Windsor Terrace to Walgreens: Stay Out of Our Neighborhood

Roughly 500 residents turned out to Thursday night's community meeting to deliver a clear message to Walgreens.

Windsor Terrace has made its point loud and clear: We don’t want a Walgreens.

Walgreens district manager Hien Nguyen faced a punishing crowd 500 residents strong at Thursday night's community meeting, comprised mainly of locals troubled by the news that Key Food, located at 589 Prospect Avenue, .

“What you’re facing is that this neighborhood does not have any chain stores,” said Mary Most, one of dozens of attendees who stepped up to the microphone to question—and sometimes berate—Nguyen about Walgreens’ intention for the space. “We have successfully fought out other chains that have tried to come in. So that’s the feeling that you’re here with.”

One of the meeting's co-sponsors was Brooklyn Borough President and Windsor Terrace resident Marty Markowitz, who said he was no less blindsided by the loss of Key Food than his constituents.  

While he doesn’t understand Walgreens' motivation for wanting to move into a neighborhood already replete with two independently-owned drugstores, he said chains do tend to be the only entities able to afford the sky-high rents that such large spaces can garner.

“Key Food had an opportunity. Other owners of Key Food were given the opportunity to bid on the store, but they didn’t come up to the money that Walgreens or banks pay for rent,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”

He did, however, add that Key Food is currently in the process of looking to occupy another space in the area, and that if anyone is aware of an 8 to 9,000- foot location available for rent, to contact his office.

But many residents seized the opportunity to tell Nguyen that not only do they not want to settle for what will likely be a less-than-satisfactory grocery selection—they don’t want a Walgreens at all.

When midway through the meeting a rattled Nguyen revealed that “he was not 100 percent sure whether there’s a signed contract,” many residents vowed to do what they could to keep the pharmacy chain from moving in, period, and to press instead for another supermarket.

Councilman Brad Lander, D-Park Slope, another meeting co-sponsor, said that since the closing of Key Food would technically plunge Windsor Terrace into a food desert, the community may make an attractive candidate for the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s “Fresh” program, which provides financial incentives for supermarkets to open up shop in areas designated food deserts.

Lander said he was already in talks with the EDC to determine whether Windsor Terrace could be considered.

Other residents offered possible solutions. Some said ninety percent of Walgreens inventory should consist of fresh food. The idea was floated that Walgreens sublet some of the space to a dedicated supermarket, and some residents expressed interest in starting a Windsor Terrace food co-op.

Many were concerned for the 50 Key Food workers who will soon be out of a job, particularly since Walgreens plans only to hire 25 to 30 new workers for its forthcoming store.

Moreover, the Walgreens is not scheduled to open until March of 2013, though Nguyen said he plans to try to have it open by September or October.

But the main message to emerge from the meeting was one that Nguyen heard well. Asked to read through the many notes he plans to bring back to his superiors, there was one that Nguyen indicated stood out among all others.

“I also wrote down, several times, and circled it: Don’t need another drug store,” he said.

Resident Mark Horberg said he thought the meeting was productive.

“I think the point was made the Walgreens is not welcome here,” he said. “We don’t need a big box store and we don’t want one. It’s not right for our neighborhood. “

And if the Walgreens does open? “I will not shop there. Damn them to hell.”

Randi Abraham said it would be difficult for Walgreens to do business in the neighborhood if they’re not welcome. 

“I mean, look, I know that they to have to do their business, too, and nothing against Walgreens personally, but it’s not what the neighborhood needs,” she said. "We need a supermarket with food.”

Leonora Stein, owner of the bookstore Babbo’s Books, said the next step for the community should be to find out for certain whether Walgreens has already signed the paperwork necessary to close the deal.

If it is, she said, she plans to boycott, and encourages everyone else to patronize other, local pharmacies for all their non-produce shopping as well.

She said she was heartened by the community's outpouring of support for keeping Windsor Terrace chain-free.

“This is obviously a select group of people that really care," she said. "But it was a large group of people, and I think that maybe a force could be built in the community to act.”

“I’m hoping we just stop them in their tracks. That would be ideal.”

Michael D. June 18, 2012 at 03:45 PM
The board of directors Board of Directors Alan G. McNally Chairman of the Board Elected 1999 Greg D. Wasson President and Chief Executive Officer Walgreen Co. Elected 2009 David J. Brailer, MD Chairman Health Evolution Partners Elected 2010 Steven A. Davis Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Evans Farms Inc. Elected 2009 William C. Foote Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer USG Corporation Elected 1997 Mark P. Frissora Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. and The Hertz Corporation Elected 2009 Ginger L. Graham President and CEO Two Trees Consulting Elected 2010 Nancy M. Schlichting President and Chief Executive Officer Henry Ford Health System Elected 2006 David Y. Schwartz Former Partner Arthur Andersen LLP Elected 2000 Alejandro Silva Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Evans Food Group, Inc. Elected 2008 James A. Skinner Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer McDonald's Corporation Elected 2005
Martha June 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM
wow, ti's incredible to see people so involved and fighting back...love it!
Michael June 18, 2012 at 04:54 PM
someone should write a generic letter that we can all email the walgreens people
MJ from Kensington June 18, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Nobody here mentioned ALDI's as a supermarket alternative...and they are looking to open more stores around the NY metroplex - their first is in Rego Park. Owned by the same conglomerate as Trader Joe's, ALDI sells products for relatively cheap, albeit with limited brand options. Their market model will not please upscalers and they don't sell organic foods. It's neither a Key Food nor a Fairway, so would be a viable, if last-resort alternative. That said, a Trader Joe's would be preferable...it might just put WT on the map though and attract way too much auto traffic.
Michael D. June 18, 2012 at 06:51 PM
As a Windsor Terrace home owner and resident for over 20 years, I think that placing a Walgreens store at 589 Prospect Avenue, Brooklyn, NY would be a bad move. The neighborhood needs a grocery store not another pharmacy (there are two, two blocks away). Nor do we need another connivence store as there are several in the area. The elderly and residents without cars need a local full service grocery store, plain and simple. Not only will you be forcing the residents to seek food elsewhere, you will also be putting several neighbors out of work. This at a time when the economy is still struggling. Should you proceed with your plans to occupy the space at 589 Prospect Avenue, Brooklyn, NY I can guarantee you that you will be met with boycotts, not just of the store at that location but all of your stores. I and my fellow residents will refuse to shop at any Walgreens, and we will spread the word. In closing I suggest you adhere to “the vision of Charles R. Walgreen by doing what is fair and beneficial to others.” Do the right thing, do what is best for our neighborhood, and by doing so you will gain the thanks and loyalty of the residents of Windsor Terrace. Thank you for your time. Sincerely,
Bobby June 18, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Ironic that James Skinner is on the board since we fought his company, McDonald's, out of Windsor Terrace not once, but twice!
Dudley Escobar June 18, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Let's not forget that he made them money too. That's really where the obligation ends. They weren't working for him out of the kindness of their hearts.
Dudley Escobar June 18, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Yes, please stop yelling.
Dudley Escobar June 18, 2012 at 10:04 PM
The man who sold/rented/leased (not sure which it was) to Walgreen's owns his land and he is the only one who gets to decide what to do with it. Not Marty or Brad or their "corporate pac money folks", not you, not me...only him. His obligations are to himself and his loved ones, not us. We gave him money, he gave us groceries and sundries. That was the extent of the relationship, and it worked well. Fresh produce isn't a privilege, you're correct. But it's not an unalienable right, either. Unless, of course, you grow it yourself. As for this site's sponsors, if you want to support it instead of Walgreen's, write a check. Otherwise, deal with it or stop using it. I'm very upset about losing Keyfood too, but what's creepy to me is your inflated sense of entitlement, and your rush to blame "corporate pac money blah blah blah". The trend lately towards anti-corporatism is just so silly and counterproductive. But everyone needs a scapegoat, right?
Michael D. June 18, 2012 at 10:40 PM
@ Dudley. Granted it's not a privilege or a right, however there are certain services that should be available to all. Food is not a luxury it's a necessity, and easy access to it should be protected. The person who owned the Key Food property had, in my opinion, a civic obligation to ensure that another grocery store would take over. If there were other grocery stores in the area it would not be a big deal. The fact that there were other offers and he just decided to take the biggest check and say F-you to the neighborhood, shows that he's a real #1 class A jerk. I feel for the employees, the elderly and those without means to get to another grocery store easily.
Dudley Escobar June 18, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Sure, it's possible that if he were a more benevolent member of the community, he may have taken into account our needs and factored that into any decisions. But I think it's a stretch to call it an obligation. It was a quid pro quo arrangement that has unfortunately finished its run. I expect nothing from him. And nobody seems to care about one important thing: we don't have all of the information. Maybe the other grocery stores who bid attempted to lowball him? Maybe the economics of the neighborhood simply don't justify another supermarket moving in? Maybe this particular Keyfood wasn't very profitable, and other supermarket chains are aware of that? As I said, I'm going to miss Keyfood as much as anyone. My 2-block walk is now an 8-block walk to Foodtown, or a subway ride to Trader Joe's. But being inconvenienced doesn't give me the right to call the owner a jerk or demand that my personal desires be fulfilled. And it definitely doesn't give me the right to presume to instruct the man on how he should use his property.
Mike June 19, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Mike While I hate not having overpriced Key Food around and understand how vital it is to the elderly living in the neighborhood Whole Foods, Fairway or a Food-Coop is not the answer. While I am not a fan of Walgreens, some of their stores carry a limited amount of fresh produce and a pretty extensive line of groceries items while meats will have to be purchased elsewhere. I think the better approach would be to work with Walgreens management whereby they have a deicated outdoor produce stand set up in an area of the parking lot that can serve the locals and make up for what they don't carry inside. This can be run as an extention of an exsiting local fruit stand like Circus Cirucs or 3 Guys From Brooklyn; which will give the area lower produce prices. A farmers market is NOT the answer because it is grossly overpriced and detrimental to elderly living on SS (social security). As for Marty Markotwiz, he sold out Brooklyn residents a long time ago (see NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/25/nyregion/for-brooklyn-leader-marty-markowitz-mix-of-business-charity-and-power.html?pagewanted=all). As for Brad Lander., he is too busy creating traffic islands, "slow zones and speed bumps in areas they are not needed. Asking ofr expecting them for any help is a waste of time unless you are willing to write a big check. While Walgeens is not the answer and my suggestions are not perfect., they are meant to be a productive starting point and not a counter productive
Beth arias June 20, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Your comments are,"Right On!" I was thinking," Why don't we boycott a nearby Walgreens to make our point extremely clear now!" That this chain is not suitable for our community.
Pat Maliha June 23, 2012 at 01:54 PM
I agree that we cannot wait our elected officials to rescue the situation. Apparently Brad Lander was too busy with bike lanes and speed bumps to notice that Windsor Terrace was about to lose it's only supermarket and become what the City Council calls a food desert and start the process of getting the neighborhood approved for the Fresh program. All of this angst might have been avoided. It is clearly not the responsibility, moral or otherwise, of the Key Food owner to secure a food store. Ofcouse pharmacy chains are more profitable than supermarkets and it is time that the City of New York start accounting for that in the tax codes. Supermarkets are space and labor intensive and if we are to have any supermarkets (other than the speciality markets like Wholefoods and Fairway) left there will need to be tax incentives for opening a traditional supermarket. There were food stores interested in opening in the Key Food space...Wahlgreens could pay more. Windsor Terrace has organized in the past to stop what was refered to as a "done deal" and the deal was undone. I am refering to the 12 story building that was planned by a corrupt ex city commissioner for the vacant lot opposite the 16th street entrance to Prospect Park. He owned the propery, it was an as-of-right development and did not need a variance. Windsor Terrace spoke and it did not happen. Wahlreens be stopped. too if the community is willing to maintain focus on this issue and continue the pressure on all involved
Anne Axelrod-Bedell June 23, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Bravo Patty. You tell em!!!!!!
J.T Galla June 23, 2012 at 04:23 PM
pat , you're right on! supermarkets also provide an excellent training ground for our youth to develop a strong work ethic as observed at the meeting .the young man representing keyfoods workers really got to me ; re:whats wrong with America ,we need work not inappropriate corporate acquisitions. when fighting that hi rise ,we were told 'it'll bring in a better class of people' we didn't need a hi rise for that . it's inherent to windsor terrace. for walgreens to knowingly take away our only source of affordable fresh food ,i find unconscionable , a major public relations blunder. was jim brennen napping? marty markowitz preoccupied with metro tech? we're not mud slinging here,just throwing eggs. WE ,AS A COLLECTIVE GROUP,HAVE THE RESOURCES TO ORGANIZE & FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHT TO ACCESS GOOD HEALTHY FOOD. THE CITIZENS FOR PRESERVATION OF WINDSOR TERRACE ALSO ENACTED A ZONING CHANGE. DO I SENSE A LAND USE ISSUE HERE? people, pull together & make it right. this thing is wrong. so many families have moved here ,it's overwhelming.we want this to continue. with no supermarket, who will want to move here? children don't drive cars.WE WANT & NEED ACCESS TO GOOD FOOD SHOPPING THAT MEETS THE EXPECTATIONS OF OUR RESIDENTS. DO IT FOR YOUR CHILDREN , YOUR OWN FUTURE WHICH IS THIS GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD, WINDSOR TERRACE.
KTG June 26, 2012 at 06:01 PM
While there is no law that mandates owners of grocery stores must only sell to other grocery stores, in this case we should enact one. It is unconscionable that the owner of Key Food who has benefitted from our neighborhood for DECADES should leave us high and dry without so much as a warning. His lack of consideration and sense of civic duty is appalling and sad. It is because of these kinds of businessmen that we as civic-minded citzens must enact laws to protect the public good. I am glad that third-rate store and its owner are gone. Let's get a business in there that actually cares for the neighborhood and community in which it conducts business. Let's get zoning laws enacted for a grocery store we need and want.
Dudley Escobar June 26, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Wow. You certainly have odd views on how a free society is supposed to function. You want laws enacted for force a grocery store to open in that spot? How would the grocery chain be selected? Who would do the selecting...you? What if they weren't profitable, would you want taxpayer subsidies to prop them up? What if they wanted to close, would we then move on to the next chain and force them to open a store? Where did you learn economics, Soviet Russia? Are you Hugo Chavez? People like you frighten me.
KTG June 26, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Dudley, I am sorry my opinions frightened you. Would you mind if your phone company, cable service operator or gas and electric company stopped providing you service just because they felt like it? You could always watch TV and use the pay phone at the local bar. It would only be an inconvenience right?
Dudley Escobar June 26, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Your analogy is fatuous and nonsensical. We aren't being cut off from access to food; merely close, convenient access. Personally I'm glad we don't pass laws protecting our right to not be inconvenienced, because in doing so we'd inconvenience or even cause significant harm to others. But obviously your needs are the only ones that matter, right? And is that why we're losing our grocery store? Because the owner "felt like it"? Obviously he has it out for us. Someone should pass a law making him nicer. We can call it the 2012 KTG Civic Duty Act. Don't worry, we're from the government and we're here to help.
J.T Galla June 27, 2012 at 09:13 AM
the whole affair is unfortunate for all concerned. perhaps mr geller ,owner of keyfood,has never had to suffer any inconveniences in his life. i guess we all will be doing it for him.i do not think the residents here are deserving of this mess. i would also venture to guess that we, as a collective group, are a little too sophisticated to be the type of people to shop @ a walgreens .the store is clearly not needed for it's Rx or junk & trinkets.walgreens recently merged with /acquired duane reed.walgreens intends to put our 2 existing pharmacies out of business and dominate the drug business. they are no different than the illicit drug cartels .DO NOT LET YOUR CHILDREN GO TO WALGREENS. BEWARE OF STRANGERS BARING GIFTS. in the meantime , patronize your local small stores , they are also leery of this and always struggle to exist.
pam June 27, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Dudley I am with you. This neighborhood has gotten so uppity. It is ok for the residents to do what they want and make declarations of fact that they have absolutely no knowedge of. J.T. you're statement that Mr. Geller has probably never been inconvenienced in his life is so ridiculous that it is laughable. Just the fact that he is 80 is proof he has probably suffered many. Hey everybody this the USA land of freedom and free enterprise.
J.T Galla June 27, 2012 at 03:29 PM
not so , total speculation by both of us.if u think our lives should be controlled by the drug companies , so be it . i don't. think geller clearly lacks any social responsibility, civic duty mindedness,& empathy for those who are now grossly inconvenienced by his selfishness.i would guess he worked his way up ,became successful,became greedy after a life of advantage.this scenario is not always the case for all.the rich get richer ,the poor get poorer.it's that 99/1 o/o ratio that the occupy movement has brought to the forefront .so, let's put differences aside, & concentrate on a solution. WE NEED & MAY EVEN BE ENTITLED TO A GREAT SUPERMARKET @ THAT SITE ! WHY UPSET THE APPLE CART?
pam June 27, 2012 at 04:06 PM
our lives are controlled only by those we let control them. Why do people think that someone who worked their butt off to get on top should have to take care of the neighborhood? His first duty is to his family. Yes it is tough on a ot people, but he had no moral obligation to make sure another supermarket came in. You show how the neighborhood has turned into spoiled selfish people. Yes we need a supermarket, but i don't think we are Entited to one at that site.
Michael D. June 27, 2012 at 04:26 PM
The "I got mine screw you charlie" attitude. Great…
pam June 27, 2012 at 04:57 PM
hence the spoiled selfish attitude. me me me wow what a group.
Dudley Escobar June 27, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Everyone owes you something, right? By the simple fact of you existing and choosing to live in a certain place, all of a sudden you are entitled to a nearby supermarket, despite what the actual owner of the property chooses to do with it. And if he doesn't conform to your wishes, it's the equivalent of him saying "I got mine screw you". Do you realize how narcissistic that attitude is? Getting what you want all of the time is for babies, not adults. Walgreen's will either fail because the neighborhood truly doesn't want or need it, in which case we may get our supermarket after all (this is certainly the outcome I'm hoping for); or it will succeed, in which case all of your griping will have been proven wrong. Either way, save your righteous indignation. It's boring and trite.
pam June 27, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Right on Dudley!
Nathaniel Elijah Sivin June 28, 2012 at 05:53 PM
The major issue here is that no one wants Windsor Terrace to be a food desert. It will be bad for the neighborhood in countless ways. Let's stay focused on that and I'm sure the appropriate businesses will pay attention. Hope to see everyone at the rally outside Key Food tonight!
J.T Galla June 28, 2012 at 07:03 PM


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