Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

As we have been telling folks, another neighborhood supermarket has no officially gone by the wayside. As the NY Daily News reports this morning, a Key Food store in Bay Ridge will close its doors in June to, surprise, surprise, make way for another chain drug store: "A Bay Ridge supermarket will shut its doors in June - and most likely reopen as - what else? - a chain drugstore. As part of a citywide problem, the Key Food supermarket at Third Ave. and 94th St. will be replaced by a Walgreens, grocery union officials said they were told. "It's happening everywhere, and it's going to continue to happen; this is just the latest example," said Pat Purcell, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union."

If this trend continues than the only place that people will be able to buy their groceries will be from street vendors, or from higher priced small grocery stores. As Councilman Gentile tells the News: "My concern is that over the last 10 years, we've lost some major supermarkets in the community," Gentile said. "We have to rely on either the small convenience stores or drive."

The news of the store's closing was not greeted well by folks in the community: "This is the worst thing for me; I've been coming here for 15 years," said Lia Dizanis, 38, who lives a block away. "I have two little kids. I can't go far," she said. "There's already [a pharmacy] a block away. Do we really need another one?" There are about nine pharmacies within a 10-block radius of the Key Food, but only one supermarket - a Food Town Supermarket on 90th St."

As was mentioned, the store's closing represents a trend that the Department of City Planning has written about in a report that is slated to be issued in the next day or two: "A City Planning Commission study found that many New Yorkers drive to suburban supermarkets for better selection, causing smaller city markets to close. Bay Ridge shoppers said they worried about the strain on Food Town. "It's too small as it is," said John Walsh, 70, as he walked out of Food Town with a steak. "The lines are going to be terrible."

But the issue, we believe, is less about sales leakage to the suburbs than it is about the escalating cost of real estate a trend that we've seen taking place even in El Barrio. According to the East Harlem supermarket task force six markets have closed in the past couple of years, unable to cope with the rising rents.

East Harlemites are now forced to either walk for many blocks to shop, or settle for the higher priced bodegas. Clearly, we need dramatic and effective government intervention to stem the supermarket demise.