More than four years after the Pathmark grocery store in the Two Bridges neighborhood closed, local residents are trying to turn up the pressure on Extell Development, which is building an 80-story luxury tower where the supermarket once stood.
While Extell executives have said they are attempting to find a new supermarket for the project, there’s been nothing definitive. Tenant leaders (under the auspices of a coalition known as TUFF-LES) sent a letter to Extell President Gary Barnett April 4, asking for concrete information about the search for a new large-scale food store.
Here’s a portion of that letter:
With the development quickly moving along and destined for completion in a year or so we would have expected to hear something more concrete at this time in regards to what supermarket we should expect. We would like to remind you of commitments made to this community regarding the replacement of an affordable, large-scale supermarket; with such a large footprint in our community surely you recognize the obligation to give something back… Tenants United Fighting For Lower East Side (TUFF-LES) strongly urge Extell to make good on their stated commitments to bring a replacement supermarket back to the Two Bridges community and further provide us with some articulation of what efforts are being made in this regard. We would like to know have there been any expressions of interest and is there anything the community can do to help bring out a favorable outcome with respect to a new supermarket? We look forward to hearing from you.
As of yesterday, the residents had not received a reply from Extell. Kenneth Lowenstein, an attorney representing the real estate developer, appeared before Community Board 3 last night to pitch the developer’s application for 421-a tax breaks. During his presentation, the tenant leaders took it upon themselves to press Lowenstein for a response on the grocery. The answer came this morning via email from Extell executive Raizy Haas:
“Extell Development,” wrote Haas, “is still trying to lease a portion of the retail space in its new development on Cherry Street to a full service, affordable supermarket. We hope our efforts will be successful and will address the needs of both the community and new residents. We are in communication with several supermarkets and will be providing an update at the appropriate time.”
Back in 2013, local elected officials said they received a commitment from Barnett to create a full-service grocery store as part of the Lower East Side project. Barnett reaffirmed the commitment in a 2014 community meeting. In late 2015, Haas once again spoke of the quest for an affordable grocery, suggesting it could open in 2018. [The supermarket would be located in a 14-story affordable building going up alongside the luxury condo tower, at 229 Cherry St.]
Today we reached out to the local elected officials involved in those 2013 discussions with Barnett. State Sen. Daniel Squadron said, “Extell made a commitment for an affordable supermarket, and that commitment stands. It’s all the more urgent with the looming threat of additional mega developments, and highlights the need for comprehensive development coordination in the area.”
Paul Leonard, City Council member Margaret Chin’s chief of staff, added, “We continue to call on Extell to do the right thing,” by securing an affordable grocery for the development site. “After years of negative (construction) impacts, a new supermarket is the one good outcome” that local residents have been promised. “We urge Extell to deliver on that promise,” said Leonard.
The need for a new grocery has, of course, become more critical with three large-scale developments planned in the Two Bridges neighborhood. While all of these proposed projects include ground floor commercial space, none of the storefronts will be large enough to accommodate a full-size supermarket.
The developers (JDS Development Group, L+M Development Partners, the CIM Group and the Starrett Group) are not waiting for a grand announcement from Extell. According to a spokesperson for the development teams, they are working to identify commercial spaces in the immediate area for a full-scale grocery, as well as potential operators. The spokesperson declined to pinpoint the locations under review.
In their letter, residents made it clear they do not want to see a market like Whole Foods in the Two Bridges area. “The needs of the surrounding community,” they wrote, “demand something along the lines of Shop Rite, Stop & Shop, Giant, Wegmans and the like; bottom line something that is fitting with the socioeconomics of the existing Two Bridges community.”