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Residents to rally again to save Morton Williams supermarket

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Morton Williams shoppers and union members are getting their green “SAVE OUR SUPERMARKET” T-shirts ready for yet another rally to protect the Greenwich Village food mainstay.

They’ll converge for a rally outside the longtime market, at 130 Bleecker St., at LaGuardia Place, on Sun., Dec. 10, at 2 p.m.

More than 8,500 locals — from senior residents to New York University students — have signed a petition to keep the 24-hour supermarket at the site, so the area does not become a “food desert.”

Each day, 3,000 shoppers use the store, which serves a community of more than 23,000 residents.

However, a decision by the city’s School Construction Authority on siting a public school at the supermarket site is imminent. According to the ad hoc group Save Our Supermarket, a.k.a. S.O.S., though, the city currently is not indicating there is any plan to save Greenwich Village’s only full-service market.

S.O.S. is calling on the city and New York University, the latter which owns the corner property, “immediately to devise a plan” to keep the supermarket where it is, and to site a school — if one is deemed needed — at an alternative N.Y.U. property.

Community Board 2 led the charge to build a school at the site, hailing it as a major community giveback from the N.Y.U. rezoning. The community board previously estimated the property alone was worth $60 million.

It’s still unclear, though, if more public school seats are needed for locally zoned students, or if the city instead might perhaps want to build a school there for disabled students drawn from around the city. The latter idea was the C.B. 2 “Plan B” after it initially appeared that more school seats were not needed for the district. Yet, teacher-student ratios were recently lowered, which could change the scenario once again.

C.B. 2 was operating under the assumption that, if a school were built and displaced the supermarket, the store would have a new home in N.Y.U.’s eventual new building at 181 Mercer St.

More than a decade ago, when the supersized South Village block was being rezoned to allow construction of the new N.Y.U. Paulson Center, the university assured that, should a public school be built at the market site, that N.Y.U. would provide space for it in the Paulson Center (then known, in plans, only as the Zipper Building). The 735,000-square-foot Paulson Center finally opened nearly a year ago at 181 Mercer St., on the other side of the superblock — yet devoid of the promised space for a supermarket.

At the end of the rezoning process, when the city issued the restrictive declaration for it, the pledge to preserve the supermarket was mysteriously missing.

Former City Councilmember Alan Gerson, a lifelong resident of the block, is a co-leader of S.O.S.

“For more than a half century, a full-service supermarket has existed as an essential part of our community at this location,” he said. “Morton Williams provides 24-hour service to all, especially to seniors and those with special needs, including delivery to those who are homebound, and has been a vital lifeline to all during times of crisis. Morton Williams also provides jobs to dozens of essential workers.”

The Morton Williams is a union store. John R. Durso, president of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, stressed the market was a lifeline for residents during the COVID pandemic.

“Morton Williams on Bleecker Street is more than just a grocery store — it is a neighborhood institution,” he said. “Morton Williams has served as a critical lifeline for thousands of residents in the area for decades, and is the main accessible grocery store in the community. It served as a lifeline during the pandemic, as one of the only stores open in the area for residents to get their necessities. Developers don’t realize the lasting ramifications in closing a grocery store: Not only will the community suffer greatly without it, but 60 essential union workers, who are members of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, will lose their jobs and we will become one step closer to creating a food desert in the neighborhood. It is critical we do everything within our power to save this supermarket.”

In addition to Local 338, Morton Williams also has members of UFCW Locals 342 and 1500 as part of its fully union staff.

In a press release for the Dec. 10 rally, S.O.S. said it supports a school being built “in our vicinity, but without dislocating a crucial necessity to our community from its half-century-plus location, and without endangering the vital and much-loved, award-winning LaGuardia Corner Community Garden abutting the site.

“We are calling on the city and the New York University administration to honor the commitment it made to the entire community — including university faculty and students — to the continuous operation of a full-service supermarket on the block where it currently sits,” the release continued. “We call upon the city and the N.Y.U. administration to work with the community to find a responsible resolution, which maintains the supermarket at its current site, preserves the garden and locates the school in the vicinity. Other viable sites for a school in the immediate vicinity exist.”

S.O.S. is calling on Mayor Adams and all local elected officials “to intervene to protect and Save Our Supermarket.”

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