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Big Numbers Come Out to Protest Foodtown’s Closure

(Source/Photo: Peter Mauro)

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.

email the author: news@queenspost.com

36 Comments

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Starbucks-Barnes & nobles

Barnes & nobles with a Starbucks will be there with condos on top and a trader joes in the basement.foodtown wanted to leave a long time ago but wanted to rent for cheap than sublease for a big profit…this is the story nothing more or less

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the other side

Associated supermarket doesn’t have better prices than Foodtown in my experience. I guess it depends on what you buy there. Also, if this property will be made residential, that’s going to change the whole neighborhood. It would seem, ironically, that we would need another supermarket–and other businesses–to accommodate all those new residents.

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Media lies/bad business tactics

shop 2 blocks up much better prices and cleaner store supermarkets open and close everyday.whats the big deal or this is a tactic to pressure landlords.councilman should worry and address important issues.i hope a church will go there so we can pray for each other

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Pete

OK I just checked the zoning map for Sunnyside. The most current map on the DCP site is dated 7-28-11. According to that map, this area is zoned as R6A, which is a residential zone and must be no closer than 15 ft to the curb. The stretch on Greenpoint in the 40s is zoned C1-1, which allows for basic retail services to be overlayed on the R zone so as to serve the community. However, the map also indicates that much of Sunnyside is subject to potential rezoning.

The site states the following about rezoning: “A rezoning or remapping occurs when the zoning designation(s) for an area is changed on the zoning map to facilitate policy initiatives, such as preserving neigh­borhoods and promoting economic development around transit hubs. A zoning map amendment is subject to the ULURP review process.”

So now the question becomes what “initiative” is at play here, how did it come about, and what role if any did Hammad and others play in this potential rezoning?

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86Mets

What good are zoning laws if they can be changed to suit the whims of wealthy developers? It seems the law is the law until, of course, it becomes an inconvenience to certain interests.

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O'shea

@Anonymous
No need to insult people. Read my previous posts. I never believed Katz was telling the truth.
Based on sales per/sq ft foodtown averages 111- 156 k weekly
@ min wage and 30 employees. Wages are 12- 18 k weekly
Rent, electricity, union shop, health plans. Wake up!
Then Katz offered to repair property at more than a million
How much units would katz sell to make this up?
Sales per employee hour would average $98- $200 per hour . significance? NO Growth
PLOT is rezoned….Residential.
Gag orders exist in leases. Wake up !
My sixth graders could spot this stink for a mile.
Wake up!

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86Mets

Went in to Foodtown yesterday and felt I was at a funeral. Store half empty, staff looking glum.

Very sad.

If the landlord had a modicum of respect for the community, he’d at least let us know what he has planned for the property. Especially since he’s left others dormant for a very long time. And especially since Foodtown was a business that provided an essential service – providing food we all need to live.

There’s no law that should be made to force him to be up front with us, it’s just the decent thing to do.

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Pete

@Anonymous: yes, it did occur to me. But it also occurred to me that several of the stores in buildings owned by Hammad across the street have also been unoccupied for an excessive amount of time simultaneously. Furthermore, if Katz was lying, he lied to a heck of a lot of people including all of his employees, Jimmy van Bramer, van Bramer’s entire staff, and the Community Board, all of whom seem to be under the same impression. Also, the employees are not being “fired.” Several have told me that they are all being offered positions at other locations, and my understanding is that many Foodtown stores (not just this one) are union shops and thus he would have to deal with that aspect anyway even after this location is closed.

In terms of why Hammad wouldn’t take such an offer, this was my original point. Granted this is strange and no one seems to be certain about why he did it. It’s entirely possible that he has something bigger in mind and thus refused the offer on those grounds. We’ll find out eventually. Rumors of the store closing began circulating in the neighborhood weeks ago. Thus it is also possible that any negotiations may have occurred over that period.

Finally, you can air you opinions without resorting to commonplace verbal abuse. Thanks.

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PG

Anybody knows whats going on at 43rd st by Skillman, by the 4108 building, just curious, it was unoccupied land and recently saw it being bordered up.

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Anonymous

Hey geniuses, ever stop to think that maybe Katz was lying about the whole damn thing just to make it seem like he’s not the cheap bastard that he really is? What kind of businessman would reject that kind of offer? Katz wants the store to close. That’s why he’s firing people. That’s why the owner of the property isn’t responding to calls. That’s why this “negotiation” didn’t take anytime at all because there was no negotiation.

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43rd Street Resident

A new high-rise development would be a plus for this side of Greenpoint Avenue.

It would seem to me that more emphasis for development is placed on Greenpoint Ave. between 44th and 46th Streets and never below 44th Street where most of the storefronts are empty and businesses are floundering.

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Pete

@Sael: the Katz family can pay; in fact they offered Hammad $5 million to purchase the building which he refused. They then offered to pay $40k per month, a substantially higher rent than they are currently paying. True, we don’t know what will go there next, but this guy seems to have something up his sleeve. Why else would a real estate speculator turn down that kind of income?

@choco-bot: I was there and I saw several of the cashiers outside joining the protest. One employee actually gave an emotionally-charged speech to the crowd. They weren’t texting. Please don’t assume the worst about them. There are some decent people who work at the store who want to keep their jobs in Sunnyside instead of having to commute an hour or more to other Foodtown locations around the city.

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For Choco

So what if they text? Does that really matter at all?????? I’m sure you text at your job as well so don’t even try to make yourself seem so far above others.

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The Truth

The whole point behind the rally was to show the landlord that the neighborhood is displeased and that he should reopen negotiations with the store. Instead of just shrugging them off.

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The Truth

Nothing is going to move into the spot…..
The stores across the street have the same owner and they have been vacant for over a decade now…. if you have talked to the cashiers or managers in the store they have repeatedly stated its not a matter of rent the landlord just doesn’t want them there.

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choco-bot the chocolate robot

at the time of the protest you can bet damn sure the cashiers were taking full advantage and texting straight for .30min

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Sael

I think Ruben knows some of those terrorists and is keeping information to himself, his IP address might be helpful to law enforcement in getting him to talk. Or he is an ignorant racist person who should go back to where he came from. The neighborhood can do a lot better with people like you away from us.

Most of you don’t even know what the new place will be when this store closes and moves. Instead of supporting this store, you should support the landlord because the location is worth more and store should pay or just move if he cannot pay. Is foodtown’s books open? How much money was it making? I believe if they cannot make over a certain amount of profit after wages and costs, they don’t want to keep it open. So even if the store breaks even after all costs, they don’t want to just feed people.

There are no facts so far, and nobody knows the true story behind this. How much did landlord ask for? Maybe it was an increase in line with the market? Where can we read more about this?

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For Anon

You seem like an angered worker who has been fired. Could you be mad that you were fired and chose to put lies up here as a way to vent your anger against a former employer? I think that is the case and is quite childish of you to do such a thing. His post is for those who support the store not for little kids to act like babies. Either keep your false lies to yourself or do something to support the store.

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sarezjay

Dear Mr. Anus to be honest i have been shopping there for more than 15 years and honestly everyone seems to be workin in peace at any time i tend to my shopping.

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Cato IV

Anon, I am deeply distressed by some of these truths you speak. You could have waited. Now you have put more livelihoods at risk. Nothing has been done about this manager. Nothing will be done about him. Only an existentialist can survive working there.
If you were fired, I suggest that you leave this baggage behind. You will find a better boss one day or be a better one.
@the sunnysidepost.once again you have reported more lies to the community.

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Ruben

Because the landlord is harboring Terrorists. I have been saying this for the longest. There are terrorists living in Sunnyside. Many stores are just fronts for illegal operations. Why you think Sunnyside was so quiet for so long???

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the other side

I doubt the protest will do any good in getting the landlord to change his mind. And after all, he doesn’t have to change his mind–it’s a business decision for him. It’s becoming more and more disturbing to me though that he won’t even discuss what his plans for all those buildings are. Again, he’s not required to inform anyone of what he’s going to do with those buildings, but with all the attention the closing of Foodtown has been getting locally, you would think he would just provide a simple answer. It’s not out of line for locals to want to know what’s happening to their neighborhood. Why doesn’t he just answer the question like a normal human being?

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anon

To make matters worse, the so-called “manager” has resorted to firing several employees over trivial reasons to prevent them from transferring to other stores; I assume to lessen the burden of having extra employees at those stores. Most if not all workers at this particular Foodtown (whether they’d like to admit it or not) have at one point or another given each other discounts for small items such as soda, chips, etc. whenever they checked out at the register.

All employees have participated in this, and the manager chose a few people he highly disliked (because they were the only ones who put up with his bullshit) and fired them for doing this conveniently after it was announced that the store was closing. Talk about coincidence, right?

The manager is a complete pathetic excuse of a human being and the employees have put up with his childishness way too long. The amount of shit he gets away with is unbelievable; insulting his employees, berating them in front of customers and other employees, insulting their religion, etc. etc. All of this happens on a normal basis and if you even attempt to defy him, prepare to have your job and livelihood threatened as he talks about you behind your back, and threatens to get his “friends” to jump you. This boy is a terrible person and it can only be attributed to his childhood where he was constantly bullied and tortured for a variety of reasons and now that he’s in a position where he can do the same to other people, he takes full advantage of it.

I, for one, am extremely happy that the store is closing only because these employees no longer have to deal with him and the other shady methods that the supervisors use, and perhaps they can finally work in peace without drama and worrying daily about losing their job because of some douche on a power trip.

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choco-bot the chocolate robot

I wonder if the whole block will be out of business by the time Obummer leaves office. Thanks Mr President!

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