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The fear of a 7-Eleven type solution to the problem of providing fresh food to the neighborhood is a real one, especially based on past promises Walgreens made and then failed to deliver on. When Windsor Terrace residents first voiced their worries that Walgreens could not or would not provide fresh food in their store, the company pointed to a branch in Bay Ridge as an example of how community involvement brought about changes in the store. But the results were far from satisfactory.
The Brooklyn Paper recalls that "In 2008, Bay Ridge residents demanded fresh food at a Walgreens that was replacing a Key Food in a now-stale food fight that could shed some light on the current Windsor Terrace battle. After protests from shoppers, Walgreens agreed to offer fresh produce and meat at the store — but residents now say it never emerged as a true alternative to the grocery store it replaced."
In fact, Bay Ridge resident Denise Loli, "who four years ago signed a petition along with 1,000 other protestors demanding fresh food at the Third Avenue site — says she won’t buy produce at the Bay Ridge Walgreens, which she claims resembles a Rite Aide with just a few vegetables in stock.
"'It’s a place you go to buy milk and eggs,” she said. “But it’s certainly nothing you can rely on as a grocery store.'”
Okay, then! Luckily, Windsor Terrace residents have not accepted the dubious promises that Walgreens is making and plan to continue their fight to ensure that the neighborhood gets the services that it needs, vowing to boycott the store if necessary. And, frankly, it seems that it will be necessary. The store isn't scheduled to open until this winter, but there are no positive indicators that the Walgreens will be able to suit the neighborhood's needs.
While it remains to be seen if a boycott will prove effective, there is nothing lost by fighting for services. We live in a time when people are constantly being told what their consumer needs are, whether it's by corporations or the city government. I am of the opinion that people should be trusted to make their own decisions on whether or not to buy a big soda or breastfeed their babies without all the noise of Mayor Bloomberg and Pepsico and Similac and everyone else shouting in our ears about what we should be doing. I'm kind of crazy like that though!
I get that we live in a free-market society, I do. I understand why Walgreens had every right to buy the Key Food that was up for sale and I understand that Walgreens is under no obligation to operate in any other way than their ordinary business model. But I'm also hopeful that the same Windsor Terrace residents who have been so persistent in organizing protests and groups like "Green Beans, Not Walgreens" will continue to stick together and make sure that this community and its neediest residents won't settle for anything less than what they deserve.
Which, by the way, is not a pile of over-priced bananas pathetically offered as some sort of gesture toward "fresh produce."
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen