BY JOE MARVILLI
A last minute decision by the New York State Supreme Court overturned the City’s forthcoming soda restrictions; only hours before it was due to go into effect.
State Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling declared Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s restriction of sugary drinks with more than 16 ounces as invalid on March 11, the day before the ruling would start to apply to businesses throughout the City.
Tingling stated that Bloomberg exceeded his authority when he bypassed the City Council and put the issue in the hands of the Board of Health, whose panel members were appointed by Bloomberg. The judge said that the ban would “not only violate the separation of powers doctrine, it would eviscerate it.”
In addition to the mayor overreaching in his power, Tingling slammed the regulations as “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences,” mentioning that the enforcement would be uneven within a single block.
The restraint would have affected restaurants, mobile food carts, delis and concessions at movie theaters, stadiums or arenas within the five boroughs. The exceptions to the rule would have been state-managed supermarkets and convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven.
Tingling also said that the regulations ignore other beverages with higher concentrations of sugar sweeteners and calories. Since the ban also does not limit customers from getting refills, the rule is essentially “gutted.”
Mayor Bloomberg strongly disagreed with the decisions, believing that the regulations would help to save lives.
“We have a responsibility as human beings to do something, to save each other, to save the lives of ourselves, our families, our friends, and all of the rest of the people that live on God’s planet,” he said. “We’re confident that today’s decision will ultimately be reversed.”
President and CEO of The Mount Sinai Medical Center, Kenneth Davis, also reiterated his support for the sugary drinks constraints.
“It is regrettable that in a city where two-thirds of all adults are overweight or obese, and one in five children is overweight, we cannot move forward with innovative measures aimed at primary prevention,” he said.
Many officials and business associations praised the judge’s ruling.
“I hope the Mayor will now choose to focus his time and effort on more pressing matters,” State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said. “As residents receive less and less city services, they need initiatives that produce real, tangible results, not gimmicks like the soda ban.”
“I will work with my colleagues in the City Council to make sure a law like this never passes again,” Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said. “Our small businesses are the engine that drives our economy. This soda ban is like the government putting sugar in the gas tank.”
The Queens Economic Development Corporation was pleased with the result as well, stating it would be good for business.
“Mayor Bloomberg’s ban would have been bad for small businesses, probably leading to job losses, because most large soda consumers buy the product from their local delis and mobile food carts,” Director of Public Relations Rob MacKay said. “I don’t like the fact that Mayor Bloomberg tried to implement this ban through a Board of Health decree. He should have gone through the City Council like other laws.”
The Bayside BID was not prepared to rest though, stating that they will continue to educate businesses about the soda restrictions in case the ruling is successfully appealed.
“We are just focusing our position that the Dept. of Health educate businesses about the soda ban,” Executive Director Lyle Sclair said. “If anything, we hope that they take this time to reach out to businesses just in case they are successful in their appeal.”
The judge’s decision came just hours after Halloran held a press conference in Bayside, protesting the ban. He was joined by Sclair and small business owners, some who were very upset with the restrictions.
“If you want to educate people and tell them the sugar’s no good for them, that’s fine. But to ban the two-liter bottle is absolutely ridiculous,” James Coady, whose family owns Cascarino’s restaurants throughout Queens, said. “I tell any kids that work for me to not open up a business in New York. It’s not worth it anymore.”
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.