Fast Food and Zoning
June 26th, 2006

Councilmember Joel Rivera’s idea to confront obesity by changing zoning laws to prohibit fast food in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of obesity is attracting criticism from all sides.

Blog readers can find rants at various levels of vitriol from those who see the idea as an example of big government liberalism. The most thorough, though, is on a blog called the Rant Shack. The post blasts the City Council, blasts Rivera personally, and blasts overweight people, saying that zoning won’t them from unhealthy foods. It ends by questioning the existence of an obesity epidemic.

In the New York Sun, Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Cuoncil on Science and Health, writes that obesity is a serious health threat, but thinks that government’s main role should be to teach people how to eat better and exercise effectively. She also suggests more focus on bioengineering food to make it have fewer calories without affecting the taste.

Environmental blog 3r likens the idea to another attempt to control sinful industries through zoning: the push to move pornography out of Times Square. The face of Times Square was changed, it writes, but many businesses found loopholes. Instead of pushing for new zoning, 3r thinks Rivera should push for more funding for health education, gym classes, and parks.

By on June 26, 2006, 3:21 pm
In category: Health,Land Use | 4 Comments »

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4 Responses to “Fast Food and Zoning”

  1. Mr. Wizard Says:
    June 26th, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    Scary, isn’t it? I’ve already set up my Google News Alerts to keep track of this one…

  2. Larry Littlefield Says:
    June 27th, 2006 at 6:03 am

    Just another opportunity to harrass selected businesses and extract bribes. And I say this as a 13-year veteran of city planning, with particular knowledge of the city’s use regulations.

    In 1961, the idea was to specifically manage what type of businesses should be on what part of a local commercial street, like suburban shopping centers. So the zoning on such streets varies block by block, and thousands of harmless businesses are “illegal” because they are on the wrong side of the street. And, on local commercial streets joks and poetry are not permitted in the outer boroughs, only in Manhattan, though music is permitted under certain circumstances everywhere.

    The home occupation rules are also a mess: home stock broking is specifically prohibited, home discos are not.

    The only enforcement is when someone complains, generally because they are of the wrong race, or a business competitior, or because the landlord wants to evict a tenant with a lease.

    A study to fix this was completed, and recommendations prepared, but the administration didn’t want to go foward given the inevitable outcry to ban this or that. Given this issue, perhaps they were right.

    Getting back to obesity, what is the status of home economics/life skills training in our schools? Do the kids learn how to cook, and have a healthy diet (and handle their personal finances, look for a job, read a map, raise a child, etc.)? They aren’t learning this at home, it seems.

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