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Super panic: What happens to Morton Williams market with Bleecker school now green-lighted?

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated Nov. 22, 5:30 p.m.: The news that the city has finally committed to build a long-delayed public school at Bleecker Street and LaGuardia Place was recently cheered by local politicians and Community Board 2 members.

But that development, in turn, has opened up another thorny question — namely, what now happens to the Morton Williams supermarket, depended on and valued by neighbors, that currently sits at the site?

The Village Sun recently broke the story of the city’s agreement to build the school at 130 Bleecker St. C.B. 2 and local politicians have advocated for it to be a citywide school for special-needs students.

According to Kevin Ortiz, a spokesperson for the city’s School Construction Authority, the deal is that New York University, which owns the lot, will turn it over for free to S.C.A., which will then build the public school there.

The lot is 17,000 square feet, with the supermarket occupying 14,500 square feet of that, meaning it fills up almost the entire site. The planned school would be 100,000 square feet in size, so likely might be around five stories tall.

Ortiz confirmed that the school would be built right on the spot where the supermarket is now.

Asked by The Village Sun if S.C.A. planned to include a supermarket in the project, Ortiz said no.

“It will be a stand-alone [building] that S.C.A. will construct,” he told The Village Sun.

As for when construction would start, Ortiz said, “We cannot provide a timeline until N.Y.U. turns the space over to us.”

Meanwhile, Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist representing the Morton Williams supermarket, reached out to The Village Sun to stress that the market’s future must be resolved, as well.

“The outstanding, unanswered question is what happens to the supermarket? And it’s complicated,” he acknowledged. “I believe it’s the only major supermarket in the West Village. We’re not looking to defeat the school at all. We’re looking for a win-win.”

He said that, so far, no one involved has told the market’s owner, Avi Kaner, anything about what’s going on.

“No one has talked to Morton Williams to let them know,” he said.

Previously, in years past, as part of its N.Y.U. 2031 large-scale development plan for its two South Village superblocks, university officials said that a supermarket might be located in 181 Mercer St., the large new building currently being completed at Mercer and Houston Streets.

However, Lipsky said, “That building wasn’t configured for a supermarket — but could be configured for it.”

‘N.Y.U. has no additional construction planned at this time or in the near future for the superblocks.’

— Lynne Brown, N.Y.U. senior V.P.

Lynne Brown, N.Y.U. senior vice president for university relations and public affairs, said N.Y.U. welcomes the public school. However, her statement notably did not address the supermarket issue.

“While we await the final notification from S.C.A. with attendant information about the requisite financing and needs analysis, from N.Y.U.’s standpoint, a new school for the neighborhood is a wonderful use for the southeast corner of La Guardia and Bleecker,” Brown said. “We are glad that the multiple extensions N.Y.U. provided over the past seven years enabled the city to make a final determination about the site’s use and find a way to fit it into their planning and budget process.

“Beyond the 181 Mercer St. building, N.Y.U. has no additional construction planned at this time or in the near future for the superblocks,” she said, adding, “By the terms of the ULURP, no further buildings would be allowed on the southern block.”

ULURP refers to the plan for the superblocks’ development that was hashed out and publicly reviewed back in 2012.

It’s also unclear if the public school project would impact — either temporarily or permanently — the adjacent LaGuardia Corner Gardens, a community garden just west of the supermarket site. N.Y.U. said S.C.A. would have to answer on that one.

The Village Sun also reached out for comment to C.B. 2 Chairperson Jeannine Kiely on the supermarket issue.

Brown’s response also answered the question of where the NYU 2031 plan, created nearly 10 years ago, now stands. Under that plan, the Morton Williams site was possibly eyed for a high-rise university building, with its base to be set aside for a community-facility use, such as a public school or day center for seniors. At the time, university officials indicated that the planned new building at Mercer and Houston Streets, where Coles Gym was still located, might contain a supermarket. However, again, according to Lipsky, the new building currently being completed at that site is not outfitted to accept a supermarket.

N.Y.U.’s northern superblock, currently home to Washington Square Village, was originally slated under N.Y.U. 2031 to have an additional two matching buildings shaped like giant lima beans squeezed onto it. But, based on Brown’s statement, that project sounds like it’s now off the table.

Meanwhile, loyal Morton Williams customers are feeling extremely anxious about losing their beloved, conveniently located supermarket. Several have posted their concerns on The Village Sun’s previous article breaking the news of the public school project.

“We are going to lose the only supermarket in our neighborhood,” one reader lamented. “This is horrible. I really hope they are able to figure out a way to keep the Morton Williams as we rely on this store in the area.”

“As a senior citizen, I cannot imagine what I will do without my supermarket,” one woman posted. “I of course support schools and especially for the disabled, but this will bring undue hardship to the neighborhood.”

4 Comments

  1. NYU Grad NYU Grad November 23, 2021

    NYU=Lousy Neighbor
    Raping the neighborhood, overbuilding, stealing the sunlight, greed. Oh my Alma Mater what a shame you are.

  2. Colette Weiner Colette Weiner November 24, 2021

    NYU cannot be trusted. They will sneak in some other plan to take over the Village. They will not stop. We already have barely any descant supermarket. Morton Williams is the only one and I have to walk easily 7 / 8 blocks to go there. But it’s the best and ONLY one for the West Village. The 2 others are terrible and rip-offs, with worse products and bad brands. We cannot lose this store. Villagers STAND UP & FIGHT. Do not sleep and complain later. Our Village is deteriorating.
    There has to be a solution to save this market.

  3. Ben Ben November 26, 2021

    Morton Williams is overpriced, but the nearest supermarket is the Gristedes on University Place and that’s even worse. Lousy goods at high prices. The Trader Joe’s is almost a mile away. There aren’t any fruit stands in the area, which I can’t understand. At least the area will have a public school.

  4. Frentic Imp Frentic Imp November 27, 2021

    Paraphrasing George Carlin: Has anybody told NYU that Bleecker & La Guardia has TWO low-rise corner lots, both of which N.Y.U. owns? One to the south, occupied by community gardens and the only 24-hour supermarket still operating as such in Lower Manhattan, and the NORTHERN CORNER, a ramshackle collection of various businesses that seem to change with the academic years. In its characteristic “community-friendly” approach, N.Y.U., one of the worst developers ever (and BTW, why do they have nonprofit status, with the $70,000 yearly fee they charge each student they ensnare, and buildings up the wazoo?), is telling us: You can have the school we promised the community way before most of youse were even born, and weaseled out of delivering till now, or you can have the supermarket; you can’t have both. By the way: The lot I’m mentioning, also slated for development in the infamous 2031 plan (that being the number of community members that are not connected to N.Y.U. that will be left in Lower Manhattan, once they are done) is conspicuously absent from the statements in the article. Worth asking how the planning is going on that property?

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