Let New Yorkers Keep Their Nickels

BY JOHN CATSIMATIDIS | Once again, there are reports that the City Council is nearing a deal that would require retail and grocery stores to charge a fee for every plastic or paper bag used by customers. This was a bad idea in 2008 and it is still a bad idea today.

I have always believed in taking a balanced and common sense approach to issues of public policy. In this case, as some Council Members pursue the noble goal of protecting our environment, they go too far in proposing that New Yorkers be charged 5 cents for every bag used. This is literally another example of “nickel and diming” residents, especially those who can least afford it. Indeed, Reverend James D. Morrison, of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Greater New York, said last year when a 10 cent fee was proposed, “Many families in this city barely make ends meet, and for you to consider an extra fee for grocery costs only worsens many dire situations.”

Our city should improve our recycling infrastructure. Our retail stores should offer reusable bags at affordable costs, and allow customers to recycle plastic bags at their locations. These are some common sense ways to help protect our environment. A fee for bags would be nothing more than a regressive tax that will burden those least able to afford it. In addition to many senior citizens on fixed incomes, this group includes new residents of New York trying to pursue their American Dream, as my family did here more than 60 years ago.

In 1949, just six months after I was born on the Greek island of Nisyros, my family immigrated to the United States. We settled on 135th street in Harlem and I grew up watching my father take any work he could to provide for our family. I learned the value of hard work, the importance of family, and how every nickel earned mattered to make it in New York City. Following in my father’s footsteps, I went to work at an early age. I earned my high school diploma at Brooklyn Tech, and then while attending New York University during the day I worked nights and on weekends at Sloan’s supermarket, delivering and ringing up groceries. I helped to support my family and saved what I could, because I had a dream of my own.

My point is that through my father’s experience and my own, I know how difficult it is to make ends meet, and how every nickel does count. I believe families struggling to make it, as mine did, should be able to keep their hard-earned nickels rather than giving them up to pay for plastic bags.

John Catsimatidis is the owner of Gristedes Foods and the Red Apple Group, was a 2013 candidate for mayor, and e hosts a weekly Sunday morning political radio show from 8:30-10:00 a.m. on 970 AM.