State’s Largest Grocery Workers Union and Brooklyn Community Group Hold Rally Targeting Supermarket Shortage.

FUREE and UFCW Local 1500 partner to bring services to Fort Greene public housing residents after closing of supermarket and laundry by luxury condo developer

QUEENS VILLAGE, NY (03/11/2008)(readMedia)– Brooklyn – Fifty neighborhood residents – mostly senior citizens – will crowd onto a coach bus Wednesday March 12th on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, across from the Whitman and Ingersoll Public Housing Projects to be taken to a local grocery store and pharmacy. For many, it will be the first chance to stock up on groceries in over a year.

The bus was organized by Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1500 in response to the September 2006 closing of the Associated Supermarket on Myrtle, which had been local residents’ only option for purchasing food and basic necessities.

The closing of the supermarket – as well as a Laundromat, a Duane Reade pharmacy and 99 Cent Housewares Store – marked the launch of a project by billionaire Supermarket Owner John Catsimatidis to build two large towers on the site which would contain mostly luxury condos and retail space. The site has remained empty since 2006. In recent weeks, Catsimatidis announced delays on the construction of his project due to financing concerns.

FUREE and the UFCW will sponsor buses Wednesday March 12th and this Saturday, March 15, but are looking for ways to keep the buses running into the future. “ The Myrtle Avenue problem is symptomatic of the overall crisis facing New York City: a shortage of affordable Supermarkets, providing quality food and offering good unionized, middle class jobs,” said Patrick Purcell, Director of Special Projects for UFCW Local 1500. “It is our hope that the developer, as well as nearby Supermarkets, will step up to the plate and help fund future bus trips for this community while development on this sites remains in limbo.”

Before boarding the large coach bus, the 50 plus residents – armed with their shopping carts and grocery lists – will hold a rally to push the developers and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to do more for the community.

When: Wednesday, March 12, 10 :00 am Where: 176 Myrtle Ave b/t Prince Street & Ashland Place Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Despite the circumstances for the partnership, UFCW Local 1500 is excited to work with FUREE. “This is an outstanding community group working so hard on behalf of the residents in this area and trying to succeed where clearly public policy has failed,” stated Purcell. UFCW Local 1500 is working with State and City officials to develop a comprehensive food policy that will address these types of problems. UFCW Local 1500 President Bruce W. Both serves on the New York State Food Policy Council, a newly formed Task Force under the Office of the Governor of New York State.

“I’ve been living in this community for over 30 years,” said Arnetha Singleton, a FUREE member who lives in the Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene. “When I first moved here into this community it was decent. Now it is terrible. With all the development happening, nothing is being done for the folks that live here. They are tearing up Myrtle and they closed down all the stores and left us with nothing. We need basic services restored, but most of all we want respect. We want what any community full of taxpaying voters expect and deserve.”

FUREE will aslo announce a partnership with the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project to launch a community supported agriculture (CSA) this spring. The project will bring fresh, local produce to the community from an upstate farm on a weekly basis.

“We are so happy that FUREE and the UFCW are paying attention to our community’s needs,” said Lillian Hamilton. “We hope that Mr. Catsimatidis, the Downtown Partnership and others with decision making power will step in to support us in this work.”

Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) is a grassroots membership organization. FUREE has hundreds of members who are organized to build community power to win exits from poverty.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 represent over 22,000 grocery workers throughout Long Island, the Five Boros, Westchester, Putnam and Duchess Counties. Members of Local 1500 work in Stop and Shop, Pathmark, D’agastinos, Gristedes, King Kullen, Key Food, Fairway and Shop Rite Supermarkets. UFCW Local 1500 is New York State’s largest Local Union representing grocery workers.

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