Yesterday we commented on the USA Today story about the abuse of eminent domain in the case of the proposed taking of 6,000 homes in order to redevelop the waterfront in Riviera Beach, Florida. In that story, Orlando Artze from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) mentions that Pathmark in East Harlem as a positive result of eminent domain and believes, "Without eminent domain, that supermarket never would have happened." He then adds: “Harlem's Pathmark store has brought the neighborhood 100 jobs, lower food prices and the convenience of not having to travel 40 blocks to shop.”
This is a pure crock! First of all ED had absolutely nothing to do with the Pathmark project. We should know since we were right in the middle of that battle. The parcel in question on 125th Street had been vacant for about 30 years! It had originally been one of many pieces of land in Harlem that had been cleared for urban renewal. These properties, along with countless others that were privately owned, lay fallow while Harlem spiraled downhill into economic despair.
Into the breach came countless independent supermarket owners who took over the abandoned A&P's and Waldbaums. They refurbished these units and helped to begin the economic renaissance that began to lure the chains back.
To say that any of this had anything to do with ED is nonsensical. What is also nonsense is the LISC claim that people had to go 40 blocks to find a supermarket. There were exactly 15 independents that, according to NYC's own data, were providing East Harlem’s residents with food that matched or undersold the prices in the chain stores.
In fact just to show LISC's ignorance – something that it appears continues to this day –we met with Paul Grogan who, at the time was director of the group's Retial Initiative. When we pointed out that there were all of these supermarkets in the trade area Grogan responded, "We didn't know they were there."
So please don't use this government-subsidized Pathmark store as an example of the benefits of ED. The store’s construction had nothing directly to do with land confiscation and certainly did not fill any East Harlem food shopping void.