WINDSOR TERRACE — Windsor Terrace residents stepped up their fight to keep Walgreens from replacing the neighborhood's only grocery store Wednesday, staging a boisterous rally where protesters slammed the national drugstore as a greedy company that's deaf to the needs of their community.
Despite threatening skies and humid heat, roughly 200 people turned out for the 10 a.m. rally at the Key Food at 589 Prospect Ave. that closed in late June, leaving the neighborhood without a full-service supermarket for the first time in decades.
The protest was held Aug. 1 because that's when Walgreens officially over took the building's lease. Walgreens is slated to open a drugstore there next year, but about 3,000 Windsor Terrace residents have signed petitions vowing to boycott the store. That's roughly a third of the households in the neighborhood, according to organizers.
"It's Wednesday, Aug. 1. Walgreens is technically taking possession of this property, but morally, we're in possession of the property, isn't that right?" shouted State Assemblyman James F. Brennan to a round of cheers from the lively crowd.
The sign-waving protesters chanted "What do we want? Green beans! What don't we want? Walgreens!" to kick off the rally, where they were joined by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Councilman Brad Lander, and State Sen. Kevin Parker.
"The people of Windsor Terrace are not quick to anger," Lander said. "The residents of Reeve Place and Seeley Street and Prospect Avenue are not the first to the barricades. But when this community is forced to unite, when the basics — the food that families need — are threatened and taken away, this is a community that will stand together until the end."
Markowitz urged Walgreens to "step up or step out," saying the company wasn't welcome in Windsor Terrace unless it meets neighborhood demands to stock a variety of fresh food, or share the building with a full-service grocery.
Organizers say Walgreens hasn't responded yet to their requests. A Walgreens spokesman told DNAinfo New York that the company was "considering various grocery options" for the Windsor Terrace store, but he said the company couldn't reveal more details because discussions about them were ongoing.
"However, we do look forward to engaging in an active dialogue with community leaders about how we can create a store that best meets the needs of our customers and the community," spokesman Robert Elfinger said in an email.
Protesters broadened their attacks against Walgreens on Wednesday, handing out fliers with so-called "fresh facts" about the company that painted it as an anti-union corporation more interested in profits than serving the community. Walgreens, which purchased the Duane Reade chain in 2010, recently paid $6.7 billion to buy half of the European pharmacy chain Boots.
"This really is all about dollars and sense," local resident Chris Huntington told the cheering crowd. "Walgreens is the largest drugstore chain the world...They're here not to engage in the community, but to capitalize on the community."