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Windsor Terrace Fights to Keep Walgreens Out, Supermarket In

Marie Sirota, owner of Regina Bakery on Prospect Avenue and Prospect Park West, collected signatures from locals who don't want Walgreens to replace Key Food.
Marie Sirota, owner of Regina Bakery on Prospect Avenue and Prospect Park West, collected signatures from locals who don't want Walgreens to replace Key Food.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

WINDSOR TERRACE — Windsor Terrace residents aren't going to let the neighborhood's only supermarket go without a fight.

Neighbors are holding a rally Thursday night to demand that a supermarket — not Walgreens — replace the Key Food on Prospect Avenue that closed this week, leaving Windsor Terrace shoppers scrambling for fresh food options.

"It's just not good for the neighborhood in any way that I can think of," Leonora Stein, owner of Babbo's Books on Prospect Park West, said of Key Food's departure and the impending arrival of Walgreens.

Stein and other local business owners and residents have been collecting signatures on a petition demanding that Walgreens halt plans to take over the Key Food space or, if the national drugstore chain moves in, asking that it provide a wide selection of fresh food.

More than 1,300 people had signed the petition as of June 27, Stein said on her store's Facebook page.

Windsor Terrace residents have sprung into action in the wake of Key Food's closure. One man shot a video capturing the neighborhood's dismay. Someone else was compiling a list of grocery stores that deliver, Stein said.

Members of Occupy Kensington met to discuss the situation, Patch reported. Another local resident started a Yahoo group so neighbors could communicate about the issue.

One neighborhood resident even trekked to Bay Ridge to check out a Walgreens there that reportedly started stocking fresh produce after it took over a former Key Food space. Some officials had suggested the Walgreens in Windsor Terrace could offer a similar arrangement.

But resident Paul Friedman was disappointed by what he found at the Bay Ridge store.

He snapped a photo that was circulated on a neighborhood email list, and described the section as, "Two shelves of fresh fruit, one only bananas at 49 cents each, the other apples, oranges, mangoes, and avocados. Prices tended to be high.

"They also had one section of organic chips. Lots of frozen and pre-made processed things."

The Bay Ridge Walgreens doesn't have a wide selection of fresh food, but a greenmarket sets up shop in the store's parking lot every Saturday, according to local blog Bay Ridge Odyssey.

Stein, who opened Babbo's Books five years ago, is hoping the community can convince Walgreens to drop its plans to come to Windsor Terrace altogether.

"My ideal is Walgreens breaks the lease," Stein said.

If the pharmacy chain does open, but doesn't provide fresh food, Stein said neighbors will organize a boycott to put Walgreens out of business.

"When something important threatens this neighborhood, people get very active," Stein said.

Some stop-gap measures are already in place to help residents — especially seniors — keep their fridges stocked. City Councilman Brad Lander's office set up a temporary neighborhood carpool so residents can get rides to grocery stores. Fairway is offering a shuttle service to its Red Hook location, a spokeswoman said.

Local elected officials are expected to share news at the rally from recent meetings with Walgreens representatives. But a Key Food employee in the store's parking lot on Wednesday said Walgreens has no intention of changing its plans.

"We wouldn't be emptying out our store if it wasn't a done deal," Mike Jordan, a supervisor at Key Food, said.

"Walgreens is coming in."

Walgreens will take over the space on August 1, then renovate it and open its store in March 2013, Jordan said.

The rally, organized by the Windsor Terrace Alliance and KWT Neighbors Yahoo Group, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Key Food, 589 Prospect Ave., between 10th and 11th avenues.