Why Windsor Terrace’s Fight Against Walgreens Matters to All of Brooklyn

What a fucking eyesore.
  • What a fucking eyesore.

The closing of a store in Brooklyn—even one that had been an established, though not universally-beloved, fixture in the neighborhood—does not seem like much of an event. In fact, stores come and go with alarming frequency these days, especially in the parts of Brooklyn that are changing rapidly in order to keep pace with the shifting social and economic demographics of a borough that continues to grow and develop in ways that would not have been anticipated not so long ago.

So why is the closure of a Key Food and the sale of the building to Walgreens important?

And why does the ongoing protest against Walgreens matter to the rest of Brooklyn?

Well, it matters because the same thing could happen in your neighborhood.

A store that provides a real service to the community could be sold to the highest bidder, which is usually going to be a branch of a large chain that could quickly take over and mean the death of the individuality of a neighborhood.

I mean, do we really want to become Manhattan, where block after block is anchored by two different banks with a Starbucks and a chain drug store thrown in for variety?

I would hope not.

The 80-year-old owner’s sale of the Windsor Terrace Key Food to Walgreens caused an uproar in the quiet neighborhood on the southwest side of Prospect Park. Despite the fact that this particular Key Food had been derided for years by many of Windsor Terrace’s residents as a disaster of a grocery store because it lacked quality produce and had an inadequate variety of the organic items that have become standard, people were still enraged that the store would pass into the hands of a big chain pharmacy. For years, residents had encouraged the management at Key Food to allow the inventory to evolve in tandem with the changing neighborhood demographics.

Although this was met with limited success, the fact remained that this Key Food was the only full service grocery store within a mile radius and was an essential part of a community that has many senior citizens who don’t have either the physical or economic flexibility to travel farther for their groceries that younger members of the community do.

To say nothing of their Internet skills, thus negating Fresh Direct as a viable option.

I mean, many seniors still have AOL addresses.


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  1. First, Key Food was not some artisanal utoptia. It was a privately owned unit of a larger corporate franchise. Secondly, why is it an issue that the owner sold to the highest bidder? Third, using terms like “food dessert” while minimally correct on a single point (distance) do a disservice to actual food desserts by missing the point that a food dessert was originally meant to address communities that were socio-economically unable to acquire healthy food (aka poor neighborhoods). Not communities that are inconvenienced by changing of private businesses. Under this definition, most of our country is a food dessert.

  2. The owner did not sell,he leased.The area of Windsor Terrace is small and was divided by the highway many years ago under Robert Moses.It is a Community that needs a food store,not all neighbors can drive,not all can navigate the internet not all have the money or choices that others do.The Key Food location is in the middle of a residential neighborhood there are no other commercial properties nearby.The store was in the heart of the neighborhood and not having a supermarket for 1 mile does make it a “food desert”.Seniors are unable to purchase food unless they travel 1 mile ,many are in their 80 or 90ies.It was used by other area residents too,because of the hours it was open and being right off the highway, There was a Walgreens on 5th Ave and 9th St,it did not make it.

  3. @WT-Resident, I just wanted to address a couple of your points. Nowhere in my post did I say anything about Key Food being an “artisanal utopia.” On the contrary. I explicitly state that there were many issues with that grocery store and many residents had been advocating for the store to update its inventory and improve its fresh food selection. That said, the community appreciated the fact that it was a full-service grocery store because there are no others in the immediate vicinity. I did not say it was “an issue” that the owner sold to the highest bidder. That is to be expected and is obviously his right. What I was doing was commenting on the fact that the highest bidder these days is almost always going to be a large chain like Walgreens. This might seem inevitable, but it is not something that should go unprotested, because it will change the face of our neighborhoods and I happen to believe that this will not be a change for the better. Finally, I think that you do a disservice to the neighborhood by dismissing the label “food desert.” Obviously there are many communities around the country and within the city that are less affluent than Windsor Terrace, but a real concern that I address is NOT the able-bodied people who can hop in a car and go to Fairway or take the subway to Trader Joe’s. The real concern is Windsor Terrace’s large population of senior citizens who don’t have the ability to easily navigate those options and depended on Key Food for their groceries. For many of them, I do believe this is catastrophic, not simply an inconvenience.

  4. Where weee the politicians when this sale was going thru? Don’t tell me Marty knew nothing about it. At the meeting it seemed like he was in cahoots w the Walgreens representative. I’m sick of these politicians and their phony, after the fact, protests.

  5. Inasmuch as the owner of the property said he made his decision based on the money, it’s reasonable to assume he sought bids from a range of likely tenants.

    Walgreens put the most money on the table. That should tell you something about the supermarket business. Does anyone have any revenue figures for this Key Food? As everyone should know, the supermarket business is a low-margin business.

    Considering there are supermarkets on 7th Ave, 9th Street, McDonald Ave and Coney Island Ave, and the Park Slope Food Co-op, plus Fairway, Trader Joe’s and Fresh Direct, and Whole Foods is on the way, it’s likely the supermarket business at the WT Key Food site looks less than promising to new operators. Therefore, it should surprise no one that if there were bids from supermarkets, they were low. Moreover, the abundance of supermarkets in the area and the small, but good, food stores on Prospect Park West dispels the idea that Windsor Terrace without Key Food is a Food Desert.

    Meanwhile, considering there’s no federal, state or city funding involved in this private transaction it’s unlikely any politicians were aware of it. In any case Marty Markowitz is hardly Robert Moses. But you can be sure that when Walgreens opens, Marty, Jim Brennan and a few others will be there to cut the ribbon and tell everyone how Walgreens is doing wonderful things for the neighborhood with low prices and great drug plans for everyone.

  6. It’s amusing that at the bottom of this website page there’s an advertisement for the Barclay’s Arena. We all know how the fight against the arena worked out for the opponents. Another case of Wait till Next Year….

    So now there’s the Foodstore vs Drugstore War in Windsor Terrace. The advertisement as the bottom of the page screams irony.

    Robert Moses wouldn’t let Walter O’Malley build a new stadium for the Dodgers at Flatbush and Altantic, telling him the city had bigger plans for that piece of property. So the Dodgers went west and the property sat vacant for over 50 years.

    Was it smart of Moses to block the Dodgers? Nope. Fortunately, it looks like the Sports Desert of Brooklyn is about to recover. Something tells me the Barclay’s Arena and the Nets are going to be a smash hit. The foodstore problem will work itself out, probably in a piece-meal manner starting when the Oak and Ballard pharmacies are absorbed by Walgreens and their empty spaces are taken over by food sellers.

  7. @wt11218- I understand your (and other’s) skepticism of the politicians. I hardly have any reason or evidence to dispute it. However, based on what Marty has said, Key Food (which is a franchised co-op) was looking to keep that space and other supermarkets as well were very interested. Of course, they couldn’t pony up the bucks that Mr. Geller wanted or that Walgreens could offer. Yes, groceries are very low margin which is why Walgreens is not in that business and is why they can pay big money for real estate.
    However, we have a somewhat unique situation in a unique metropolitan neighborhood.
    Geography and circumstance have created a need for a food supermarket in that particular location.
    The majority of people do not have a problem with Walgreens per se.
    The problem is that Walgreens has miscalculated their business model in this situation. As I pointed out to their regional rep at the first community meeting: yes, groceries are low margin and drugs are high. However, we are handing them a monopoly on a silver platter. We need, we are begging, for a grocery store. How are they not going to make money selling fresh food that we are demanding vs. doing business as usual which is going to be boycotted? Any business’ model is to make money. The best companies adapt. So far, they being the perfect example of giant corporate scum that is the problem with this country.
    We are here to be the smack in the face that wakes them up to the reality that is Windsor Terrace.

    Also, what is it with people that are so afraid to sign online comments and stand up for what they are spouting?

  8. “good, food stores on Prospect Park West”

    I find it humorous that someone finds the food stores on PPW to be good.

  9. stenro,

    No, Windsor Terrace is not handing Walgreens any more of a monopoly than Walgreens enjoys anywhere it opens a store. In fact, the WT market is limited. It’s big enough for Walgreens to move in, but the growth prospects are limited precisely because Greenwood Cemetery and Prospect Park are two of the borders. Meanwhile, there is truly a Pharmacy Desert down Coney Island Avenue till you get to Church Avenue.

    And for the same reason, other supermarkets passed. Meanwhile, as I mentioned, there are supermarkets along 7th Avenue, 9th Street and McDonald Avenue. There’s Costco and a lot of people like Fairway down in Red Hook. Moreover, Whole Foods is coming.

    How much money should a supermarket invest in Windsor Terrace when the competition is stiff and getting stiffer?

    The support for a local supermarket was based on a cry from seniors who say they don’t have cars. Well, as true as their claims may be, their contributions to the top- and bottom-lines of the supermarket weren’t enough to swing a deal. Meanwhile, almost everyone in WT has a car, and almost everyone who shopped at Key Food drove to it, though I must admit I never saw the parking lot full.

    If WT residents would agree to pay a premium for food, perhaps another operator might move in. But playing Obama by demanding that people pay more for goods that can be had for less at other places isn’t a smart idea. The loyal troopers will desert.

    Maybe a deal could be worked with the Park Slope Food Co-op? Perhaps the willing people of WT would donate some time every month to working in the WT/PS Food Coop, and, based on the labor savings, the operation might generate enough revenue to pay the owner as much rent as Walgreens has offered?

    How about that?

  10. “Keep on shopping at the Key Food” (to the tune of “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young, who is Canadian; where “Manager Mike” is not. Gonna miss those latex blue eyes and the Lambo lotted in the handicapped lines. -sbz

  11. Based on the Reporting Desert surrounding this issue, it’s clear that everyone in WT has gone back to their regularly scheduled lives and the Walgreens show will go on without any further adjustments to the controls.

    The food stores on Prospect Park West are probably in for a big increase in business. I’ll bet the Meat Market and all the deli/convenience stores will come close to making up for the loss of Key Food.

    Meanwhile, Fresh Direct will probably get a lot more orders from WT, and shoppers will explore the aisles of the supermarkets on 9th St, 7th Ave, Pathmark next to Lowes, Costco, Fairway in Red Hook, C-Town on Coney Island Avenue and the supermarket on McDonald Ave in Kensington.

    There’s no Food Desert in WT. The place is surrounded by a forest of supermarkets, which is going to grow even more because Whole Foods is coming.

  12. wt11218 has it all wrong yet again. This was never a publicity stunt and “media desert” does not mean the fight is not continuing. This was also not started merely by an outcry of seniors without cars. I’m guessing that wt11218 has not been to one community meeting on this since he doesn’t understand what is going on. He/she completely misses the point by mentioning all of the supermarkets that do and will surround Windsor Terrace. He/she doesn’t understand what it means to be part of community and what to help neighbors and improve the very neighborhood they live in. Nor do they want their identity know. I suspect like in the Wizard of Oz, this person will be revealed to either be a Walgreens shill or just one of the plethora of Americans that care enough to complain with the outcome but not be bothered to vote believing the inevetable will happen anyway.

  13. stenro,

    Nothing is stopping the people of Windsor Terrace from pooling their capital and making a better offer to the owner of the Key Food property.

    If having a supermarket on that site is as important as you believe, then it should be easy to collect enough capital from WT residents to boost the best supermarket offer enough to beat out Walgreens.

    As I suggested previously, the offer could come in the form of striking a deal with the Park Slope Food Co-op. A WT branch of the PS Food Co-op could set its prices high enough to generate the rent the owner expects from Walgreens.

    With free labor from enough WT residents, it should be easy to satisfy the financial expectations of the property owner.

    Will it happen? Not likely. This tempest in a teapot will end the same way the fight over the Barclay’s Arena ended.

  14. “Why Windsor Terrace’s Fight Against Walgreens Matters to All of Brooklyn”“Why Windsor Terrace’s Fight Against Walgreens Matters to All of Brooklyn”
    The KEY FOOD that was there was DIRTY ! Smelled and needed self check -out compute bar code labelling .. UPDATED CASHIER..ing w/o a person!! ALSO it WAS not handicapped liable and BASICALLY GROSS !! HOWEVER .. no way in heck do the residents need a WALGREENS are you kidding !! There are 5 drug stores in a radius of 10 blocks !! WE need a WAULBAMN”S or and A&P or a really nice SHOPRITE !! THIS is pythetic . especially for seniors who WALK slowly too food shop .. so now they shop on CHURCH AVE in foodtown LOL A joke ! I AM BANNING WALGREENS from my scrips and other items .. and I live in MN .. visit my senior parents 3x a yr. PROSPECT PARK . SLOPE ALLIANCE YOU SUCK !

  15. IN ADDITION… I GREW UP as a little girl in this neighborhood ! MY mom would send me too get a quart of milk , 5lbs of potatoes , a treat for myself and some boars head virgina ham for sandiwiches from the deli { the butchers also sliced some extra piece for me } LOL.. HOLY HANNA … WE NEED A FOOD supermarket PEOPLE ! NO A DRUGGYYYYY !!

  16. GO AWAY … WALGREENS .. all they have there is beauty products .. an isle of FROZEN.. FRIDGE frozen juice and pizza , and ISLE of soda of sorts and gatorade .. the rest are flashlights .. hair products , cosmetics , tee shirts for 10.00 and JUNK . JUST LIKE ANY OTHER fast drug store .. sorry NEERGARDS on 5th ave .. however you .. have been there since I need meds 24 OPEN !! LOVE NEERGARDS !!!

  17. The KEY FOOD that was there was DIRTY ! Smelled and needed self check -out compute bar code labelling .. UPDATED CASHIER..ing w/o a person!! ALSO it WAS not handicapped liable and BASICALLY GROSS !! HOWEVER .. no way in heck do the residents need a WALGREENS are you kidding !! There are 5 drug stores in a radius of 10 blocks !! WE need a WAULBAMN”S or and A&P or a really nice SHOPRITE !! THIS is pythetic . especially for seniors who WALK slowly too food shop .. so now they shop on CHURCH AVE in foodtown LOL A joke ! I AM BANNING WALGREENS from my scrips and other items .. and I live in MN .. visit my senior parents 3x a yr. PROSPECT PARK . SLOPE ALLIANCE YOU SUCK !

  18. If the people of Windsor Terrace want a supermarket on the Key Food site, they’ll have to put up their own money to make it happen.

    The government does not break up legal deals because a few people are unhappy about choices freely made by property owners seeking to maximize their income.

    As we all know, the seniors who say they want a supermarket will be the first to go to the new Walgreens to benefit from the lower prescription prices it will offer.

    Ballard and Oak have a lot to worry about. Competition is going to pressure both of them.

  19. Now that the lease has been signed and Walgreens has control of the former Key Food property, it looks as though the skirmish has ended.

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