West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 22 | Oct. 31 - Nov. 06, 2007

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Outside the Cherry St. Pathmark store, contractors were using this equipment on Oct. 22 to get soil samples and said they believe the store is planning to construct a building there. Store employees have told customers that they would be closing in a few months, but Pathmark’s corporate office denies any employees have been given notice.

Pathmark closing talk registers L.E.S. panic

By Julie Shapiro

It looks like the Cherry St. Pathmark will soon be closing, and from the aisles to the parking lot, that’s all shoppers are talking about.

“I heard from people who work there,” said Renee Silverberg, who was pushing a cart of groceries out of the store last Monday morning.

John Quinn, a Southbridge Towers resident, said two Pathmark workers told him that they’d been given 90 days notice. Store employees have told other locals, including residents of Knickerbocker Village, that the store will close either in late December or early January.

For the moment, Pathmark management is keeping quiet.

“Don’t know, haven’t been told, haven’t seen it in print,” said a manager who declined to give his name. “I’ve heard a thousand rumors but none coming from above me. … There’s nothing for now but pure speculation.”

Meanwhile, in Pathmark’s parking lot, workers drilled through the pavement into the ground.

Sandy Sze, a staff engineer for Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, who was monitoring the work, said in general, engineers use soil samples to make sure the ground is stable enough to support the weight of a structure.

“I believe they’re preparing for a building of some sort” on the Pathmark site, she said. “But I don’t know what it is.”

Paul Mullins, one of Craig Test Boring’s drillers at the location, agreed that engineers typically want the soil samples to design buildings.

“They tell us ‘drill here,’ and that’s what we do,” Mullins said.

Richard Savner, a Pathmark spokesperson, denied that Pathmark employees had been given notice, but he did not dispute that the store’s contractors were making preparations for a new building at 227 Cherry St.

No matter what a new building would be — rumors currently focus on a residential development — Pathmark’s customers will not be pleased.

The store stands in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, in a dense residential neighborhood dotted with corner groceries. But if Pathmark closes, residents say there is currently no local alternative that has the same variety of fresh food. In other Downtown neighborhoods further away, such as Battery Park City and Tribeca, there have been many complaints about shopping choices and, in the past, groups like the Battery Park City Neighbors Association and the Downtown Alliance business improvement district have organized weekly shuttle vans, bringing senior citizens and others to the Pathmark store.

Silverberg shops exclusively at Pathmark because they sell kosher meat and fresh fish. Her friends from the Upper East Side also come to the store, drawn to its big parking lot, reasonable prices and the quality of the food, Silverberg said.

“I don’t know of any other place that has what they have,” she said.

Elizabeth Santana lives in a co-op at Cherry and Montgomery Sts. and walks to the Pathmark at least twice a week.

If the Pathmark closes, Santana will shop at “some other local supermarket,” she said. “But I won’t get the same [quality] produce or meats.”

Lydia Perednia, who lives at First Ave. and E. Fourth St., said her husband loves to shop at Pathmark even though there are grocery stores in the East Village.

“It’s a shame because it’s a beautiful store and it’s a convenience for people in the neighborhood,” Perednia said. “There are senior citizens down there that don’t even have places to shop except for Pathmark. … Where are these people going to shop?”

As word of Pathmark’s closure spread, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver issued a statement.

“I urge Pathmark to quash these rumors of its impending closure and to remain an integral part of our neighborhood,” Silver said.

Pathmark employees were unsettled and short on information last week.

“I want to know [officially] because I’d have to leave,” a deli worker said.

Another employee, who was stocking shelves, was surprised at the suggestion that Pathmark might close.

“They didn’t tell us about that,” the worker said, raising her eyebrows. “I hope not.”

But not everyone is unhappy about Pathmark closing.

Mohamad Atah, owner of H & M Madison Express Inc., a corner grocery at Madison and Rutgers Sts., smiled at the thought.

“For the community, it’s bad,” he said. “But maybe my store will make a little more money.”

Atah predicted that he would sell a few extra groceries, but said that he doesn’t have enough room to stock additional items.

Even if the closure brings in some new customers for him, Atah said, “It will hurt the people who live here.”

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