April 22, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
A group of Sunnyside residents held a rally Thursday in opposition to the impending closure of the Rite Aid store on Greenpoint Avenue.
Around a dozen protesters gathered at around 6 p.m. outside the 46-12 Greenpoint Ave. store that will shutter on April 25.
They held signs that read: “Where will the employees go?” “Help the hand that aids you” and “We need our medicine at a walk distance.”
Located in the heart of Sunnyside, the store serves a large number of residents and takes up nearly half the block. The company notified employees and the public earlier this month that the store would be closing.
The demonstrators said that the shuttering of the store will make it difficult for many residents—particularly seniors—to access medications. They argued that the public wasn’t given enough notice about it shutting down and the company is not providing its 30 unionized staff members with suitable job alternatives.
The rally was organized by Johanna Carmona, a lifelong Sunnyside resident who is currently running for the 37th Assembly District seat — that covers Sunnyside, Maspeth, Ridgewood, and the Hunters Point section of Long Island City.
Carmona said that the closure of the store will have a negative impact on the Sunnyside community.
“This Rite Aid location serves our most vulnerable community members, providing access to their prescriptions and the trusted advice of pharmacists,” Carmona said in a statement Friday.
Carmona also expressed safety concerns for seniors who will likely have to travel to the Rite Aid store on Roosevelt Avenue to get their prescriptions. The store is on the opposite side of Queens Boulevard, which can be dangerous for seniors to cross.
Ty Sullivan, a local activist who took part in the rally Thursday, echoed Carmona’s sentiments.
He slammed Rite Aid, arguing that it didn’t provide the community much in the way of notice about the store’s closure.
Sullivan said that many passers-by he spoke to had no idea the location was closing. He also said that many customers who depend on the pharmacy for their prescriptions only received written notice last week about the closure. The notice told them that their prescriptions were being switched to another location.
“Rite Aid handled it shabbily,” Sullivan said. “For a company that prides itself on neighborhood business, they did not handle this very well.
“There was a lack of outreach and care to alert people,” Sullivan said.
He said that the protesters were resigned to the fact that the store was closing, but felt it was their duty to voice their concerns. Sullivan’s 7-year-old daughter joined him at the rally.
Sullivan said that protesters also used the rally as an opportunity to thank the employees for their service. Some staff members came out to speak to the group.
A corporate spokesperson for Rite Aid did not specify a reason for the shuttering of the Greenpoint Avenue store but said that store closures are based on a number of reasons.
“A decision to close a store is one we take very seriously and is based on a variety of factors including business strategy, lease and rent considerations, local business conditions and viability, and store performance,” the company said in a statement.
The store is one of nearly 150 locations the company is closing, according to the statement.
In the statement, Rite Aid said it had taken measures to ensure customers will receive their prescriptions and that it looked to find employment alternatives for current staff members at the store.
“We review every neighborhood to ensure our customers will have access to health services, be it at Rite Aid or a nearby pharmacy, and we work to seamlessly transfer their prescriptions so there is no disruption of services,” the company said in a statement.