NAACP vs. Bloomberg’s Soda Ban
The NAACP and other minority groups fight back.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg


The NAACP and the Hispanic Federation aren’t the only organizations making the argument that certain groups stand to suffer more than others under the ban. The New York Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and the Korean-American Grocers Association are among the plaintiffs in the suit against it because they see it as a threat to their members. Several city-council members whose districts are predominantly black or Hispanic have also opposed the ban. Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat who represents East Harlem and part of the Bronx, co-authored an op-ed in the Huffington Post last July with fellow council member Letitia James, arguing that the ban would not achieve its purported aim and would unfairly disadvantage some small businesses. 


Over the summer, before the ban was rubber-stamped by the Board of Health, a reporter from the Village Voice accompanied Mark-Viverito on a tour of Spanish Harlem to survey local business owners and residents about its likely impact on them. Nal Barak, the proprietor of Crown Fried Chicken, told the Voice that he was unhappy about the rule and thought it should apply equally to all businesses. One consumer who identified himself as “Kill Box” explained how he’d react if the mayor, whom he described as a “f***ing idiot,” attempted to limit the size of his soda: “I can just walk to the bodega down the block? Yeah — I’ll just do that; I don’t want no f***ing baby cup.” 

City-council member Letitia James, of the socialist Working Families Party, dismisses the notion that opposition to the ban, which she calls “arbitrary and capricious,” implies a lack of concern for quality of life in the black community. “The issue is too complex to be solved by a simple solution such as a ban,” she tells National Review Online. She cites lack of access to health care, inadequate physical-education programs in schools, and limited parks and recreation space as other important factors. “I don’t believe that the ban will have a great effect on health outcomes, and in fact, it will hurt small businesses in the city of New York already struggling in this economy,” she says. And while some of her constituents are disappointed with her stance, she’s also hearing from business owners who don’t relish the prospect of “inspectors who come by and issue them fines that are onerous and arbitrary.” (Those fines could amount to $200 per infraction, beginning in June.)“Thank you for standing up and sympathizing with our plight,” they tell her.

It’s a plight that leaves Mayor Bloomberg unmoved, apparently, despite the “soft spot” in his heart.

Katherine Connell is an editorial associate at National Review.