Bloomberg meets with Korean-Americans

Meeting with the Korean American community for the first time at a town hall meeting on Oct. 26, Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to establish new restaurant inspection regulations suitable for traditional Korean food, such as kimchi.

At the meeting, held at the Flushing branch of Queens Library, the mayor made the promise in answer to the question, “Kimchi is a fermented food, and it is unfair to apply the current temperature regulations to it: Any solution to that?”

“New York City is so diverse with people from many different countries that some of the current inspection regulations may not be adequate for some ethnic food,” Bloomberg said. “I will talk about solutions with the people in charge.”

Many Korean restaurants have been fined for violations because of the way they store the traditional Korean food. Kimchi, a popular side dish made with vegetables such as cabbage and radish, needs to be fermented at room temperature.

“It’s well understood that each culture has its own unique food,” said Elliott Marcus, the city health department’s point man on restaurant inspections. “There is a regulation that allows restaurants to let hot or cold food stand at room temperature for 4-6 hours. We may be able to find ways to apply that.”

The town hall meeting was hosted by the Korean American Community Foundation (KACF) and moderated by Kevin Kim, a member of Manhattan Community Board Five. The mayor was accompanied by representatives from about 20 city agencies, including Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. They provided further explanations to the 11 questions posed to the mayor.

A member of the Korean Produce Association (KPA) of New York asked about the number of city-sponsored green carts, saying that they give tough competition to Korean-owned fruit and vegetable stores and even threaten their living in some cases.

“According to my understanding, currently in Queens, green carts are allowed only in Rockaway and Jamaica where there are not enough fruit and vegetable stores,” Bloomberg responded. “If you find any green cart that operates close to any of the stores, please call 311.”

Regarding how to improve the poor Korean translation and interpretation services of city government, he couldn’t give a clear answer.

“We are doing our best, but realistically, it is difficult to provide perfect service,” Bloomberg said. “However, I believe that New York City is doing a better job than other cities.”

Some members of the audience complained that he gave perfunctory answers to some of the main issues without presenting concrete solutions.

Some 250 Korean people, including community leaders such as Chang Y. Han, president of the Korean American Association of Greater New York (KAAGNY), attended the first-ever meeting with Mayor Bloomberg, which lasted for more than an hour.

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