Monday, April 18, 2011

Stringer's Food Fight Continues as the Space Shuttle Lands in Manhattan

Last week, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued a report regarding the NYC government's barriers to the expansion of farmer's markets, and his proposed solutions deserve immediate attention. Also, Manhattan's Intrepid Museum was awarded a Space Shuttle in a highly competitive battle with museums around the country.

Scott Stringer's Food Fight for a Healthier NYC

As a follow-up to his earlier report regarding the "food deserts" in New York City, Manhattan Borough President Stringer released a report last week detailing the challenges for farmer's markets created by NYC rules and regulations, and he proposed six groups of very specific recommendations for improving access to healthy, fresh food in New York City through expansion of farmer's markets.

Specifically, the report found challenges for farmer's markets caused by local regulations including:

1) Red Tape: The permitting process for markets is decentralized, inconsistent, confusing and expensive. In some cases, a market starting in July would have to apply for permits a full seven months in advance.

2) High Cost of Entry: Permit fees are based on the number of days a market will operate for an entire season. The cost of the entire season must be paid upfront, with a single permit often exceeding $800. When combined with required insurance coverage, a market operator, in many cases, must pay over $1,300 before the market season begins in order to obtain a permit. This can be a heavy financial toll for small market operators with limited resources for whom running markets is often not their primary job.

3) Lack of Operational Procedures for Parking: Because traveling to the city for market days is expensive for farmers, free parking is critical to the success of a market. However, the Department of Transportation has no official operating procedure for requesting signage or issuing placards to reserve parking on market days. Some markets reported waiting years to receive reserved parking signage.

Stringer proposed the following six solutions:

1. Eliminate Daily Permit Fees for Markets in Low-Income Areas

2. Simplify and Clarify the Process

• Assign oversight of farmers markets to a single City entity

• Create a uniform application process

• Create a guide to operating a farmers market

3. Create Standard Procedures for Farmers Market Parking

• Department of Transportation must create a clear policy for requesting signage

• Appropriate agencies must develop farmers market parking placards

• NYPD traffic officers must be trained regarding enforcement for farmers market parking

4. Create Information and Outreach Campaign About Using Federal and State Nutrition Supports at Farmers Markets

5. Increase Access to Urban Land for Farming

• Assess land availability and suitability for urban agriculture

• Create a citywide urban agriculture program

• Ensure the permanence of community gardens

6. Increase Access to Commercial Kitchen Space

• Explore use of City-owned kitchens

• Create online portal of available kitchen space

To eliminate food deserts and improve the health of the people of New York City, we all need to follow the lead of the Manhattan Borough President and advocate for less red tape and barriers to success for farmer's markets. The fresh fruits and vegetables that are found at farmer's markets are the solution to the problems of poor nutrition and obesity in our communities.

Space Shuttle Lands in Manhattan

The people of New York City should be proud to have been awarded a Space Shuttle for display at the Intrepid Museum as the Space Shuttle program shuts down.

We asked more than a year ago for your support for this effort, and the effort was successful. Senators Gillibrand and Schumer as well as the rest of the elected officials from in and around NYC and New York State deserve enormous credit for their determination and for their willingness to cooperate on this issue.

While some individuals have criticized this achievement because the Space Shuttle selected for Manhattan never flew in space, we should be pleased. There were only four Space shuttles available to be provided to museums around the country. Houston, the headquarters of space flight in our country, was not awarded a Shuttle. Manhattan's Shuttle, Enterprise, flew test flights but never escaped our planet's atmosphere to fly in space. It has all of the same elements of any of the Space Shuttles that have been in space, and it will be an inspiration to the youth of our city to aim high and pursue careers in science and technology. Enterprise was the first Space Shuttle ever built and gave birth to all of the others.

Enterprise will create significant economic opportunity in New York City, bringing new visitors to our city and drawing nearby residents back to the Intrepid Museum.

As New Yorkers, we should be excited to obtain any Space Shuttle and share it with all who visit our great city.

Pace University Shooting Insult

Last week, police in Westchester County named the officer who killed an unarmed football star from Pace University as the officer of the year. The choice speaks volumes for the police culture in Westchester County. Killing innocent, unarmed young black men is heroic in the eyes of the police there. In reality, these killings are too frequent and are criminal.

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