BY SAM SPOKONY | Lower East Side residents are up in arms over the impending closure of a Pathmark supermarket on Cherry St. that many say will be a crushing blow to low-income families that have no other nearby options for affordable groceries.
Since The Lo-Down blog confirmed on Sept. 28 the rumors that the nearly 30-year-old Pathmark, at 227 Cherry St., would shut its doors at the end of December, the outcry has been constant.
“Losing this resource would be an incredible hardship for the community at large, and we’re extremely worried,” said Victor Papa, president of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, which represents the area primarily served by the Pathmark.
The store’s closure is the result of Pathmark’s sale of its lease, according to a spokesperson for the national supermarket chain. While Pathmark is preserving the right to operate there once any new development on the site is completed, the spokesperson said that the supermarket is relinquishing the lease in order to accommodate a large-scale residential development and improvement project.
In the days after the announcement, local politicians expressed worry over the impending closure.
“I’m deeply concerned about Pathmark’s closure and what it means for an already-underserved Lower East Side,” said state Senator Daniel Squadron. “It’s critical that we maintain a comparable grocery store that will provide our community’s seniors, public housing residents and all Lower East Siders with the food access they need, and I will work with my colleagues, the community and the owner to ensure that happens.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also said that he was concerned by the announcement, and stressed the outlet’s importance within the Two Bridges community.
“Five years ago, I led an effort to keep this store open and I will once again work hard to ensure that we retain a full-service supermarket at this location,” Silver said.
He was referring to the rallies by residents, community leaders and politicians in 2007 that succeeded in preventing the Pathmark from being sold at that time to make way for luxury condominiums.
Papa claimed that a permanent closure of the Pathmark’s accompanying pharmacy would be an even worse turn of events for area seniors, who rely on it for vital prescription medication. Since the pharmarcy is actually separate from the supermarket, he added that his organization is considering an attempt to work with elected officials to convince Pathmark executives to at least spare the pharmacy from closure.
But he acknowledged that any effort would be an uphill battle, now that Pathmark has officially declared its intention to close.
“This just makes us conscious of how vulnerable we are to the whims of developers,” he said. “No community should be subject to that.”