When people ask me what my favorite thing about New York City is, this is my answer: Produce Carts.
For serious. Of all NYC has to offer, produce carts top my list. I can leave the gym feeling a little 11 0’clockish and go to my very favorite produce stand on the corner and get a banana for a quarter. I love it. No going through a drive-through, no trying to find the nearest Safeway.
I went to my new grocery store last night and I was reminded of one of the perils of living in the outer-boroughs: Fewer produce carts. I just moved of Manhattan, and while the over-priced and understocked grocery store had a monopoly on my old neighborhood, the area’s saving grace was a produce cart that was open nearly 24/7. The produce cart had cheaper fruits and vegetables and they were often of better quality. Before I lived in Manhattan I lived in a lower-income neighborhood in Brooklyn. The Bravo supermarket stocked 15 different kinds of bologna (no exaggeration), and their produce section was about the same size. Also, for some reason they had this huge box of extremely brown bananas underneath the regular produce. I don’t know if people are supposed to buy those or what. But there it is. Anyway, point being that produce can kind of be hit or miss and the prices can shift pretty dramatically. Produce stands are usually cheaper.
In 2008, when I first became aware of the dearth of produce carts in the outer boroughs I was pretty outraged. According to this article, NYC wanted to issue 1,500 new street vendor licenses to put produce stands in poor neighborhoods. Like my old neighborhood. This would be awesome. New food cart licenses haven’t been issued since the seventies. And since it’s easier to find fried chicken and liquor in my neighborhood than it is to find a reasonably priced apple, I think it would be good for everyone.
Some schmuck councilman, John Liu, said this:
“The theory behind this bill is if you increase the supply, the demand will increase, and that’s likely a faulty premise,” Council Member John Liu of Queens said in an interview yesterday. “If there was demand, it’s doubtful that the stores would simply refuse to address it.” He called the legislation “wishful thinking,” and warned it would eat into existing grocers’ profits without providing its intended health benefits.”
What a douche.
Unfortunately, since then councilman John Liu is now city comptroller John Liu after he won the election in 2009. From what I can tell from my research, the city comptroller doesn’t have anything to do with providing licenses for produce carts, but having people in power who are so opposed to them can’t be helpful. And since that article was published there is still a lack of fresh, reasonably priced produce in New York City. I would like to see the mayor working towards providing more access to healthy foods for the poor, rather than trying to limit their access to unhealthy foods via trans-fat bans, sodium bans, and taxes on soda.
But I could have it all wrong. Maybe the people of Bed-Stuy have obviously been demanding an increased bologna selection, but vegetables just haven’t sold. Maybe because apples are often $2 a pound. You can get enough bologna for like 50 sandwiches for that much. But something tells me that produce carts can coexist happily with 15 different varieties of bologna and I wish that moving out of Manhattan didn’t mean that I had to give up produce carts.