Acting on last year's study showing that many lower-income neighborhoods desperately need decent grocery stores, today Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson have announced a new program to encourage "the establishment and retention of neighborhood grocery stores in underserved communities in Northern Manhattan, the South Bronx, Central Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens." It's called the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) Food Stores program, and the mayor's office predicts it will "help create an estimated 15 new grocery stores and upgrade 10 existing stores, creating 1,100 new jobs and retaining 400 others over 10 years."
To qualify, retailers must meet certain requirements, like providing at least 30 percent of retail space for perishable goods that include dairy, fresh produce, fresh meats, poultry, fish and frozen foods; and providing at least 500 square feet of retail space for fresh produce. Then they'll be eligible for zoning and financing exemptions, such as real estate tax abatements and sales tax exemptions on purchases of materials used to acquire property or to construct, renovate or equip grocery stores. Some of the funding for all this will come from a new $10 million state revolving loan fund program created for FRESH, and the state also announced the establishment of a permanent farmer’s market grant program, as well as financial incentives for food markets to be green and energy efficient.