By Karen Frantz
City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) spoke out against the so-called soda ban Monday, telling a forum of small business owners and members of the business community they were concerned the ban would have negative effects on their industry.
“It’s important to note how this affects us and how we should be paying more attention to education and not regulation,” Ferreras said at forum, held at the Langston Hughes Library and Cultural Center, at 100-01 Northern Blvd.
The forum was also attended by representative from New Yorkers for Beverage Choices, a coalition of individuals, businesses and community organizations that are opposed to the soda ban.
The soda rule will limit the size of sugary drinks to 16 ounces in all venues that require a city Department of Health grade. The city Board of Health passed the rule last month, and unless a legal challenge waged by the beverage industry is successful, it will take effect starting in March.
Ferreras told the group of about 40 business owners and people thinking about opening a business that she has attended three such forums to help the community understand how the soda rule would affect them and hear their concerns.
“We need to be able to as government support you and give you every tool necessary to make sure that you keep your doors open and you are not a victim of misinformation, that you are not getting fined excessively, that you have an ally and that you know that you’re not alone,” she said.
She said she has heard many business owners at the forums say they are getting slammed with government regulations.
“‘If it’s not sanitation, it’s the Health Department. If it’s not the Health Department, it’s Consumer Affairs. And if it’s not Consumer Affairs, there’s always someone knocking at my door,’” she said people had told her.
The audience grew animated when Ferreras spoke about the unequal effects of the rule on business owners, pointing out that venues like local restaurants are regulated by the rule but not stores like 7-Elevens.
“Is this really fair?” she asked.
“No,” called back some members of the audience.
Moya said instead of increased regulation, the city should be focused on expanding healthy options in places like Corona, which he said has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the city.
He said stores like Whole Foods provide healthy options, “but the cost is astronomical. You can’t bring that to this community.”
“How can we get access to healthier food?” he asked. “I think that that’s what’s been missing in this whole argument.”
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.