Of all the Food Emporium grocery stores that are closing due to parent company A&P’s bankruptcy, only one is being replaced by something other than a grocery store. The Food Emporium at the corner of 51st Street and Second Avenue is currently slated to become a CVS, but not if the neighbors can help it.
This past Saturday, community members Millie Maggiotta, Denise Hamilton and Meryl Brodsky, who is also the district leader, camped out behind a table in front of the Food Emporium to gather signatures for a petition against the new CVS. The petition asks that another bidder be chosen to replace the Food Emporium, which will close within the month, instead of what would be the eighth pharmacy in the area. “Unless they put something in here we have nothing,” Brodsky said. “We all want a Trader Joe’s, right? From my lips to God’s ears. You have to work too hard to eat. It really is an unhappy occurrence.” The petitioners, who are also part of the Turtle Bay Association, were prepared with maps of all the existing pharmacies in the area and a study about the importance of access to fresh food in preventing diabetes and obesity.
Maggiotta, Hamilton and Brodsky called out spiritedly to passersby to get their attention, and many people stopped to sign the petition. “Just think about when it snows and rains and you’ve got to go to the supermarket,” Hamilton said. “You’ve got to walk 10 blocks.” The passing shoppers, once made aware of the issue, were generally also against another pharmacy moving into the area. Several people were already aware of it and said they were opposed to another CVS. “How many times can I sign?” one resident asked.
Julio Gonell, a manager of the Food Emporium, also expressed his sincere hope that another grocery store would be able to move in instead of a CVS because otherwise all of the Food Emporium’s employees will lose their jobs. “A lot of contracts are being broken,” said Gonell, who has been with the company for 17 years. “As you see, the community doesn’t want this. We have tons of customers. Do we need another pharmacist? No. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Gonell indicated several buildings nearby that are under construction, pointing out that when they are finished their tenants will need a place to shop. “In the next six months to a year there are going to be at least 700 families extra,” he said. The Turtle Bay Association’s press release mentioned this as well. “A sizeable number of seniors and young families live in the neighborhood, whose overall population is growing due to aggressive development and a beneficial cost-to-value real estate market,” it reads.
Maggiotta said she has notified several local and state politicians of her concerns, and will be keeping them informed of the petition’s progress. Brodsky hopes that the public officials will “ask the management or whoever to change their minds — to revise their plan.” She didn’t know of a certain number of signatures that would accomplish this goal, but said she planned to get as many as possible.