Windsor wages Walgreens war

Windsor wages Walgreens war
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Windsor Terrace residents have a less-than welcoming message for their neighborhood’s newest business: feed us or leave!

More than 100 protesters rallied outside the former home of the community’s only grocery store on Wednesday to demand that the new tenant — the drugstore chain Walgreens — offer fresh food or back out of the deal.

“You’re not welcome here — and we’re not taking this laying down,” said protest organizer Steve LeVine.

Neighbors last month began fighting the nation’s largest pharmacy chain after it announced its plans to replace the Key Foods at Prospect and 11th avenues, saying it would create a food desert that would force families and old people to trek more than a mile to Park Slope for sustenance.

More than 3,000 people — roughly one third of all households in the neighborhood — have since signed petitions pledging to boycott the pharmacy, according the movement’s organizers.

Protesters urged the chain to open a full-service food market or give up the space to a grocer that will, waving signs reading “Green beans, not Walgreens!” and “If you build it, we won’t come!” in front of the now-graffitied-covered space on the same day the pharmacy took over the lease.

Elected officials said they want Walgreens to renegotiate the lease to share some space with a grocer — noting that several store owners have expressed interest.

“It’s a business model that is beneficial to both parties,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Windsor Terrace).

It’s also in the chain’s best interest to compromise with neighbors, who are well-organized and tight-knit, he said.

“If Walgreens chooses not to work with this community, it will fail in this community,” he said.

Walgreens representatives last month agreed to provide “expanded food offerings” at the shop — but refused to define that term when contacted for specifics on Tuesday.

A spokesman, Jim Cohn, said the company plans to gather with residents and elected officials to discuss the neighborhood’s needs.

“Those discussions are ongoing [so] we cannot disclose more information at this time,” he said in a statement. “However, we do look forward to engaging in an active dialogue with community leaders.”

In 2008, Walgreens agreed to provide a small selection of produce and meat in Bay Ridge after a similar battle. But Windsor Terrace residents say they need a better selection of produce, baked goods, and fresh meat than that.

They also want a commitment from the company — pronto.

“Step up or step out,” said Borough President Markowitz, a grocery store supporter who lives in the neighborhood.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.