By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
UPDATED 11:30 AM WEDNESDAY
Accelerating their fight against a new Walgreens soon to replace a shuttered Key Food in Windsor Terrace, about 200 protesters, including Borough President Marty Markowitz and other elected officials, rallied Wednesday morning at the site on the corner of Prospect and 11th avenues.
They want either a new supermarket or expanded grocery options in the Walgreens.
They fear that the Walgreens, if it follows the chain's normal model, would leave the neighborhood without a full-service food store and little opportunity to buy fresh produce or meats.
"It's time for Walgreens to either step up or step out," Markowitz, a Windsor Terrace resident, told the rally.
Kevin Lynch, one of the organizers of Green Beans Not Walgreens, talked about doing the "Walgreens Walk-Out" as a protest: "If you ever find yourself in a Walgreens, just turn around and walk out" he said.
There are several bodegas nearby, but the nearest supermarket is the C-Town on Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. The Key Food closed at the end of June when the owner, Sheldon Geller, retired and made a deal with Walgreens.
“There are a lot of elderly in that area,” said Aaron Brashear, one of the founders of the Concerned Citizens of Greenwood Heights and a member of Community Board 7. “They don’t always have access to transportation to drive to Park Slope or Fairway [in Red Hook]. The elderly community is mainly a walking community.
“At the meeting, one of the comments was, 'Oh, there’s always Fresh Direct.' For some people, that may be a viable alternative, but many of the elderly people don’t have internet-savvy, and I don’t know if they could afford it,” said Brashear.
Steve Levine, another active member of Green Beans Not Walgreens, said the community could live with a Walgreens if it expanded its food options to include a supermarket-type section, or if it leased part of the building to a supermarket. Using part of the former Key Food’s large parking lot for a supermarket would be another option, he said.
However, Lynch reported that Walgreens "said they would take into account our suggestions, but they never got back to us" after a community meeting in late June at Holy Name Church, and later at a meeting with elected officials at Borough Hall.
A Walgreens spokesman told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in an email, "We are at present considering various grocery options for the Windsor Terrace store. Because those discussions are on-going, we cannot disclose more information at this time."
What the chain’s representatives have offered, according to Lynch, was the chain’s “Oasis” model.
According to a Walgreens press release from 2011, Oasis stores, first introduced in the Midwest, “increased their food selection by up to 60 percent by offering a larger assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and other healthy meal components to help address the need for greater access to affordable, nutritious food.”
The Windsor Terrace activists tell a different story.
Lynch describes the Oasis model as “being like a 7-11,” offering milk, eggs, a small variety of fresh fruit, coffee, cereal, frozen dinners and so on — but little fresh food.
“It’s not the full-service grocery that the community needs,” he said.
The Green Beans organization has posted a petition saying, “Don’t make Windsor Terrace a food desert.” Lynch and Levine both say the petition has received more than 3,000 signatures.
Present at the demonstration today were members of the Windsor Terrace Alliance and Green Beans Not Walgreens as well as Markowitz, Assemblyman James Brennan and Councilman Brad Lander.