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Sunnysiders rally to keep food in town

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rebecca Henely

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) led a protest with Sunnyside residents last Thursday against the landlord of a Foodtown supermarket on Greenpoint Avenue who has decided to boot the store despite its requests to renegotiate the lease or buy the property.

The councilman said the protesters were demanding that the landlord return to the table and “try to save the supermarket.”

He said the landlord, listed on city records as Maysa Realty Corp., has refused to renew Foodtown’s lease at 45-21 Greenpoint Ave. in Sunnyside. The store offered to pay a higher rent or to buy the property, but the landlord refused and the store will have to be shuttered even though Foodtown remains profitable, he said.

“This is a successful supermarket,” Van Bramer said. “They are doing well. They are not failing.”

Maysa Realty Corp. is owned by Jamel Hammad and incorporated at a residential home on Avon Street near Dainy Road in Jamaica, according to city Department of Buildings online records. A resident at the home refused to be interviewed.

Van Bramer said Hammad or Maysa had not responded to letters his office sent and that he did not know of the landlord’s future plans for the location.

“They’re keeping the community in the dark and we’re really concerned,” Van Bramer said.

Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley and more than 50 people, both employees and residents, came out for the rally, which was held in front of the store.

One of the speakers, Sunnyside resident Suzy Szabo, said she had worked at the Foodtown for 30 years and she had nothing but good things to say about her customers and employers, who she said treated the staff like a family.

“Please don’t be like this,” Szabo said in a message to Hammad. “Be nice. Be nice to everybody.”

Don McCallian, president of the United 40s Civic Association, said he had collected about 200 signatures from residents asking to keep the store open and expected to obtain an easy thousand. He said the petitions would be sent to the city Departments of Labor and City Planning.

“Most of the people in this neighborhood have stepped in that store to buy something for more than 50 to 60 years,” McCallian said. “It’s disgraceful.”

Van Bramer said the Foodtown acted as an anchor for other businesses on Greenpoint Avenue and its closing could potentially hurt the commercial strip.

“They are part of the fabric of our neighborhood,” Van Bramer said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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