It’s four in the morning and your girlfriend/boyfriend just told you you’re not doing enough cardio. You’re devastated, sobbing, and stumbling, but you still want food. But do you go for the dollar slice across the street? Or do you find an open restaurant, sit down with friends, and order a Sunkist? It’s a tough choice, one you may make without weighing the pros and cons, but it’s a choice that you may not even have to make one day.
Residents of the Lower East Side have created a petition calling for the end of cheap pizza joints and pretty much “all pizzerias” in general. Directed at Community Board 3, which governs neighborhoods including the East Village, the LES, and Alphabet City, the petition emphasizes a need to “promote diversity in low to mid-priced food options for New York City’s Lower East Side.”
The pizza conflict is just one example of the struggle that many local businesses are starting t0 face as rent rates skyrocket and chains and large corporations move into the neighborhoods. As Gothamist reported earlier last year, these $1 pizza places first afflicted pizzerias such as Vinny Vincenz, which was forced to lower prices to stay in competition with the popups.
Still, the main question people consider when choosing between these pizzerias and smaller, local restaurants is the food’s quality vs. its quantity. When it’s late Saturday night, you’d probably go for the closest, cheapest food option, not really taking into account that the quaint tapas place next door might go out of business. Nevertheless, the LES petition is trying to decide for you, taking in mind the effect these cheap spots have on neighborhoods.
“It becomes a problem because a place like 2 Bros is convenient and cheap, but I know it’s sacrificing quality and is just bad for some of the small restaurants around,” LSP sophomore Nicole Khudoyan said. “I’d still probably go for the pizza, though.” The allure of one-dollar pizza places is evident. They’re like the Starbucks of pizzerias: efficient, found everywhere, and somewhat destructive to local businesses, but undoubtedly enticing to college students.
As for ideal alternatives to pizza places — both dollar-slice ones and regular pizzerias — EV Grieve asked the spokesperson for the petition, a longtime LES resident, what the petition’s supporters hope will transpire from their efforts. “Anything besides a chain or $1 pizza,” the unnamed petitioner said. “More small joints like Mimi & Coco’s Japanese spot. It’s just so hard for small places to cover the rent and expenses and still scrape a living wage together.”
However, while the petition has good intentions, most college students probably aren’t thinking about the consequences their pepperoni slice has on the niche restaurants in their neighborhoods when they want a quick, cheap bite. After all, most people I asked said they’d still go for the pizza, not so much because they hate their neighborhoods or different food options, but because it just happens to be easier. The petition is currently underway with 29 out of 100 required signatures to take a stand against pizza.