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BY SAM SPOKONY | Continuing more than a year of work that began when the Lower East Side’s vital Pathmark supermarket announced its closure last September, the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council on Dec. 19 released a guide book aimed at connecting residents to local, affordable food sources.
The NeighborFood Grocery Guide — which has been published in English, Spanish and Chinese versions — maps out nearly 80 small grocers, supermarkets, butchers and seafood markets within the Two Bridges community. Along with showing the types of food carried by each store, the guide provides further shopping details, such as which establishments accept food stamps or offer organic choices.
Many elderly and low-income residents of the Lower East Side have struggled to gain new access to affordable groceries ever since the 227 Cherry St. Pathmark closed — and the new guide will remain an important resource now that it seems unlikely that Pathmark will return to the site in the future.
Extell, the developer that purchased the Cherry St. site last year — and which recently filed plans to demolish the now-vacant Pathmark — has said it will include a supermarket at the base of its planned luxury residential tower there. But whatever that new supermarket is, it will almost certainly not be an affordable option to low- or middle-income residents, according to Victor Papa, president of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, who has had numerous conversations over the past year with both Extell and Pathmark.
The new grocery guide, as Papa put it during the Dec. 19 press conference, will help residents to “declare their independence” from large supermarkets, by helping them to explore many independently-owned shops throughout the neighborhood.
“For our building, Pathmark truly was the place to shop, and most of the residents never even went further than that to get their food,” said Trevor Holland, a tenant leader at 82 Rutgers Slip, which houses Section 8 and other low-income tenants, along with a sizable elderly population. “So the guide is beneficial not just because it brings residents the relief of showing those affordable food sources, but also because it’s going to introduce people to a lot of stores that they would never have gone to before.”
That additional effort to spread more money throughout the local economy is also playing a part in future plans to digitize the NeighborFood guide — as the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council plans to release a mobile app version of the guide sometime next year.
Meanwhile, rumors about the planned height of Extell’s new luxury tower at 227 Cherry St. spun somewhat out of control following the Dec. 19 press conference, after Papa mentioned that he was anticipating a “very large structure” to be built there after the Pathmark is demolished.
It’s been generally believed that Extell plans to build to around 55 stories at the site, although the developer has been typically tight-lipped about the whole process. Last week, several blogs inflated that number when they reported that Papa said — presumably at or following the press conference — that he was told by the developer that the tower could actually rise to more than 70 stories.
But in a Dec. 23 phone interview, Papa said he never actually said anything about Extell sharing plans for a 70-plus-story tower, and that any rumors to that effect are unsubstantiated.
“Extell never told me that it was going to be above 70 stories, so I don’t know where people are getting that from,” said Papa.
He further explained that when he last met with the developer, about six weeks ago, they “didn’t even have any plans drawn up yet.”