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E. Patchogue 'food desert' gets market

An area of East Patchogue state officials identified as a "food desert" will soon have a new oasis: a supermarket.

Best Yet Market, a Bethpage-based chain with 13 stores on Long Island and in New York City, has agreed to take over a 35,000-square-foot site on Montauk Highway that once housed a Waldbaum's, officials said.

The company hopes to begin operation by early spring, officials said.

"This will make life easier," said Marita Morello, president of the civic organization FOCUS East Patchogue, adding that she hopes Best Yet succeeds where Waldbaum's did not.

Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) and Brookhaven Councilman Tim Mazzei led a drive to bring a supermarket to the area, which is about 1 1/2 miles from the nearest major food retailer.

Murray said the area's status as a "food desert" -- a place lacking access to an adequate supermarket -- was especially troubling because of the concentration of senior citizens, some of whom lack transportation.

According to the USDA, an area can be described as having "low access" to supermarkets if at least 500 people -- or at least 33 percent of the census tract's population -- reside more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.

"It is an underserved area when it comes to healthy foods," Murray said. "For the seniors, this is extremely good news."

The Waldbaum's building sat dormant for more than two years as the anchor to a shopping center. The Best Yet Market should boost the local economy, said Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko.

Best Yet plans to use the town's Blight to Light permit expediting program to get the supermarket up and running within a few months, Lesko said.

"What we're trying to do is attract supermarkets along that corridor," Lesko said.

Best Yet representatives said they look forward to opening.

"We have some work ahead of us in terms of getting the space ready for shopping, but we hope to be open this coming spring," Best Yet president Aviv Raitses said in a statement.

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