Rally to keep market

A disturbing transformation in Pelham Gardens could leave local seniors inconvenienced.

According to a New York City Buildings permit, filed on April 25, Appelbaum Reality, owners of the building at 2504 Eastchester Road, has plans to lease the Met Foods Supermarket space to chain drugstore, Walgreens.

While buildings initially denied the plan on May 5, local elected officials are planning a rally to fight the popular, but unwelcome trend in the Bronx.

“These chain drug stores are inundating our communities,” Councilman Jimmy Vacca said. “How many drug stores can one neighborhood have?”

On the contrary, it’s Met Foods that’s serving as a staple in the lives of many local seniors, who have their groceries routinely delivered to their homes at a nominal cost.

“This is an aging neighborhood so there are a lot of people who would be affected,” Community Board 11 member and local resident Joe McManus said, noting that the nearest supermarket would be the A&J Food Market at 1000 Allerton Avenue. 

McManus recalled some 35 years ago when he first moved into the neighborhood. “I thought I was living in the country,” he said, remembering a small farm where Rite Aid now stands. “I’d say we’re seeing the beginning of the end of neighborhood grocery stores.”

While current Met Foods’ owners didn’t want to comment on the record, they told Vacca they’re very upset over the change but simply can’t afford to comply with the owner’s drastic rent increase.

McManus said that while he agreed stores on Eastchester Road are paying higher rents, it’s up to the community to step up and show support for local shops, enabling them to remain in area.

“Everybody’s always trying to beat the price,” he explained. “It destroys the whole texture of the neighborhood. That’s why people should shop at theses stores.”

Having shopped at that location himself for more than 30 years, McManus said he’s sad to see it go, but believes it is only a sign of things to come. 

“I don’t think it’s going to end,” he said. “It’s going to keep going until there aren’t any grocery stores, like we remember when we were kids, left.”

While Community Board 11 member and North East Bronx Association president Vinny Prezioso said he agrees that drugstores are routinely replacing smaller supermarkets throughout the city, he’s holding out hope for Met Foods.

“We’re on top of it,” he said about his collaborations with Vacca to find a solution. “We’re looking at a number of different options and are hoping to come up with some sort of solution that will benefit the community.”

Joined by local community leaders, Vacca will lead a rally at the store on Monday, May 19 at 9:30 a.m.  

Walgreens and Applebaum Realty did not return calls for comment as of press time.

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