BODEGA

Meet the new automated BODEGA

By now most people that care have already heard about the new "automated convenience" store called, of all things, Bodega. The term bodega has been part of the New York Puerto Rican lexicon for generations. Because of its place in New York history even TV shows like Law and Order often use it when referring to a mom and pop store in the hood. So what does a company come out of no where and not only decide to use the term, but use the term to automate the corner store? The excuse for using the term is deplorable and actually an insult to our intelligence.

This new automated "Bodega" will offer the same type of products that the local bodega now carries so how can they even fix their face to same it is not intended to replace "the Bodega?" If they automated things were selling computer parts, or say Mobile Phones then I would buy the notion that it is not intended to replace "the bodega." But that is not the case, it is an automated grocery store selling the same products that the local mom and pop stores currently sell except that they will be located, get this, inside apartment building lobbies, in college dorms, and other locations where local bodegas are not located.

It's the same old argument made when "they" decided to build big box stores in urban neighborhoods, like the Pathmark in East Harlem. I was a member of the community planning board when that monstrosity was proposed, I was even against it but the vote passed and it was built. Of course there are always to two sides to every debate and on the one side was the community concern. Members of the community, usually local leaders, ministers, block association presidents, etc. that were highly motivated (cha ching) would argue in favor of the Pathmark. They'd cite things like lower prices, fresher vegetables, yada, yada, yada. On the opposition side we cite things like breaking up neighborhoods, destroying local mom and pops stores, disrupting traffic, and causing congestion. But the Pathmark was built, it served or disservice the community for about 15 years and now we have a beautiful empty store on a piece of prime real estate in East Harlem.

So this "Bodega" thing that is not meant to replace the bodega is just another way to rip off the small guy. Think about this one. East Harlem and neighborhoods like it, where the concept of La Bodega was born and has flourished, just happens to be a poor community. During the early 1970's when there was much "white flight" East Harlem's demographics shifted. Whereas prior to the 1970's East Harlem was a predominantly white neighborhood. It boosted Italians (the majority population), Irish, Eastern Europeans and Jews. As an aside, the East Harlem Community has historically been a community of immigrants going back to the time period as depicted in Martin Scorsese' film, "Gangs of New York." But in the late 1940 and 50's America experienced a great migration of Puerto Rican's from the Island to New York City. The very first wave of this mass migration arrived into the Brooklyn Navy Yard on a ship named the "Marine Tiger." There were several other ships used as well but most notable is this one. Thereafter, Puerto Rican's migrated on airplanes. Because of the airplane and its lower cost Puerto Rican's migrated enmasse. Forming their own communities, as all immigrants entering the US do, they established grocery stores where Puerto Rican's could get the products they are used to, thus the bodega was born.

Now an automated system called bodega has been brought to market, yey for progress, phooey for the poor bastards that get left behind. But hey, this is the American Way.