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Fairway prepares for opening

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Fairway is looking for a few good managers.

The gourmet supermarket chain, which many feared would never actually open in Red Hook, has finally started advertising for workers. According to ads spotted last week on www.craigslist.com, the store needs several assistant department managers to begin training in advance of the March opening.

With about as much floor space as a nice-sized suburban supermarket, the 52,000-square-foot Fairway — on the water’s edge at the end of Van Brunt Street — is expected to give Red Hook shoppers the same illustrious assortment of spiced artichokes, exotic cheeses and imported olive oils that residents of the Upper West Side and Harlem have come to enjoy.

As such, all new hires must be well versed in brie — or at least prepared to learn, said company spokesman Tom Hoover.

“Candidates for the cheese, security and meat department should have some related experience,” the ad says. Pay will fall between $9.10 and $10. 50 per hour — partially funded by a city grant to encourage small businesses to hire locally.

About 200 people will be employed at the Red Hook location, which is being built by developer Greg O’Connell.

“We think that physically the store should be ready, with cash registers set up and ready to be trained on, by February,” said Ruth McMonigle, a human relations spokesperson for the New York-based company.

Fairway plans to offer the same delivery and catering services it offers at its other supermarkets, but may bring in a few local delicacies too.

That would be good news for retailers like Baked, a locally owned bakery on Van Brunt Street, which hopes to sell its fresh sweets at Fairway’s large bakery counter.

“We are talking to them and we’ll sell whatever they want,” said Matt Lewis, a co-owner of the bakery.

No job-searchers have so far responded to the craigslist ad, according to McMonigle. Yet it is sure to attract a few hits from curious neighborhood residents who have been convinced that the long-awaited grocer would never actually open.

The ad, neighbors say, is the first clues they’ve seen that progress is moving ahead as planned. Yet there’s still skepticism.

“Are you sure [the ad] is for real?” asked one anonymous community board member.

O’Connell bought the vacant warehouse from the city in the mid-’90s. In 2002, the former police detective began the process of bringing Fairway to the site.

As the project moved forward, so did related controversies, including the resignation of a Red Hook community board member, who felt her opposition to the project was not being heard, and the indictment of City Councilman Angel Rodriguez for an attempt to extort $50,000 from O’Connell in exchange for support of the project.

The grocer will occupy the bottom two floors of the Red Hook Stores, a Civil War-era warehouse loft overlooking New York Harbor. Above the store will be 45 market-rate, one-bedroom apartments, leased by O’Connell.

A private water taxi company will soon establish a stop at Beard Street pier, connecting the development to lower Manhattan, according to O’Connell. There will be office space available to non-profit organizations and a public esplanade leading to the water.

Observers say that Fairway set a precedent for the community’s ongoing redevelopment — and the supermarket has been able to avoid a lot of scrutiny because of Ikea’s much-debated plans for a 22-acre, big-box store on the waterfront.

But now that Fairway is looking more and more like a reality, its critics are again sharpening their knives.

“I still don’t get the idea of buying ground meat on the waterfront, but it’s happening, Ikea is happening, other development is happening and that’s it,” said CB6 member Lou Sones.

Sones said he does not plan to shop at the gourmet market because of the negative environmental impact he believes the development will have on the neighborhood’s waterfront. .



Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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