The New York Association of Grocery Stores, NYAGS is a coalition of local New York City grocers fighting to stay alive as special interests and big chains continue to encroach on the businesses our families have maintained for decades. We have formed NYAGS, New York Association of Grocery Stores in order to stop the assault against grocery stores as well as the food service industry all over New York by the Mayor and other government officials. NYAGS will play a substantial role in being the lead advocacy group in redefining how the city treats our retail establishments throughout NYC. NYAGS will promote unity and financial stability to small business throughout NYC.

“The city continues in its quest of becoming a nanny state in regulating every aspect of the lives of the citizens of New York City and in the process, crushing small business” said David Schwartz. “NYAGS will vigorously protect business throughout New York from over reaching and unnecessary regulatory measures. NYAGS will help unite the fight against the recently announced Big Soda Ban by the NYC Board of Health”, said Brad Gerstman.

As Wal-mart continues their push to enter the New York City market and liquor stores continue to block the entrance of wine into grocery stores, we’re fighting to stay in business during these tough economic times. With only 2000 liquor stores in New York State why do their businesses need to be protected while ours do not?

The initial issues to be taken on by NYAGS are:

  • Fight back against the ‘Nanny-State” and stop Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban
  • Enable wine to be sold in Grocery stores
  • Pass legislation to preclude the unconstitutional ticketing of trucks delivering to grocery stores
  • Fight for the prospect that all tobacco products must be sold in brick and mortar NY stores and not Indian reservations, internet and black market.
  • Restore fairness in taxation of cigarettes, cigars, tobacco products and motor fuel
  • Fight against all legislation and regulation that mandates what your customers can and cannot eat
  • Any regulation of tobacco should be done by the FDA and not New York State
  • Fight the Wal-Mart entry into the NYC marketplace
  • Fight against tax credits which favor new supermarkets that enter the NYC market where the employees are non-union and put the existing stores at a disadvantage

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Where Did NYC Supermarkets Go?

To paraphrase Peter, Paul, and Mary: “Gone to graveyards everyone, Oh, when will they ever learn? (http://www.lyricsfreak.com/p/peter+paul+mary/where+have+all+the+flowers+gone_20107752.html)

Proposal: The need for an aggressive public policy of supermarket growth and retention

The NY Times is out this morning with a story that they periodically come back to: the phenomenon of supermarkets disappearing in NYC:

Many of the city’s grocers, large and small, have struggled to survive. Some have succumbed to high rent, narrow profit margins and increased competition from upscale supermarkets, online grocers and drugstore chains that have expanded their wares to include grocery items.

“It’s depressing,” said Charles Platkin, the executive director of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College. “When a supermarket in your area closes, it feels like you’re moving backward.” (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/11/06/realestate/new-york-city-small-supermarkets-are-closing.html?_r=0&referer=)

Nine years ago, the Times weighed in similar fashion—but with more of an emphasis on public health:

A continuing decline in the number of neighborhood supermarkets has made it harder for millions of New Yorkers to find fresh and affordable food within walking distance of their homes, according to a recent city study. The dearth of nearby supermarkets is most severe in minority and poor neighborhoods already beset by obesity, diabetes and heart disease.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/05/nyregion/05citywide.html?ref=nyregion)

But, while the disappearance of neighborhood supermarkets has been documented extensively for the past decade and a half, the City’s response—in the middle of a health crisis in many city neighborhoods—has been nothing short of anemic.

The supermarket gap was recognized in a lengthy Department of City Planning study in 2008 (http://www.nyc.gov/html/misc/pdf/going_to_market.pdf):

“Why should we be concerned about neighborhood grocery stores and supermarkets?

  • § Improve quality of life
  • § Improve property values
  • § Create jobs
  • § Serve as retail anchors, attracting foot traffic and complementary retail.”

The report goes on to emphasize the public health benefits underlying the need to preserve and protect neighborhood supermarkets:

–         High rates of diabetes

–         High rates of obesity

–         Low consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables

–         Low share of fresh food retail

In response, the City initiated its “Fresh” program to promote new supermarket development. But in its eagerness to add new markets through tax incentives and abatements, the planners failed to address the tax and regulatory reasons for the loss of the markets in the first place. (http://www.nycedc.com/program/food-retail-expansion-support-health-fresh)

 

It is logical to assume that if stores were leaving many City neighborhoods, then certain underlying business factors must have contributed to their destabilization. Adding new stores when these underlying factors haven’t been addressed, then, was likely to exacerbate the disappearing supermarket trend—and that has been borne out of the past 8 years. (http://ny.curbed.com/maps/map-nyc-grocery-stores-disappearing)

What should be clear is that NYC is losing supermarkets; and that good public policy must address the underlying causes of the disappearance. What we need now is an aggressive policy of supermarket growth and retention.

Real Estate tax abatements: Supermarkets as public health facilities

The City should look to create a real estate tax abatement program that would treat neighborhood markets as public health facilities. By doing so—and the abatement must be significant—the City is acknowledging that these retail outlets are essential City services, integral to neighborhood quality of life, and important retail anchors in commercial strips all over the city.

This aggressive tax relief is even more justified in the face of the City Council’s eagerness to increase the number of food vendors on city streets—especially produce vendors that establish locations right in front of the very same markets that the planners claim we are trying to preserve.

Gristedes’ owner, John Catsimatidis, lays out the entire picture:

The rent is too high — nobody is making ‘money money,’ ” said Mr. Catsimatidis, a billionaire who started in the grocery business 48 years ago. According to Mr. Catsimatidis, Gristedes stores fare better than their peers partly because they are part of his Red Apple Group, a conglomerate that operates, among other things, an oil refinery. In the 1970s, he said, rent consumed 2 percent of sales; now it’s 10 percent to 12 percent.

Competition is fierce, and not just from Whole Foods. Even those street vendors parked on the sidewalk a few steps away from the grocery store cut into profits, selling items like bananas and strawberries for a fraction of what they cost inside.”

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Crains: Ancient ruling is no excuse to let food vendors run wild

From Crains New York: The City Council is looking to amend the law governing street vendors, with both sides of the debate—vendors and stores—looking for legislative relief. Vendors want the cap on licenses lifted, while neighborhood retailers want to restrict vendors from operating directly in front of their stores. The leader of the reform movement […]

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Letter in Opposition to NYC’s Plastic Bag Bill Int. 0209-2014

The promotion of reusable grocery bags is not only a tax that disproportionately impacts the poor, people of color, and seniors, but it also poses a health threat as e-coli bacteria contaminates the bags the shoppers store: “In a public-health study done at the University of Arizona, researchers found that only 3 percent of shoppers with multi-use bags said they regularly washed them.

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CRAINS: An alternative to the city’s costly composting mandate

From Crains New York: By Brad Gerstman and David Schwartz – New York Association of Grocery Stores Two years ago, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg bequeathed to New York City a private-sector composting mandate. It has yet to be implemented—and with good reason. The region lacks capacity to compost millions more pounds of organic waste. But if […]

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Radio: David Schwartz on Street Vendors Destroying Small Business

NYAGS’ David Schwartz speaks about the plight of small businesses facing unfair competition from street vendors. “We need reasonable regulations of street vendors where they can serve under-served markets…so brick and mortar businesses can exist…” … on 970 AM and streaming live here… UPDATE:  Here’s the segment with David Schwartz on how food and vegetable […]

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