A wealthy supermarket magnate promises to bring a grocery store to the Fort Greene “food desert” spawned by his stunted real estate project.
Supermarket executives — billionaire John Catsimatidis among them — say they have “committed” to opening a “high-quality” Red Apple Supermarket inside a long-vacant Myrtle Avenue development site.
Residents — many of whom live in low-income housing across the street — lost their only nearby grocery store, pharmacy and Laundromat after Catsimatidis flattened two blocks of the street to make way for an apartment complex that has been in limbo for years.
Now neighbors are hopeful, if a bit skeptical, about the plan to bring a large grocery store to their doorstep by this summer.
“This community is filled with diabetes and high blood pressure — we’re badly in need of fresh food,” said 70-year-old activist Arnetha Singleton, who lives in the nearby Ingersoll Houses and has to trek a mile to the nearest grocery store.
“We’ve heard a lot of promises,” she said.
Dozens of neighbors gathered at a forum with supermarket executives on Thursday to demand “fresh and affordable food” — sooner rather than later.
Catsimatidis — who owns Red Apple Group, Gristedes Foods and even a newspaper — was not in attendance, but representatives from the company listened to requests for “food justice” that ranged from produce to pricing.
Catsimatidis’s original plan called for the site on Myrtle Avenue, near Ashland Place, to be turned into a 24-7 business and residential mini-city complete with 660-unit mixed-income apartment complex.
Development construction leveled two blocks of the street — but the project was then abruptly halted in 2008. Back then, Catsimatidis blamed both the credit crisis and the lack of affordable housing bonds.
Not long after, developers slapped a sign on the site announcing that a supermarket was on the way — but it never came, much to the disappointment of neighbors and local officials.
“A supermarket is a fundamental part of a community,” said Williamsburg district leader Lincoln Restler, who co-hosted the forum last week.
And by “community,” Restler also meant booming Downtown, where the population has gone from a few hundred to more than 10,000 in a decade, Census figures show. The proposed Red Apple is next door to the Toren and Avalon Bay towers and a block from the Oro condos.
©2011 Community News Group
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