TURTLE BAY — Workers and neighbors are making a last-ditch effort to save a local Food Emporium slated to become a CVS pharmacy at the end of the month.
The blocks surrounding the supermarket, at 969 Second Ave. at East 51st street, are already jam-packed with pharmacies, while residents, some of them elderly, would have to walk farther away to buy affordable groceries, according to one neighbor. The closest other supermarket is a D'Agostino at First Avenue and East 53rd Street.
“If we lose a supermarket that will leave young families and senior citizens having to walk long distances to get to the nearest food retailer,” said Lee Frankel, who sits on the board of the Turtle Bay Association, a civic group. “We have many, many pharmacies; we don’t need another, but we do need a place to shop.”
Like several other stores owned by parent company A&P, Food Emporium is set to close later this month. A&P filed for bankruptcy this summer and put its various brand name stores, including Pathmark and Waldbaums, up for bid to retailers like CVS and Key Food, but will be forced to close the locations that don't attract bidders.
Members of the Turtle Bay Association have already gathered more than 350 signatures in a petition that calls for the location to remain a supermarket — an attempt to convince companies like Key Food that residents would be ready to spend money at the store.
Key Food is set to take over a number of other A&P locations throughout the city, but CVS got the winning bid for the Second Avenue space, according to the union that represents the workers.
A sale to CVS is cold comfort for the unionized workers of the Turtle Bay Food Emporium, who say they will not be able to stay employed when the market changes hands.
Many of the workers at the Second Avenue location have worked there for more than a decade, and despite years of financial hardship for the company — during which time workers agreed to dock their own vacation time — the bankruptcy announcement came as a shock, said Matar Niang, the store’s manager.
“We sacrificed our time and sacrificed our money for the company, and we’re still losing our jobs,” said Niang, who has worked for the company for 19 years.
About 50 employees stand to lose their jobs if a new bidder doesn’t step in, Niang said.
Representatives of CVS and A&P did not return requests for comment.