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Rotten Apple? Locals Lay Into Developer of Delayed Supermarket

The Red Apple Supermarket is coming this summer, but many are still fuming over how long it took to get built.

Around 100 fed-up residents grilled representatives from a long-delayed supermarket at Myrtle Avenue and Ashland Place — demanding that the desperately needed store be affordable for all.

The locals — many from the Ingersoll and Whitman houses, and the Kingsview and University towers — repeatedly criticized execs from the Red Apple supermarket for leaving their slice of the neighborhood for five years.

"This block used to be full of stores and a vital part of this community, but the block went down, just like dominoes," said Cynthia Butts, a member of FUREE, a community group that helped organized Thursday night’s meeting at the Ingersoll Community Center.

The strong emotions during meeting were the result of John Castimatidis’ — the owner of the Gristedes chain of supermarkets — decision to bulldoze an Associated supermarket to pave the way for an apartment building. Castimatidis promised he would replace the old grocery store, but for the last five years locals have only become angrier as they walked all the way to the Atlantic Terminal or elsewhere for fresh food. The supermarket is slated to finally open this summer.

Many community members showed up to the meeting wearing stickers that read, “ Castimatidis: It’s time to respect our community,” or “ Red Apple Group: Give us back what you took from us.”

A representative from the supermarket, Vincent Tabone promised the audience affordable, high- quality food sold by employees from the neighborhood. "It's going to be a supermarket you all want to shop at," he told the crowd. "If we don't meet your needs, it's going to fail, and we don't want to fail you."

But many attendees remained skeptical.

“We’ve been lied to about a supermarket coming in,” a woman shouted from the audience. “He doesn’t care about us, he cares about the new residents moving into the neighborhood!”

The residents then divided into groups and delivered an assortment of wishes for the supermarket that will be below a CVS Pharmacy, including wide aisles, accommodations for wheelchairs, and elevators. Locals also pushed for a diverse selection of food that would cater to kosher and halal diets.

Ultimately, all decisions regarding how the supermarket will be stocked and operated are in the hands of the store’s management.

But there were signs that the contentious meeting had helped bridge the gap between the developer and the neighborhood.

"This is a very frusterated community right now, five years is a long time," said Dominic Bryant. "The plan seems good so far."

District Leader Lincoln Restler also saw a silver lining.

“The supermarket that’ s coming in, it’s not a perfect one,” Restler said. “I’m optimistic that the Red Apple Group is going to incorporate the really thoughtful recommendations that the community put forward tonight.

“I’m pleased that residents had an opportunity to direct their anger toward the Red Apple Group.”

Joe Gonzalez April 16, 2011 at 06:35 PM
The above article failed to detail important specifics that were discussed at the meeting. I, along with many others raised the question at the meeting about the supermarket being placed into the building's basement, and an "Internet Cafe" being on the street level. The supermarket representatives stated that access to the basement will be via escalator and elevator which is quite worrisome to me. I am concerned that immediate access into or out of the basement will not be easy in the event of an emergency. I want a stairway built right next to the escalator. A couple of shopping carts on the elevator or escalator could block egress to the detriment of many. Folks are forewarned about this potential death trap in the offing! Local public officials MUST raise questions about this NOW before it's too late. Supermarket owners are only interested in maximum profits and are trying hard to attract two very different customer bases. On one hand there is the most poor NYCHA public housing residents. And, on the other hand, there is the newly arrived financially well-off residents of these newly built hi-rise buildings in our midsts. While the NYCHA residents were heavily present at the meeting I didn't see any residents from the hi-rise buildings in attendance at the meeting. Everyone must speak up now.
Lucas April 19, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Check out Families United for Racial & Economic Equality’s website for more details: http://www.furee.org We posted photos from the supermarket meeting, and you can check out other background materials, like our Food Fight report. We’ll soon have video from the event up there too.
Paul Roberts April 20, 2011 at 01:56 PM
The whole Foods at Columbus Circle is also in the basement as well as many other stores in NYC so that is really not an issue. I am a new resident in this neighborhood and currently the only options are Fresh Direct or a walk to Trader Joe's. There is not even a place to buy a gallon of milk that I would trust. I welcome any improvement. From what I understand the group of vital neighborhood businesses that were bulldozed to make way for new development included a KFC with bullet proof glass. I for one look forward to a store where I feel comfortable shopping.

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