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A ‘Whole’ reversal from organic megastore • Brooklyn Paper

A ‘Whole’ reversal from organic megastore

Not much work has been done at Whole Foods' Third Avenue site — but that could change soon.

Whole Foods renewed its commitment to opening a store on Third Avenue — a 180-degree turnaround from last week when a spokeswoman for the chain told The Brooklyn Paper that the company had abandoned its contaminated site along the Gowanus Canal.

The company acknowledged that its flack had misrepresented Whole Foods’ intentions.

“Certainly, our spokesperson’s statement could have been a lot clearer,” said Libba Letton, a higher-ranking spokeswoman based at Whole Foods’ Austin headquarters than the official who spoke to the Brooklyn Paper last week. “[But] that doesn’t change the fact that Whole Foods Market is actively working on plans for a store at the Gowanus site.”

Still, the company would not talk about any timeline for the stalled organic grocery, which was originally promised to open in 2006, but has been delayed due to the recession and dangerous levels of underground benzene on the site.

Initially, Whole Foods went on a media blitz after The Brooklyn Paper’s story, first demanding a retraction, and then getting Community Board 6 to send out a memo drafted by a Whole Foods top executive, Mark Mobley, that trashed our story as “simply not true.”

The company, however, later softened its tone and dropped the ultimatum when The Paper printed the shocking e-mail exchange between its reporter and the spokeswoman.

“Just so we’re clear,” the reporter wrote, “when … you said that even though Whole Foods plans to eventually open in Brooklyn, they don’t plan to build a store at the Third Avenue location?”

“Correct, not at this moment. Thanks Michael,” said the response from Mara Engel Wedeck.

When shown the e-mail exchange, Whole Foods said it did not want to assign blame for the communications breakdown, but merely to “make sure the Brooklyn community knows we are still committed to this project,” said Letton.

The earlier announcement that the project was being abandoned came on the same day as the end of the public comment period for a federal proposal to declare the canal a toxic Superfund site.

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