EAST HARLEM — The City Council Speaker condemned the Rev. Calvin Butts of Abyssinian Baptist Church' over the sale of the Pathmark building and vowed to try to get another supermarket in the location during an emergency forum Wednesday night.
Butts orchestrated a deal to sell the Pathmark building on the corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue for $38 million this year. The Abyssinian Development Company and East Harlem Triangle owned 51 percent of the building while the city owned 49 percent, she said.
Because the city has a minority stake in the property, it does not have any say on the sale.
ADC sold the building with no public notice. When Mark-Viverito found out about the sale she called Butts to try to stop it, but it was too late.
“He didn’t have much to say,” she said. “At that point it was almost a done deal. He had already made the commitment to the company.”
The East Harlem Triangle has not seen any of the profits from the sale to Extell Development Co.
The state’s Attorney General is currently investigating ADC’s finances and the city froze $3 million in contracts due to unpaid taxes, according to the Daily News.
Because the sale is private, zoning use is the only regulation that the city can impose on the development, the speaker said. The new owners cannot be forced to have a supermarket on the site if they don’t want to.
Mark-Viverito is working with the new owners to bring a supermarket to the site at least on a temporary basis.
The new owners of the building did not attend Wednesday’s forum but did pass along a statement, which the Mark-Viverito read:
“The closing of the Pathmark supermarket poses a dilemma for all of us. However we intend to work with both the City Council speaker and the community to ensure food use for the site, such as a temporary market or an interior farmer’s market. Obviously we hope to include a permanent supermarket in any development on the site, yet the project remains in the early planning stages and no concrete plans have been filed.”
The company also bought Pathmark’s lease and a post office on the same block. It has not filed any plans to build on the site.
Pathmark’s closure will likely have a negative impact on East Harlem’s health and economy, according to Nick Freudenberg, professor of Public Health at Hunter College.
“East Harlem has among the highest rates of both food insecurity and hunger, and obesity, diabetes, and diet-related diseases,” he said. “In this community, more than any other, having healthy, affordable food available is essential to improving the health of this community.”
The closure also means the loss of 236 jobs, which made up half of all supermarket jobs in East Harlem, he added.
Abyssinian Development Corporation did not respond to questions about the sale.