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Signs of the Times: Windsor Terrace Sends Message to Walgreens

Nearly 200 residents gathered under Wednesday's ominous sky to continue the fight against Walgreens, which has officially assumed the store's lease.

Armed with signs and the now ubiquitous refrain "Greenbeans not Walgreens," residents and elected officials alike vowed to keep the drug store mega-chain out of the neighborhood.

"We have shown that it is possible for many years for this community to support a supermarket here," Councilman Brad Lander, D-Park Slope, told the agitated crowd assembled near the at 589 Prospect Avenue.

" and shown them how there is a win-win. And if they choose not to honor this community, and not to work with this community, then they will fail in this community."

Residents, meanwhile, have been trekking to supermarkets across the borough for their shopping needs, namely, Key Food on 5th Avenue and Fairway Market in Red Hook. While plenty of Wednesday's attendees do in fact have their own cars, the majority arrived at the protest on behalf of their elderly neighbors who lack easy access to fresh food.

Neil Eisenberg said that while he is lucky enough to have a car for major shopping expeditions, he is nevertheless regularly struck by Key Food's loss, particularly when it comes to making last-minute purchases.

"It’s been frustrating, especially when you need to cook dinner and you realize you’re missing something. You have to get in the car, drive a great distance, try to find parking and then drive home," he said. "You wind up ruining your evening."

Like many residents, Borough President Marty Markowitz—a Windsor Terrace resident himself—said that though he also has a car, he and his wife are still struggling to establish a regular shopping routine in the wake of Key Food's closure.

"We split our shopping up," he said, citing Fairway and Food Town on McDonald Avenue as his regular destinations. "But the convenience of a few steps away, or a block or two away, that is why we’re here. It’s gone."

Lander's office is in the process of establishing , though due to logistical difficulties, it has yet to see any actual participants. Resident Susan Valenti said she has tried to offer rides to her elderly neighbors on her own, but so far, has had a hard time successfully coordinating any shopping trips.

Anne Axelrod-Bedell, who has lived in Windsor Terrace for 45 years and calls herself a "young senior," said she provides rides to the area's older citizens when she can. But a ride share program, helpful though it is, is not a permanent solution, she said.

"You know, you can't do that forever," she said. "We need a food store.”

sb32199 August 01, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Leonora, The landlord asked prospective tenants to meet his demands, as all landlords do. The only potential tenant to agree to all the terms was Walgreens. Perhaps the people of Windsor Terrace who want another supermarket on that site should pool their resources to boost one of the supermarket offers enough to surpass the Walgreens offer. No matter what, there are buses down PPSW to C-Town, and Fresh Direct is ready to deliver. Meanwhile, there's a lot of fresh food is sold on PPW. I'm sure the meat market, delis and convenience stores will add to their inventories if demand rises.
Steve LeVine August 01, 2012 at 08:55 PM
You seem to keep missing the point- Walgreens did not expect this resistance and they have already expressed they are very concerned. Yes, they have run into this in other areas of the country as well and, believe it or not, some communities were successful in driving them out. To your point- yes, Walgreens' real estate division is the one that made the decision to purchase the lease on the site. Of course they're not oblivious to what makes the lease profitable but I don't believe they anticipated the level of resistance they are and are going to get. I really get tired of people saying, it's all legal and good business. There is a philosophical concept of good corporate citizenship. I'm for Walgreens having a store there and making money, but responsibly. That means being a part of the community and offering something that is lacking. I have zero doubt in my mind that they can still make a nice profit by offering the type of fresh food and groceries being asked for. If more people felt as you and just accepted facets of life in NY City, the decay and the decline of the late 70's and early 80's would have continued unabated and we'd be in a true hell hole right now. It seems some people just find it easier to be a shill for corporations instead of exerting a little effort to improve life. I don't put myself with the 99%ers and their philosophies and actions. I'm a pragmatist that knows corporations cannot enjoy "personhood." They have a responsibility.
Joe August 01, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Has anyone tried contacting Walmart to open a Walmart Neighborhood Market?
Leonora August 01, 2012 at 09:18 PM
sb32199, I realize it was Mr. Geller's right to ask for what he could. I was just pointing out that the issue wasn't that there isn't demand for a supermarket. On the contrary, this was a much-used, established grocery store. The stores on PPW (PPSW doesn't really have that much) are great for what they are: convenience stores. They can't provide the low prices or selection of a supermarket. The meat market is a great place but people need to be able to buy their meat at the supermarket along with everything else. Believe it or not, it is hard for some of our residents to walk up to Prospect Park West, let alone all the way to C-Town or Foodtown, both at least a mile away! I personally don't like the idea of Fresh Direct. I like to be able to touch my food before I buy it. I've also heard it's quite expensive. But even if that were not the case, it's not a replacement for a supermarket. And some seniors would not doubt have trouble ordering from them if they're not comfortable with computers or the internet. As Marty Markowitz has said, Mr. Geller and Walgreens had the legal right to make their deal. And we have the right to boycott.
Steve LeVine August 01, 2012 at 09:20 PM
One thing is for certain- there are many people in Brooklyn and all over the city that will prevent Walmart from getting a foothold here. Windsor Terrace, as a community, is deciding that "big box" stores are not wanted or welcome in the neighborhood.
sb32199 August 01, 2012 at 09:32 PM
steve, you said: <i> I have zero doubt in my mind that they can still make a nice profit by offering the type of fresh food and groceries being asked for.</i> The fresh food business is not business Walgreens is in. I suppose they could share the site with an experienced supermarket operator. After all, Walmart merged low-cost goods with supermarket sales. You said <i>If more people felt as you and just accepted facets of life in NY City, the decay and the decline of the late 70's and early 80's would have continued unabated and we'd be in a true hell hole right now. </i> Hilarious. I want more corporate investment in NY City, something represented by Walgreens, and you compare the possible investment of capital by Walgreens to the capital flight and human flight of the 1970s. That's some strange logic. Moreover, the people of NY City would benefit a lot from the presence of Walmart. We now live with thousands of 99-cent stores that sell many products that are truly junk. Walmart has quality standards that 99-cent stores cannot meet. You know, when you save a buck at Walmart, you have extra buck to spend on something you really want.
Steve LeVine August 01, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Leonora makes perfect points. Even further to her last statement- if Walgreens would run a supermarket and make it convenient to buy drugs and health and beauty aids while buying fresh food, that helps them. If people choose to do that and it takes business away from the independent pharmacies, that is capitalism. If Walgreens choose not to supply fresh food that we demand and do not get the business- capitalism at work again.
sb32199 August 01, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Leonora, you said: <i>I was just pointing out that the issue wasn't that there isn't demand for a supermarket.</i> It's acknowledged that people in WT shop in supermarkets, but according to the results of operations at Key Food, they don't spend enough to attract a new operator to the Key Food site.
Steve LeVine August 01, 2012 at 09:49 PM
People shop at Walmart to save a buck because they are a huge reason, not ironically, that so many jobs have been sucked out of this country. If jobs were here and people making more money, they could afford better quality. I know the economic arguments that arise from this kind of statement and it can go on forever. I am also not saying all big business is bad, not saying that they don't have a place in our city. They do not have a place in our particular neighborhood. The next sizeable property that becomes available, not the asking price gets jacked up and once again, only a big business will be able to afford it. Over the last seven years that I have been living in Windsor Terrace, I love the growth of the small businesses that have been coming in. As for 99 cent stores, I'll never understand how they survive other than taking advantage of immigrant or un-educated consumers or they are a front for something else. I'm pretty convinced about that. Walgreens HAS been asked to share the existing store or anywhere on the site with an experienced supermarket operator. Their initial claim is that the lease does not allow for it. We are going to be asking Mr. Geller to allow for a change in the lease and Walgreens can do the same. So far, nothing so we will continue to oppose it.
Leonora August 01, 2012 at 09:51 PM
sb32199, That's just not true. I hate to repeat myself but I must say it again: the issue was not that Key Food was not getting enough business. It is a great location. Many supermarkets would be happy to be able to open there. Mr. Geller asked for an amount of money that no supermarket can afford anywhere, I'd wager, in Brooklyn. As Marty said, the only two businesses that could afford such a high amount up front are national drug chains and national bank chains. Supermarkets are much less profitable in general, all over the country, than the big drug chains. That's just an unfortunate fact. Disagree with our protest if you like but please stop repeating misconceptions as facts. I personally also don't want Walmart in NYC. I want our city to remain unique. I also disagree about their quality. I've bought clothes from Walmart in the past and they were not well-made at all. I think the discount clothing stores in NY aren't great quality either but they're not worse than Walmart, in my opinion. In terms of chains being good for the city: it has been shown time and time again that small businesses drive America, hiring more people than the chains. Source: http://www.businessknowhow.com/manage/sbeconomy.htm
sb32199 August 01, 2012 at 10:16 PM
steve, The US is NOT a Low-Cost Producer of Goods and Services. The US economy aims mainly at developing High-Value-Added Businesses. Walmart adds high value by keeping prices low AND by selling merchandise of good quality -- in its product categories. Moreover, the fastest growth in Walmart's business in the last decade has come from its supermarket sales. Fear not, however, Walmart would never want to locate a store in Windsor Terrace. But there are a number of suitable locations in Brooklyn. Regarding 99-cent stores, yes, they exploit their workers and offer NO benefits. On the other hand, Walmart plays by all the rules, as does Walgreens. But I've got my doubts about supermarkets, which are highly sensitive to labor costs and have an obvious need to skirl wage laws. As for small businesses in Windsor Terrace, well, Krupa's is gone and Terrace Bagels is downsizing. Before CT Muffin was on the corner, there was Big Al's Chicken. The Oak Pharmacy was once a bar and the newer bar across from Farrell's was previously a video store. There's been a bank on PPW for only about 12 years. Lonelyville Coffee came and went and there used to be the Windsor Pub, a sleazy bar on 10th Ave.
Leonora August 01, 2012 at 10:21 PM
sb32199 I'm not sure what you're getting at. Things have changed a lot on PPW in the last 10 years but it's still almost entirely local businesses. Connecticut Muffin is a local chain. Terrace Bagels, as far as I know, is not downsizing. Are you talking about the construction? That's because there was an undiscovered law that a business can't be divided between two buildings. So, they're moving the cafe to where the laundromat used to be. You assume a lot of things that are wrong. Do you even live in the neighborhood?
sb32199 August 01, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Leonora, you wrote: <i>In terms of chains being good for the city: it has been shown time and time again that small businesses drive America, hiring more people than the chains.</i> If there's been one major change in the economic landscape of NY City over the last 40 years it's the loss of individual proprietorships and the arrival of chains and franchises. Once, there were few McDonalds, Burger Kings, etc. Now, it's different. Of course there are local chains like Uncle Louie G's, Shake Shack, Modell's and Jimmy Jazz. Otherwise, it's Target, IKEA, Home Depot, Costco, Best Buy, Nike Town, Verizon, Starbucks, Sports Authority and Banana Republic. That old NY City of family-run businesses is disappearing. It's almost gone.
Nat When August 02, 2012 at 04:55 AM
So when does the new Walgreens open?
Nat When August 02, 2012 at 05:01 AM
Sorry, I meant to say will it be open soon? In time for school season? Looking for more info on the opening.
Steve LeVine August 02, 2012 at 05:08 AM
Nat- the earliest they estimate is January or February. They have to gut the building and renovate inside and outside. One incentive that was floated was that if they work with the requests of the community, the red tape for the permit process may be able to be cut down so they can get done sooner than later.
walter o'malley August 02, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Steve, you wrote: "One incentive that was floated was that if they work with the requests of the community, the red tape for the permit process may be able to be cut down so they can get done sooner than later." Interesting...Will anyone actually admit to having proposed this bribe-like offer? Is someone planning to hand over a bag of cash to some bureaucrats at a couple of city agencies? Doesn't seem promising. Walgrreens has stores all over NY City, which means it's well schooled in the NYC art of expediting the approval process at P&Z and the Building Department. And it's not as though Marty M is going to put a wrench in the works, as if he could. He -- I'm happy to say -- supported the construction of the Barclay's Arena, and soon Brooklyn will once again be home to big-time sports and more. .
J.T Galla August 02, 2012 at 03:18 PM
dude, you clearly lack an good upbringing & education. i hope you can find another neighborhood that meets your needs. maybe walgreens will give you a job sweeping the floors, then you'll learn what life is really all about.
Steve LeVine August 02, 2012 at 03:44 PM
@JT- Whoa- I know you're upset but sb32199 certainly doesn't seem to lack education. He is making valid arguments from his point of view which, of course, we do not agree with. He may choose not to be on the front lines of the fight and may be more concerned with his personal situation, which is fine. I used to be like that until this particular situation and found the motivation to actively be involved in a solution instead of just sitting back and commenting. Doesn't seem that he is making anything personal.
WT Resident August 02, 2012 at 05:22 PM
the so-called basis of this protest is flawed. J&H Farms has produce most neighborhoods in NYC would DIE for, plus United Meat Market across the street. Wheelchair accessible. Any supermarket replacing key foods would *not* be cheap. So don't use the cost argument. All this BS is misdirected while the needs of seniors could be addressed. This is a convenience issue - and if there is an issue with Seniors we should be making a senior program. I know long time WT residents have been living in a bubble. Neighbors offering each other their houses below market, city workers and cops polling strings on the down low below the margin has given them an inflated veil of unjustified importance. Real estate is expensive. If you blame anyone blame the owner of this property. AFAIK, Walgreens could be prohibited subletting. If Toys R Us were moving in and they wouldn't open a supermarket would they not be corporate responsibility? You have no idea what you are talking about . Please, Steve Levine let the politicians string you along in an election year pretending they are so interested and on your side. Boycott away but stop placing the illegal flyers all over the neighborhood. And please, get a realistic argument.
J.T Galla August 02, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Steve LeVine, thanks 4 the reality check, well taken. this character just sounds like 'sour grapes' 2 me. on a blog, everybody's an expert, even the misguided & misinformed. keep up the good work .
Leonora August 02, 2012 at 06:42 PM
WT Resident, It's your right to feel this way, of course. But many people in the neighborhood are upset by this. Someone at Green Beans Not Walgreens has drafted a letter to Mr. Geller. We'll see how he responds. I'm not sure why it bothers you that we've put fliers up about the community meetings. There are always fliers for stoop sales and the like. We need to get the word out and that's the most effective way.
Leonora August 02, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Also, if you haven't yet and you agree with our cause, please consider signing our petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/walgreens-don-t-turn-windsor-terrace-into-a-food-desert
Nat When August 02, 2012 at 08:24 PM
According to the Patch, we may not be a food desert after all. Checkout Melon Cat shopping on Prospect Park West at the Shop Smart: http://windsorterrace.patch.com/articles/photo-of-the-day-melon-cat#photo-10826668 He found Melons!
Nat When August 02, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Of course you may want to wash the produce off once you get it home :)
walter o'malley August 02, 2012 at 08:48 PM
JT Galla, After reading a few of your posts on related Patch articles, it's clear you put the crack in crackpot.
Paula Murphy August 02, 2012 at 08:51 PM
I love United Meat Market. My experiences with the produce market across the street have been unfortunate at best. While our country applauds the right and success of corporate and personal greed I still expect a supermarket in the heart of a NYC neighborhood. And while it is Walgreen's right to bulldoze my neighborhood it is likewise my right to protest and boycott them.
Lynnie Rose August 02, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Did any of you know that Duane Reade is part of Walgreens? Well suprise suprise, I just got a letter about my FlexRewards. So I will no longer shop at Duane Reades stores because I chose not to. I will be no part of closing Ballards or Oaks they have been part of my extended family for 12 yrs.
J.T Galla August 02, 2012 at 11:09 PM
if i put the crack in crackpot, you put in the POT ! this is not supposed to be a forum for personal attacks on real peoples ideas. so , try to keep it real son.
Maritza Vargas August 04, 2012 at 06:22 PM
sb 32199 The only thing that comes to mind, for you to spend all this energy talking in favor of Walgreens (and Wallmart) : You belong to them or......you are a troll. But your messages are just too articulate for troll purposes.

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