The supermarket wars begin

On Wednesday, July 15, protestors marched past the Morton Williams supermarket at Kingsbridge Road and Jerome Avenue shouting, “Save our supermarket.” Photo by Daniel Beekman

With the future of the Kingsbridge Amory under public review, a rift has emerged between northwest Bronx residents who want a new supermarket to open at the vacant landmark and those who vehemently do not. The Related Companies plan to build a shopping mall at the armory.

Residents for a new supermarket include Community Board 7 members Ozzie Brown, Enrique Vega, Charlesetta Rhett and John Harris, who consider the northwest Bronx fresh food poor and shop in Manhattan or Westchester today.

Residents against a new supermarket include the union employees of Morton Williams Supermarkets, who work on Kingsbridge Road and on Jerome Avenue. Owners have warned that a Whole Foods or Costco at the armory would put Morton Williams out of business.

The pro-supermarket side points to a Department of City Planning study that found the northwest Bronx lacking fresh produce. The anti-supermarket side points to a clause in the Kingsbridge Armory request for proposals that forbids the duplication of existing neighborhood businesses.

At a public hearing in June, a trio of Co-op City residents testified in support of the pro-development faction. The opening of Bay Plaza at Co-op City helped rather than hurt existing businesses; it brought new customers to the neighborhood. But northwest Bronx resident Robert Press disagreed at a CB7 meeting on Tuesday, July 14. When Bay Plaza opened, a Pathmark and a Waldbaums closed, Press said.

Wilma Alonso is executive director of the Fordham Road Business Improvement District. Shop owners on Fordham are nervous about the armory mall, Alonso said. They consider it a threat. But Alonso thinks a mall would complement business on Fordham.

John Bogovic owns a C-Town supermarket on Sedgwick Avenue, two blocks north of the armory. When the Bronx was depressed, in the 1980s, Whole Foods and Costco weren’t around. C-Town and Morton Williams were.

A supermarket at the armory would benefit from tax abatements granted to Related. Bogovic has never asked for a bailout, he said.

On Wednesday, July 15, Jackie left Morton Williams on Kingsbridge Road. She only shops at Morton Williams for canned goods; the produce is no good, Jackie said. When she needs produce, Jackie heads to a Pathmark in Harlem. If a Whole Foods or Costco opens up and Morton Williams is shuttered, so be it, she said.

But Joanne Perez of Kingsbridge Road is attached to Morton Williams. It’s served the neighborhood for years. Competition from a big-box supermarket is the last thing Morton Williams needs, Perez said. The economy is already bad enough.

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