Dec. 7, 2012 By Bill Parry
More than 100 people assembled outside Foodtown on Greenpoint Ave. Thursday night to protest the store’s closing and to voice their support of the workers.
The protesters, organized by councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s office, held signs that read: “Save our Foodtown” and “Greenpoint Avenue Matters.” The crowd then urged the landlord to go back to the negotiating table so Foodtown could be kept open.
Last month, Foodtown announced that it would be closing the 41-25 Greenpoint Ave. store after it was unable to renew the lease. Noah Katz, the owner, said that the landlord sought such a high rent that he essentially wanted him to leave.
Since the announcement, the landlord, Jamal Hammad of Maysa Realty Corp., has been inaccessible. He has not responded to calls, nor has he replied to Van Bramer’s office.
“No one is against [the landlord] making money,” Van Bramer told the crowd, “but no one should extort businessmen, workers or a neighborhood.”
“We’re calling him out to do better by Sunnyside,” said Van Bramer.
Van Bramer said that Thursday’s attendance was a statement of community strength. “This landlord should not expect people to just lie down,” he said.
The protesters also signed a petition in an effort to save the supermarket and highlight the landlord’s obligation toward keeping Greenpoint Ave. busy with commercial activity. The landlord owns several buildings on that street, most that are now empty.
Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, is trying to find out whether the landlord is emptying the buildings so he can put up some sort of development.
“I wish he would come forward and tell us what he wants to do. It’s shameful that he hasn’t said anything,” Conley said.
Conley praised Foodtown for its involvement in the community. The store, he said, has always helped the local food pantries, assisted in turkey drives and hired local people.
Suzy Szabo, a lifelong resident and an employee at the store for 30 years, was overwhelmed by the show of support. When asked what she’d say to landlord she said, “Please don’t be like this, don’t do this to people. I love these people.”
The 30-plus employees at the store will be given the option to work at other Foodtown locations.
Local activist Richard O’Connor said, “What’s happening to this store is so wrong. There’s no communication. If you want to be a landlord, be a landlord.”
Van Bramer said after the event that there are serious discussions taking place to see whether the community will go to the landlord’s place of business in Jamaica and protest there.