By: Hadassa Kalatizadeh
The city’s School Construction Authority has decided to exercise its option to demolish a grocery store near the New York University campus. The option to tear down and use the land at the Morton Williams store site, expires December 2021. As per Crain’s NY, the city has decided to build a public school “for special-needs students,” at the site located at 130 Bleecker Street, near LaGuardia Place.
The sudden decision, which stems from a planning process started more than a decade ago, will leave Greenwich Village without its main full-service supermarket. “This came as a surprise to both us and NYU because so many years had passed without the option being exercised,” said Grocery store owner, Avi Kaner.
The N.Y.U. 2031 plan, first proposed nine years ago, will add up to four new buildings to the two South Village superblocks- but for now seems to have forgotten to leave space for a supermarket. Original plans for the school’s mega-development project included a verbal assurance from NYU that there would be space for a supermarket. N.Y.U. officials reportedly claim to feel “blindsided” by the supermarket issue. “NYU did not hear from the SCA until the end of last month that they intended to exercise their option on the site,” said Lynn Brown, the senior vice president of university relations.
As per the Village Sun, Kaner would be eager to have the Morton Williams relocated to the new 181 Mercer St. building. Along with Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for Morton Williams, the grocer is working to organize union and community support to save the family-owned supermarket, which has 80 employees and has been at the location for over 20 years.
Lipsky says he has been scrutinizing past documents but has yet to find an actual contractual commitment by N.Y.U. to keep a supermarket on the block. “What was clear in 2012 was N.Y.U. promised the store would survive,” Lipsky said. “No one got that in writing, though. It only confirms, in this community’s view, how they’ve shown themselves to be less than honorable.”
Lipsky said that the City Planning Commission’s resolution for the ULURP public-review for N.Y.U.’s mega development does stipulate that the project contain significant space for retail, including a supermarket. Still, that’s “not contractual — it’s a zoning document,” said Lipsky. “That’s the question. We know that ethically and morally they are obligated to [include a supermarket]. The question is are they obligated to do it? It would seem to me it’s binding on N.Y.U. to put a supermarket in there.”