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A ‘Whole’ reversal from organic megastore

The Brooklyn Paper
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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.

Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Publius from Bklyn Heights says:
Mike: Thanks for the CYA.
July 16, 2009, 10:53 am
sid from boerum hill says:
Translation: The US will land on the moon again before there is a whole food store at this site....and maybe land on Mars too....
July 16, 2009, 2:09 pm
Gowanee from Gowanus says:
I don't know how they could ever even THINK about building here after last week's map showing where the toxic plume is in relation to their store. And much of the store would be build underground in wetlands!! Sid, you are absolutely right!
July 17, 2009, 8:46 pm
07-18-09 from Bklyn says:
This wetlands has far more value to the area as a wetlands than as any kind of retail space. I can't imagine any retail action that would out weigh the use of this land as a significant contribution to managing cliamte chance effects in this area of Broolyn.
Lets hope that Whole Foods has the insite to help make that happen.
July 19, 2009, 10:50 am
Joe Nardiello from Carroll Gardens says:
Seems to me that they're backtracked on a reported story & seeming certain position, because it didn't cost them anything... but the embarassment of a 'spokesperson' being sacrificed. It makes them more community-minded to stay with it and move away out of the public eye vs. declaring they've thrown up their hands? Again, this falls to our City Planning and less than a 100% max effort for all parties involved for a comprehensive vision & solution that would have worked for what's just about the most 'green' of any big box retailers. Very interesting case study. They've probably taken a posture to wait & see (which doesn't seem like news, being this has been long-discussed & delayed by Whole Foods for what, 5-6 years now?) regarding their investment along with many other players in the Gowanus area.
July 20, 2009, 12:23 pm
jb from slope says:
"shocking email exchange" -- you guys are hilarious. The Brooklyn Paper is about one step away from being The Onion.
July 20, 2009, 12:43 pm

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