Council Members Gorge on Junk Food While Mulling Soda Ban

By Maya Shwayder on June 5, 2012 7:31am 

Councilman Leroy Comrie enjoyed a 32-ounce drink during the Health Board Budget hearings on June 4, 2012.
Councilman Leroy Comrie enjoyed a 32-ounce drink during the Health Board Budget hearings on June 4, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Maya Shwayder

MANHATTAN — If Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to make a change in the city's eating habits, maybe he should start with the City Council.

At a Department of Health budget meeting Monday, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley found himself under fire from junk-food chomping council members snacking on everything from Fritos to a 32-ounce styrofoam drink.

"How big is that?" someone in the room called out as City Councilman Leroy Comrie Jr. strutted into the room, a 32-ounce styrofoam behemoth clutched in his hand, a pink liquid visible through the plastic top.

"Thirty-two ounces, baby," Comrie announced, before insisting during his question time that the liquid in said styrofoam cup was not soda.

"This was a personal choice," Comrie said, adding that he's "making a lifestyle change."

At one point Councilman Domenic Recchia and Health Committee Chairwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo munched on a few bags of Fritos and Cheez-its.

Of the snacks seen in the room, only Councilwoman Gale Brewer chose something healthy — a bag of fresh grapes, "from Fairway!" she said proudly, as she offered them around to the other council members.

Councilman G. Oliver Koppell pointed out that beverages over 16 ounces could still be sold at supermarkets and bodegas, as those fell under state, rather than city, jurisdiction.

"Do you also have plans to regulate the size of candy bars?" Koppell asked to some mild laughter.

City Councilman David Greenfield pushed Farley particularly hard as to why the board also didn't want to regulate the sizes of hamburgers or fries. "Why are we doing this piecemeal?" he demanded.

Farley responded by saying there were studies to show that portion sizes have a large impact on obesity, and maintained that since sugary drinks "do not provide a feeling of being full," they are particularly large culprits in the epidemic.

Recchia and Jackson both seemed less than pleased at the apparent slight the council suffered at the hands of the Board of Health in not being included in the decision making.

Council Members Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Domenic Recchia noshed on some chips at a Health Department hearing June 4, 2012.
Council Members Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Domenic Recchia noshed on some chips at a Health Department hearing June 4, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Maya Shwayder

"You know, we want to work with you," said Recchia.

"You say you're going to pass this law next week, and just going ahead and passing it...you know a judge came out last week in the taxi medallion case, which made it clear that the City Council should have a say in what gets passed and what goes on in New York City."

"We should be part of the process. That's all I have to say," Recchia added.

Farley said that while he did not have a written opinion, his attorneys had told him they were "convinced that the Board of Health has the authority to implement this rule in its mission to protect the health of New Yorkers."

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