Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, speaking into microphone of electric bullhorn, joined residents on Dec. 20 in their call to save the Cherry St. Pathmark store.
Residents rally to save Cherry St. Pathmark
By Julie Shapiro
Waving colorful signs and shouting even more colorful slogans, 75 people turned out last Thursday to protest the rumored closure of the Cherry St. Pathmark store.
The crowd gathered in front of Pathmark with a banner reading S.O.S. Save Our Supermarket and alternated between spirited chants and speakers.
If you take this away from us, where are we going to shop? a mother of four shouted into the megaphone. Weve got nothing.
We cannot afford to live around here anymore.
Marquis Jenkins, the rallys emcee, stood atop a stepladder riling up the crowd. His voice getting hoarse, Jenkins lead the crowd in chants.
Whose streets? he called out. Our streets! they shouted back. Whose Pathmark? Our Pathmark! Whose community? Our community!
This is a symbol of whats happening in our community, Jenkins told the crowd. Say No to new development.
The sale of Pathmark to A & P became final earlier this month, and rumors of development on the site have worried customers all fall. The store sits beneath the Manhattan Bridge and adjacent to several public housing projects. The protesters were worried about what they see as the worst-case scenario: high-rise luxury condos.
We dont need no more condos in this neighborhood, Eric Latorre called into the megaphone. Itll be a sad [day] if we see a wrecking ball smash this place down. Latorre, who lives at Pike and Cherry Sts., has been coming to Pathmark since he was 16 years old, and especially likes that the supermarket is open 24 hours.
We see gentrification and luxury developing everywhere, shouted Esther Wang, from the Chinatown Tenants Union. Say No to the closing of Pathmark, say No to the loss of affordable services and say No to gentrification.
In a separate effort, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver met with A & P executives two weeks ago to advocate for the supermarket.
I let them know that this community wants us to retain a Pathmark supermarket, Silver told The Villager. What we need is more, not less.
When Silver asked the execs what the chances are that the supermarket would remain open, they didnt say, he said.
They understood I was not looking to wait months, Silver added. It was clear to them that this was something important.
A & P and Pathmark did not return calls for comment.
Back at the rally, Betsy Gotbaum, the citys public advocate, took the megaphone to tell the crowd that she, too, has shopped at Pathmark over the years.
The Pathmark supermarket is much more than just a place to buy food, Gotbaum said. This Pathmark is an anchor for the community.
Paul Nagle, of City Councilmember Alan Gersons Office, attended to represent Gerson, who was home sick in bed. Nagle told the crowd not to take Gersons absence as a sign of his apathy.
Hes really down with this cause, Nagle told them. A representative of State Senator Martin Connor also attended.
When Jamel Williams took the stage with his saxophone, someone from the audience called out, Play a funeral tune for Donald Trump! Instead, Williams played the more festive Winter Wonderland.
Later, Williams accompanied several of the organizers in an original composition, For the Holidays at Pathmark, sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. The lyrics included a true love who shops at Pathmark, bringing home 11 pounds of green beans, 10 cans of eggnog, and so on. Rather than the partridge in the pear tree, the chorus reached a crescendo at No development luxury!
After rumors circulated about Pathmarks land being up for sale to developers, OUR (Organizing and Uniting Residents) Waterfront Alliance, a project of several Lower East Side and Chinatown groups, decided to get involved. Pathmark officials, though, wouldnt give them any information.
We kept coming up against a brick wall, said Ginny Browne, economic development organizer for Good Old Lower East Side, or GOLES. So, rather than wake up and read in the paper that it was sold, we wanted to be proactive, get out there, and put pressure on Pathmark.
Pathmark is an example of what we stand to lose in the East River waterfronts development, Browne said. While Browne is excited about the open space in the waterfront plan, she doesnt want to see the new pavilions along F.D.R. Dr. filled with high-end cafes and expensive retail and services.
We want it to be developed in a way that speaks to the needs of the current community, which includes the neighborhoods 30,000 public housing residents, Browne said. We need to fight for development that meets our needs, not development that pushes us out.
Ed Novak, 71, who was born in the Two Bridges district and has lived on Henry St. for the last 53 years, said the other local supermarkets are terrible.
Novak recalled the neighborhoods strong Jewish, Italian and Irish population, but the crowd at Thursdays rally was predominantly Chinese. Several speakers used translators, and most of the signs included both Chinese and English.
The chants focused on unity and mirrored the crowds diversity.
Black, Asian, Latino, white, the crowd shouted. Communities together, fight, fight, fight!
Paul Newell, of Division St., has lived Downtown his whole life and told the crowd that not all of the neighborhoods changes are bad.
But when development comes and takes away access to affordable food, its not O.K., Newell said. This is madness. Its poor planning, poor government, and its not helping our community.
Sisters Annie Woo, 21, and Diana Woo, 20, who live in Rutgers Houses, were home from college on Christmas break when they heard Pathmark might be closing.
Were at Pathmark all the time, especially when there are really good sales, Diana said as she chalked Save Pathmark messages on the sidewalk. At Cornell University, she has to take a 20-minute bus ride to get food, and she always boasts to her friends about the supermarket back home that is right across the street.
Its convenient and really affordable, said Annie, who goes to SUNY-Binghamton. I dont know where else to go.