Tag Archives: Trade Fair

Global lime shortage squeezes Queens bars, restaurants


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Sophia Rosenbaum

SOPHIA ROSENBAUM

Brother, can you spare a lime?

Frequent customers at El Rey Del Taco truck may be confused when they open the Styrofoam container with their tacos to find a wedge of lemon, instead of lime, in their trays.

Limes are too expensive for the taco truck to afford right now, as a global lime shortage is affecting restaurants and bars throughout Queens. Most of the limes used in the U.S. come from Mexico, where heavy rains and an infectious tree disease affecting the lime crop have forced lime prices to quadruple over the past few months.

“Unfortunately, Mexico received some heavy rains that destroyed a large amount of the lime crop, so with limited supplies, we are seeing lime prices skyrocket,” said Lindsey Pope, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Agriculture.

At local supermarkets like Key Food and Trade Fair, three limes cost $3. Three months ago, customers could buy a dozen limes for the same price. In the past few months, prices for 10-pound cases of limes have gone from about $30 to about $120.

While the taco truck can get away with replacing limes with lemons, some businesses are not afforded that option.

“We do a lot of custom cocktails, so not using fresh juice just isn’t an option for us,” said Vincent Vee, the beer and event manager at Station House in Forest Hills.

Vee said it’s common for prices of fresh fruit to fluctuate, especially when natural disasters like droughts affect Mexico, but that this lime shortage has been especially long.

“[The prices are] staying up a little longer than normal this time,” he said. “We’re hoping they come down soon.”

Like other restaurants and bars, Station House is limiting its lime garnishes and ensuring that its employees use the limes in the most efficient way possible.

Limes are an integral part of many Mexican dishes. Fresh lime juice makes up a third of most traditional margarita recipes.

Mojave, a Mexican restaurant in Astoria, is trying to limit its use of limes to the bare minimum.

“We’re just trying to compensate,” said Maya Stephanov, a bartender at Mojave.

Stephanov said that limes are a staple at almost every bar in the city, as a slice of lime is often paired with vodka cranberries, gin and tonics and other specialty drinks.

 

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Workers left unemployed for Christmas after Trade Fair abruptly closes


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of RWDSU Communications

Rafael Polanco might have to tell his two children that this Christmas will come without presents.

The East Elmhurst resident, along with 49 other union workers, all lost their jobs on Dec. 10 when the Trade Fair Supermarket, on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, closed its doors abruptly without giving the workers any notice.

The workers claimed they turned up on Tuesday morning and management told them the store had been sold and they had to go home because they no longer had jobs.

“They didn’t give us an explanation. They didn’t give us a number to call. They didn’t say anything about the new owner. No one gave us an explanation,” said Polanco, who has been a deli worker at Trade Fair for 14 years. “They treat their workers like animals. We are human, they should give us explanations.

Members of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and Local 342 UFCW, unions representing the Trade Fair workers, gathered with local elected officials and community members in front of the supermarket on Dec. 13 to protest Trade Fair’s actions and to call on the new owner, Amana Key Food LLC, to hire the terminated workers.

According to the unions, Trade Fair’s closing and termination of the worker violates the collective bargaining agreements held with the owner, which demands the company give the union and workers two weeks notice of either sale or closure.

Amana Key Food LLC filed an application or a liquor license with the State Liquor Authority for the site on November 14, showing the sale has been in the works for more than a month, according to the unions.

In March, meat department workers in all nine Queens Trade Fair locations went on an Unfair Labor Practice strike fighting for a fair contract and against unfair labor practices. During the strike the owner was accused of treating workers with disrespect and putting their live in danger with exits being blocked most of the time.

“For far too long he [Farid Jaber] has been a bad neighbor,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “This is a clear violation of his contractual obligation and labor law. He has betrayed his employees and the community of Jackson Heights.”

Last week’s termination happened just weeks before Christmas, leaving workers like Polanco looking for jobs and wondering where they will get money to give gifts to their kids.

“Us older people we understand the situation but the children don’t understand,” Polanco said.

According to a union representative, days after the rally Amana Key Food LLC handed out job applications to the terminated workers, but none have been hired yet.

Amana Key Food LLC could not be reached for comment and Trade Fair did not respond.



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Truck driver arrested after allegedly assaulting Councilmember Daniel Dromm


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Dromm

While it is generally positive for officials to personally engage themselves in community issues, one councilmember’s involvement landed him as the victim of an assault.

Around noon on Wednesday, May 30, as Councilmember Daniel Dromm drove his car through Jackson Heights on the way back to his office, he saw an 18-wheel truck from National Farm double-parked, blocking traffic on 37th Avenue outside Trade Fair supermarket. Dromm said the truck driver was nowhere in sight, and he began snapping photos of the vehicle on his cell phone.

Upon seeing Dromm, the driver allegedly ran from around the truck and charged at him, repeatedly yelling, “no pictures!” before ripping the phone from his hand, striking him in the jaw and punching him in the chest.

Dromm said he yelled for help and was heard by workers in Congressmember Joseph Crowley’s nearby office, who then called the police. Dromm requested his cell phone back from the driver, identifying himself as an elected official. The driver refused to return it.

According to Dromm, when the police arrived they questioned the driver, identified by the district attorney’s office as John J Muriel. Muriel admitted he had Dromm’s phone, but would not say how he came to possess it.

Trade Fair manager Victor Fuentes was in the store when the incident took place, but alleged that he did not see anything when he went outside. Fuentes also said he has never had a problem like this in the past.

According to the DA, Muriel was arrested for assault in the third degree, petit larceny, criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree and harassment in the second degree.

According to the councilmember, an ongoing Jackson Heights study, instituted three years ago, began looking at traffic issues including congestion, parking and numbers of pedestrians. The study involved around 500 people – more than had ever been engaged in a traffic study before in New York City. Dromm stated he wanted to add the photos of the poorly-parked truck to the study, furthering the public’s awareness of vehicular issues in the neighborhood.

“It’s a combination of all these things that have happened here,” said Dromm. “Things have gotten out of control. We’re going to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’ We expect people who drive through and park in this neighborhood to abide by the law. That’s the minimal expectation. Blatant disregard for the law affects the quality of life here in the neighborhood.”

National Farm could not be reached for comment as of press time, and attempts to reach a Legal Aid attorney for Muriel were unsuccessful.

 

Jackson Heights community rallies against Trade Fair


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Daniel Dromm

The Jackson Heights community is fed up with a local supermarket’s “un-Fair” procedures.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm and neighborhood residents united on January 17 in front of Trade Fair, a supermarket located at 75-07 37th Avenue, to protest the grocer’s persistent violations of city laws and regulations.

“Trade Fair’s violations have created an unsafe environment for the Jackson Heights community and ruined the appearance of the neighborhood to the detriment of both residents and fellow business owners,” said Dromm. “We are demanding that Trade Fair do right by our neighborhood.”

Among the residents’ premier demands are for Trade Fair to cease in placing bins of broken glass near their recycling area, restore a tree pit in front of the market which they filled with cement, and comply with a partial vacate order for an enclosure obstructing the sidewalk on 75th Street.

In August of last year, Trade Fair was ordered to vacate from an illegal extension on the side of their property. When the grocer failed to follow the command, the Environment Control Board (ECB) issued a violation.

Jackson Heights community organizations echoed Dromm’s complaints – emphasizing the supermarket’s lack of respect for the neighborhood.

“Trade Fair supermarket is a serial sidewalk abuser,” said Edwin Westley, president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group. “In each of their Jackson Heights locations on 37th Avenue, they have expanded their storage spaces by our sidewalk space. They are not good neighbors as demonstrated by their lack of respect for pedestrians. This is a clear violation and needs to be stopped now.”

Neighborhood residents admit that Trade Fair is a fine supermarket, but demand that the store’s selfish behavior cease if they are to continue to shop there.

“We have a great neighborhood here and most everyone works to make it better,” said Tom Lowenhaupt, a resident of 75th Street who attended the rally. “Trade Fair runs a good store but they can’t keep straight what’s theirs and what belongs to the public. They have a take, take, take policy when it comes to the areas adjacent to their stores. They constantly push the boundary and test what they can get away with. That’s not being neighborly. Ease off or face a boycott.”

Despite the community’s allegations, Victor Fuentes, the manager of Trade Fair, says the supermarket has done nothing wrong.

“[The owners] are currently in the process of getting a permit for the extension they are building,” Fuentes said. “It is a little on the sidewalk, but there is plenty of room to walk. There is no broken glass in the recycled area. As soon as we are aware of broken glass, we clean it up right away. The tree is in the unloading area, so when the trucks backed out they knocked the tree down. We called the city to replace it, but it kept getting knocked down. Eventually, the city stopped coming. And when it rains or snows, the water gets in the hole where the tree goes and it stinks. Residents complained about the smell, so we filled the hole with cement to stop the problem.”