By Conor Greene
Maspeth residents’ wishes for a supermarket might be one step closer to reality now that a local union representative is working to match a local site with potential tenants. Residents have long complained that they are forced to pay sky high prices for items such as milk and bread due to lack of competition among area stores.
Steve Pezenik, special projects director for Local 338, which represents local supermarket workers, attended last week’s Maspeth West End Block Association meeting at the urging of Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village). Residents in that area of Maspeth have been hoping for a new supermarket since the closing of C-Town on Fresh Pond Road several years ago.
“When Liz calls, you come because she has done a lot for us,” said Pezenik during the session last Thursday in Trinity-St. Andrews Church. He said a supermarket is important because it “anchors an area” and provides local jobs. “I would love to bring a market to you,” he told the several dozen residents in attendance.
News that he was showing a potential site at Metropolitan Avenue and Tonsar Street to C-Town representatives the following day was met with enthusiastic applause. However, Pezenik did not respond to several messages seeking comment on how that meeting went. A spokeswoman for Crowley said her office is still waiting to hear feedback from the union on the meeting.
Many residents in that area of Maspeth have been clamoring for a full-size supermarket since the closing of the Fresh Pond Road C-Town, which was replaced with a Staples. Pezenik said the owner didn’t want to give up his store, but was forced out when Staples offered the landlord more money. Residents say that all the local bodegas quickly increased their prices once that happened, meaning those without a car are forced to overpay for basic items.
If a company operator decides the Metropolitan Avenue site, or another nearby property, is suitable for a supermarket, the business could be open in less than a year, said Pezenik. He said the three things necessary to bring a market to the area seem to be in place: demand from consumers, efforts by the union to bring company representatives to check out possible sites and cooperation from the local councilmember to help with issues such as zoning changes or variance requests.
Crowley said that residents should contact her office with any other suggestions for a location if the Metropolitan Avenue site doesn’t work out. She said the city Department of Education is also eyeing that site for a possible school, but refuted rumors that housing might be constructed on the site instead. “It is really a great disservice to this community to not have a grocery store,” she said. “It’s something that most neighborhoods can take for granted… It’s a shame Staples came in.”