Fresh Meadows neighbors oppose grocer’s superstore

By Tien-Shun Lee

“We don't want it here. We're absolutely dead set against it, with the traffic and the garbage it would bring,” said Edna Harris, a member of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association. The group was the most adamant against the supermarket during a meeting at PS 26 on March 1 that was organized by Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) after Pathmark officials asked him to help them reach out to the community.

Harris noted that the small commercial center on 69th Avenue, by 195th Lane, where Pathmark planned to build a 55,000-square-foot supermarket, is surrounded by residential streets with cul-de-sacs that make it difficult for large trucks to operate.

Despite their opposition to the super-sized Pathmark, residents acknowledged that a supermarket is needed in the area, especially since the Key Foods supermarket at 188th Street and 73rd Avenue is not planning on renewing their lease at the end of June.

“We could use a grocery store, but we don't need a superstore,” said James Gallagher, the president of the Fresh Meadows Home Owner Civic Association. “I said to them, cut it in half. Make it 25,000 square feet.”

Rich Savner, a spokesman for Pathmark, said the company had identified the Fresh Meadows location as a strategic location for the proposed supermarket because the area is underserved by supermarkets.

“We're looking to build a store there that's going to accommodate the shopping needs of the residents, where they can be comfortable shopping in wide isles, where they can get more than one cart down the supermarket isle,” said Savner. “It's at a very early stage in the process, and we're taking in the comments of the elected officials, the community leaders and the constituents in the area.”

Savner said that while the people who spoke out at last week's meeting opposed the project, there were several people who came up to Pathmark officials after the meeting to express their support.

“There's a whole host of hurdles that need to be cleared,” said Savner. “We'll go through the approval process and we welcome the feedback that we receive from the residents of the community.”

Weprin praised Pathmark for its pro-active approach of reaching out to the community at an early stage. A spokesman for the councilman noted that representatives of the New Jersey-based company, which operates five Pathmarks in Queens and 24 in the city, had offered to fund a school guard crossing for PS 26 and were eager to become involved in an Adopt-A-School program.

“Every situation has an equation associated with it. There's a much needed supermarket that might be worth the negatives associated with it,” said Jack Friedman, a spokesman for Weprin.

The commercial center on 69th Avenue, across the street from PS 26, now houses a pizza parlor, a pharmacy, a beauty parlor, a card store and an empty building that used to be a 99-cent store. The abandoned 99-cent store is the largest building in the center.

Federal Realty Investment Trust is the developer in charge of leasing the abandoned building and securing property from existing stores in the center. A representative of the company declined to comment on the proposed Pathmark.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.

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