Mixed Views in Bed-Stuy Over Soda Ban Verdict

Home Brooklyn Life Mixed Views in Bed-Stuy Over Soda Ban Verdict
Oversized soda cups stacked underneath a counter at a Popeye's outlet in Bedford Stuyvesant on Thursday, March 15th, 2013.
Oversized soda cups stacked underneath a counter at a Popeye’s outlet in Bedford Stuyvesant on Thursday, March 15th, 2013.

Mohammad Kabir stopped drinking large sodas about two years ago because he is overweight and has high blood pressure.

Yet Kabir, 43, opposed the city’s ban on large sugary drinks.

“People should be able to choose what they eat or drink. There should be no restriction about it,” said Kabir.

In Bedford Stuyvesant, one in four adults is overweight- one of the highest obesity rates in New York City. Yet residents interviewed last week in large numbers, opposed Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban, which a judge halted last week calling it “arbitrary and capricious, because it applies to some but not all food establishments.”

Many residents seconded the opinion of the court.

“The ban would just have taken away businesses from smaller stores, as grocery stores were exempt,” said Collen Arthurly, 32, a model. “Therefore, although it was well-intentioned, it would not have proved to be successful.”

Many restaurant owners and employees said that they are also pleased that the ban has been overruled, for economic reasons. Khan Bhii, 24, who works at Crown Fried Chicken in Bedford Stuyvesant, said customers were upset that they could no longer buy oversized sodas, and it was affecting their business.”Normally we sell eight cups of super-sized sodas a day,” he said. “But a few days before the ban was to take effect, we sold more than 50 cups in one day as people were concerned that they would not have access to the large sodas anymore.”

Now that the ban has been overruled, things have returned to normal, he said.

“Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to appeal the ban is a waste of time and he should worry about stuff that means something,” said Shanise Stackhoruse who serves food to patients in a public hospital. “Where does the line cross with how much power he has?”

However, Marcus Dawson, 33, was of a different opinion. Sitting in a McDonald’s, he defended the mayor as just trying to look out for the health of the public. He said many African Americans in Bedford Stuyvesant are overweight because restaurants that serve oversized sugary drinks are right next door to their homes. Dawson said there was diabetes in his family and he had high blood pressure, but he was eating junk food because he had no time to cook.

“Overturning of the ban means that people will continue to drop dead,” he said.

Andrey Stestsemko, manager of a grocery store agreed. “Sometimes the government has to take a position on something,” he said. “If the ban had come into effect, the government would have spend less money on insurance of sick people as it does now.”

Stestsemko also said that although his store sells $1,000 worth of soda in each week, he would “rather not sell soda.”

Dennis Allen, a part-time pharmacy worker had a broader perspective. “People are fat because a lot of them don’t work, don’t exercise and just sit at home and eat,” she said. “The ban on liquids is not right because this is America–land of the free.”

Dr. Arifa Khan who works at Inter-Faith Medical Center said the ban would not have solved the neighborhood’s problems. “Those who wanted to drink large sodas, could have bought smaller drinks instead,” she said. “People have high obesity rates in Bedford Stuyvesant because most have low socio-economic status and healthy foods are just too expensive.”

But Sherry Cockfield, 42, a nurse at the hospital thought the ban could have still worked.

“People need to learn to be healthy,” said Cockfield. “The mayor is not doing anything wrong.” Johnela Adolphus, a nurse standing nearby added, “Freedom to do everything will be America’s downfall.”

Bloomberg has indicated that he will appeal the overruling of the ban on large sodas. But for now, McDonalds workers are continuing to sell large size drinks.

“Most of the orders are accompanied with large soda cups, said Jasmine Haynie, 18, a McDonalds’ cashier. She said the restaurant had to throw out all its large cups when it thought that the ban would begin last week.

Hayynie also said the ban would not have worked anyway; when a customer found out that she couldn’t have a large cup of sweet tea, she ended up having two small cups of the same beverage, when McDonalds was out of large cups for three days, she said.


See More on the soda ban – watch Brooklyn Keeps sipping: Soda Ban Overturned

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