By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Fairway Market claims it's "like no other market," but some neighbors complain the grocer stands out because it clogs the streets around its Broadway and West 74th Street store with delivery trucks, forklifts and pallets.
Now Fairway says a new warehouse will alleviate that long-running neighborhood beef.
A 15,000 square-foot refrigerated produce warehouse in Harlem will centralize the store's deliveries and mean less activity around the Upper West Side store, said Fairway spokesman Bruce Bobbins.
Before Fairway started using the new warehouse, about five or six trucks a day would pull up in front of the store to deliver fruits and veggies from as far away as California and Florida.
"That's why we're able to offer the quantity that we do at the highest quality at the most affordable prices, because we buy directly from farms and we skip the middleman," Bobbins said.
But those farm-fresh shipments take a toll on neighbors like Gretchen Berger, who says she's fed up with Fairway using the street as a makeshift distribution center.
"It's really gotten to be ridiculous," said Berger, who lives next door to the store. "It's just 24-7 noise, debris, trucks loading, unloading. The sidewalks are completely impassable all day, and not to mention the rats."
The situation, which the New York Times wrote about way back in 2003, should improve with the new warehouse, which the store started using in early December, Bobbins said.
Deliveries are now consolidated at the new warehouse, and it takes only one or two trucks a day to keep the produce department stocked, Bobbins said. Fairway's Upper West Side produce department has the highest volume of any store in the city, he added.
"It will make us more efficient," Bobbins said. "It will be completely consolidated and what will be needed at 74th Street will be what's delivered."
The new warehouse has been in the works for three years, Bobbins said, since Fairway expanded to new locations including Paramus, Pelham Manor, and Red Hook.
Berger said the store has been promising the new warehouse for years, and she's skeptical that it will make a real difference.
Berger said she noticed fewer trucks when the warehouse first opened in early December, but the quiet didn't last. Recently she's seen massive tractor trailers parked overnight outside the store, she said.
"I don't know what happened," Berger said. "Maybe there isn't a warehouse. I would like the address of the warehouse and I would like to go see it."
The new warehouse is brick building on West 134th Street and 12th Avenue.
On Tuesday afternoon, the sidewalks outside the Upper West Side store were bustling, but not with produce deliveries. Pallets stacked with Bounty paper towels, boxes of black and white cookies and sacks of coffee sat on the sidewalk and two trucks were parked on Broadway.
Shopper Angelo Hernandez said he's a fan of Fairway, but he sometimes prefers to shop at nearby Trader Joe's because it's easier to navigate both inside and out.
"I'm 79 years old," Hernandez said. "This is sometimes too narrow. All the walkers, the people with children, strollers, it's difficult for me."
Michael French, an actor who lives on West 78th Street, said he hasn't noticed less delivery activity since the new warehouse opened. But he doesn't mind the bustling sidewalks too much, he said.
"It's a big market and a very popular one," French said. "How the hell else are they going to get their supplies to the people? Fairway is a cut above the rest in terms of volume and quality and diversity of merchandise."