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Some Queens boards an green carts plan

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The city Health Department and city drew up the plan, which became law in March, to put some 1,000 carts on city streets throughout the five boroughs over the next two years to bring fresh produce to neighborhoods where studies show a large percentage of residents do not eat any fruit or vegetables. Queens is to get 50 carts this year and another 50 in 2009 under the law, and vendors will be able to sell produce in southeast Queens and the Rockaways.Chris Manning, assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Intergovernmental Affairs at the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, fielded questions from Deputy Queens Borough President Karen Koslowitz and representatives of Community Boards 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 12, the last of which is the only board where green carts are planned.The new law is designed to bring produce to areas where there is little to no access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Vendors can sell only whole items such as carrots and berries - not processed, cut or cooked food - in neighborhoods where local bodegas may carry beer but not lettuce.CB 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty, whose territory includes the cart-saturated streets of downtown Flushing, where none of the green carts are destined to end up, was not buying it."This is a vending program, not a health program," he said. "If they're going to the store to buy beer, they don't want vegetables."Koslowitz steered the discussion away from the vendors that have yet to set up shop in Jamaica, Springfield Gardens and the Rockaways and toward existing vendors in central Queens, which is also not on the list for green carts."In my neighborhood, on Continental Avenue, you'll see five carts in warm weather. It's a circus," she said."They don't clean up after themselves. It's a disgrace," said Joseph Hennessy, chairman of CB 6, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park and is not part of the green carts program.Seymour Schwartz, president of the Briarwood Civic Association and a member of CB 8, which is not to see any green carts on its streets, asked whether the city would "review the question of the distance requirement," which stipulates that carts must be 20 feet away from stores."We're hoping the market will spread these guys out, hoping these vendors will go where there's not a lot of competition and will clean up after themselves," Manning replied. "There's nothing in the law to require a vendor to be in a specific place."Toward the end of the meeting, Acting CB 12 Chairwoman Adjoa Esinam Gzifa - the only representative in attendance of any community board whose districts are included in the green carts law - was able to ask about how progress under the new law would be evaluated."The Council has to evaluate consumption [from the carts], then we'll do something around accessibility, then quality and consumption," Manning said of the Health Department's process. "What we want is to evaluate the green carts themselves. A lot of logistical things need to be considered - EBT [Electronic Benefit Transfer] swipe cards have to be figured in."Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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