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Editorial: A trip to the woodshed

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In a letter dripping with vitriol, writer Stuart Hersh takes us to the woodshed for raising questions about efforts to amend the as-of-right zoning that allows community facilities to build anywhere in the city. Although he makes a sweeping condemnation of the editorial page, we appreciate his taking the time to write. It is letters like this that make the Readers Write page a vibrant community forum.

Hersh is angry that we had the temerity to disagree with former CB 11 chairman Bernard Haber on this issue.

Haber also takes an overheated whack at the July 18 editorial. "The community is not asking for a 'Yes or No' approval for community facilities," he insists in his letter in which he accuses the TimesLedger of trashing the residential community of northeast Queens.

Really? Hersh writes, "We insist on the right to review and approve any as-of-right proposals before another redundant facility is plopped down in the most inappropriate of places."

Does anyone not see the contradiction?

Both writers misrepresented the July 18 editorial. We wonder if they even read it.

We did not disagree that the as-of-right rules need to be changed. Instead we looked for a way to balance "the rights and needs of longtime homeowners" with "those of "the borough's new immigrants." We asked the "City Council to move carefully on this very explosive issue, making certain that every voice is heard."

Editorial: Let the market be free

Last week some 50 people living in Whitestone stood outside the Key Food Supermarket in Whitestone to protest plans to close the store and open a drugstore in its place. Those who live within walking distance of the store will lose a major convenience. Some senior citizens accustomed to walking to the store to pick up a bagful of groceries will now need car service to do their shopping.

We are not surprised that City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) chose to lend his support to this demonstration. Avella's heart is in the right place and we respect him for standing up for the interests of his constituents. At the same time, he should show respect for the free-market forces involved here.

A sign in the Key Food store window claims the store has lost its lease. The blame then shifts to Muss Development Co., the developers that own the Key Food property. A spokesman for Muss Development claims that Tapps Supermarkets, the parent company of Key Foods, has a lease on the property until 2011. It was Tapps, said a vice president at Muss, that decided to close the food store and open a drug store.

It doesn't matter. A supermarket is not a charitable organization. It owes nothing more to the community than to offer a quality product at a fair price. The free market forces dictate when the time has come to change a supermarket into drugstore, or vice versa, not some central committee.

The protesters claim that there are too many drugstores on Francis Lewis and not enough supermarkets. That may be, but we doubt that Tapps is making this move without some number crunching. They apparently believe there's enough demand in Whitestone to justify opening another drugstore.

Avella said he hopes to put pressure on Muss Development, which needs "political support" for many of its projects in New York City. Huh? There is nothing in the city charter that guarantees residents a supermarket on every corner. New Yorkers will be best served when the politicians and community leaders stand back and allow the free market to run its course. This won't win them any votes, but it will encourage entrepreneurs to invest in the city without fear of manipulation at the hands of bureaucrats.

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