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BY SAM SPOKONY | As Two Bridges residents come to grips with the impending closure of their local Pathmark — which will shut its doors on Dec. 22 — they can at least look forward to the creation of a neighborhood grocery shopping guide that will help them deal with the loss of the vital supermarket.
To create that guide, the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council — which has taken the lead on this issue ever since the Pathmark’s closure was announced in late September — has enlisted the help of Urbane Development, a Tribeca-based consulting group that works to stimulate growth and solve problems in underserved communities across the nation.
This complex and engaged response has been the result of widespread community outcry over the loss of the 30-year-old supermarket, at 227 Cherry St., which has been a virtual lifeline for many low-income and elderly residents in need of fresh, affordable groceries within walking distance of their homes.
James Johnson-Piett, principal and C.E.O. of Urbane Development, explained that the neighborhood grocery guide and any other new strategies will be the result of a three-pronged research venture that will include a survey of residents, an inventory census of other food stores in Two Bridges, and discussions with some of those stores about how they can collectively fill the void left by Pathmark.
The grocery guide will give local residents information about the most conveniently located stores for buying various food products, as well as price comparisons to help shoppers save as much money as possible, Johnson-Piett said. He added that the guide will likely be printed by February, and will be distributed directly to Two Bridges residents.
The residential survey — which includes 20 questions about individual shopping and cooking habits — has already begun, according to T.B.N.C. President Victor Papa, and will continue for the next several weeks.
Johnson-Piett explained that the survey will need at least 250 respondents to be effective, and said that Urbane Development representatives will also get data and price indexes from more than 100 local stores of varying sizes for the research project’s other two parts.
“This is going to be a really exciting study, and it’ll actually provide some new opportunities for small business owners within the Two Bridges market,” Johnson-Piett said, adding that smaller food stores will now be able to grow and adjust their inventories in order to pick up the slack from the massive amount of business done by Pathmark.
A&P, which owns Pathmark, sold the lease on the 227 Cherry St. site to an as-yet-unnamed buyer earlier this year. It’s widely believed the buyer is Extell Development Company, which is led by Gary Barnett and has constructed some of the tallest, most expensive luxury apartment buildings in the city.
Barnett has not responded to multiple requests for comment over the past two months.
The building that formerly held a Pathmark pharmacy, located on the adjacent 237-239 Cherry St. lot, was also part of A&P’s sale. The pharmacy closed Oct. 23.
Papa said that Two Bridges residents — many of them elderly — who relied on the pharmacy for their prescription medication are still being served primarily by a Chinatown store that has stepped in to fill the need. Mannings Pharmacy, in Confucius Plaza, has been doing door-to-door collection and delivery of prescriptions ever since the Pathmark pharmacy closed.
Meanwhile, Papa also told this newspaper that A&P C.E.O. Sam Martin has agreed to meet with T.B.N.C and Urbane Development in January to discuss long-term strategies for the neighborhood.
A primary element of that meeting, Papa and Johnson-Piett agreed, will be to attempt to convince Martin to place a Pathmark supermarket within any new development constructed on the Cherry St. site in the coming years. But since there’s always a real possibility that plan won’t end up coming to fruition, other ideas will be put forth.
Papa explained that he might ask Martin to consider placing a smaller supermarket in a roughly 3,000-square-foot storefront space located right next to the former Pathmark pharmacy. That space, he said, could be used to supply residents with the staple food products most needed by the community — products which will likely be identified more accurately by the survey currently being conducted by T.B.N.C. and Urbane Development.
Also, Papa said he plans to talk to Martin about the feasibility of starting a shuttle bus that would allow Two Bridges residents to shop at Pathmark supermarkets in Harlem, Gowanus or Fort Greene. That request had already been put forth in previous talks between T.B.N.C. and A&P, but has not yet been addressed.
The Two Bridges shopping survey is available online, and can be accessed via this link.