garbage problems on our streets and block sidewalks."

Gaska also contended that local businesses would suffer, especially in those areas that have seen food establishments come and go due to financial hardship.

"Green Carts" in those areas could further contribute to the decline of Rockaway's local commerce, he said.

"It is not fair for fruit and vegetable businesses to lose money over this," Gaska said.

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