Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What happens when you mess with capitalism

From the Daily News:

Describing many poorer neighborhoods as food deserts, Bloomberg, Quinn and the Council determined that the city would encourage produce sales via sidewalk vendors. These so-called green carts are now proliferating - along with complaints that many are competing directly with established food markets.

Sung Soo Kim, of the Korean-American Small Business Service Center of New York, says the green carts don't necessarily go to neighborhoods with few shops and fewer fruits and vegetables.

Instead, he contends, vendors set up where customers are - near markets that sell produce on streets with heavy foot traffic. And, since they don't pay rent or other overhead, the carts can undercut the prices at traditional retailers.

Thus, he says, the carts are stealing business without increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods where they are lacking.

The complaints demand investigation. The city has no business promoting one class of entrepreneur over another - and make no mistake, the city is promoting the green carts by offering low-interest loans to help vendors pay for their 3-by-6-foot carts.

The city also provides grants, through private funding, for workshops on how to choose quality produce, store the goods and promote the business. It even gives out cart-size umbrellas.


Unknown said...

All of these street vendors need to be taken off the streets. Every where you look you have empty store fronts that hurt the neighborhood. These vendors have very little over head and don't have to follow any of the strict rules a store front does like say collect sales tax and pay workers. I bet they don't get inspected by consumer affairs every year either.
Plus, the sidewalks are crowded enough with out these carts taking up half the sidewalk too.

Erik Baard said...

I've seen these carts in areas where no fresh produce vendors were visible. The first time I spotted one was when we went to maintain Asif Rahman's Ghost Bike on Queens Boulevard. If people are getting lower cost veggies as a result of them, great. Far more good is served by improving nutrition than by defending marginally higher profit margins for one category of goods.

That said, I was disappointed to see the cart selling bottled Poland Spring water. Another improvement I would make would be to tie the carts into the GrowNYC Greenmarkets. It might even be possible one day to link the fresh produce carts to Food Stamps, a wireless links and scanners become ever cheaper.

Of course this is micro stuff. Much of this effort amounts to little gestures to counter our perverse food system, which subsidizes big agribusiness, not nutrition for a healthy society.

Anonymous said...

These carts are great in business sections of NY not in neighborhoods with food stores. They are not a bad idea, but don't kill the golden goose (retail stores) that pay most of the taxes in the city.

Anonymous said...

Adam Smith must be rolling over in his grave right now!

Rick said...

The Green Cart program was supposed to only allow these carts in areas that were known to be low in consumption of green and fresh fruits and vegetables. What happened?

Anonymous said...

The tragedy of the commons.

Anonymous said...

I own a "mom and pop" fruit store in the Bronx and there are 3 green carts within a block of my store. Safe to say they are hurting my business since they sell the same goods at nearly half the price. Their volume is so high that they have a truck with a refrigerator parked right next to them. It just seems the mayor and the city no longer cares for the small tax paying businesses