Waldbaum's supermarket in Greenlawn has closed, an announcement of no great importance to many, but a tragedy for others. It is one of the 51 Waldbaum's and Pathmark stores on Long Island that parent company A&P has closed or sold in bankruptcy proceedings.
Besides guaranteeing a dismal holiday season for its employees, what makes the recent closing of Waldbaum's in Greenlawn so significant is that it was the only major supermarket in the Greenlawn and Centerport communities, which together have nearly 20,000 residents.
Over the years, several attempts at another, albeit smaller, supermarket were tried where Value Drugs at Broadway and Pulaski Road now stands, but without success.ExpresswayReader essay: What working at A&P taught meMore ExpresswayReader essays
This situation is a true hardship, instead of merely an inconvenience, because Waldbaum's is bracketed on each side by Paumanack Village, a federally subsidized independent-living community for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.
Many of these residents no longer drive. I have seen them trudge across the parking lot of Waldbaum's with their personal shopping carts in pelting rain, freezing ice and snow, and gusty gales. But at least they had a place to purchase food, drink and other necessities. Where are they to go now? Has anyone considered that? Many of these seniors don't have relatives nearby to pick them up and drive them to another location.
Most of the Waldbaum's and Pathmark stores have been bought by other supermarket chains and will reopen. In Greenlawn, the building has been purchased by a Queens real estate development company. It told Newsday it is trying to get a supermarket operator for the store, but also has been in talks with a drug chain and gym owners.
Where is the outrage? We have just been besieged by our local politicians asking for our votes, bludgeoned by phone calls, mailings and signs on every available space along roadsides and private lawns. Where are their consciences to allow this fragile population to be without a neighborhood supermarket? This group, I might add, is known to come out to vote in more numbers and with more consistency than any other. At least William Spencer, our Suffolk County legislator, has said he is trying to find ways to help, including food delivery services.
Stop & Shop offers a delivery service called Peapod in which a sales clerk will choose a customer's fruit, vegetables, meat and other items. However, I would not choose to have some stranger decide what looks fresh or appetizing. The service requires a minimum order of $60 and charges $9.95 for delivery. For seniors on a fixed income or food stamps, is this additional expense even feasible?
A local social worker told me about a local resident in her 90s who is recovering from a stroke. The woman would regularly walk several blocks from home to Waldbaum's.
A Paumanack senior citizen who uses a cane told me this past week that she doesn't know how she'll buy food.
"It's horrible," she said. "I'm disabled and even if they had a bus I could not get my groceries onto the bus."
Where is the outrage?
Reader Meg Harper Lawrence lives in Greenlawn.