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Morton Williams buyers are skeptical of NYU’s promises


After New York University pledged to save a Morton Williams supermarket located on university property that was at risk of redevelopment, many in the neighborhood are concerned that the university will not follow through on its commitment. More than 7,000 people have signed a petition to keep the store in the area.

NYU President Andrew Hamilton, along with several local politicians, said on Nov. 1 that they would ensure that the supermarket at the intersection of Bleecker Street and LaGuardia Place could either remain in place or be moved nearby. The announcement follows a years-long battle between NYU and its Greenwich Village neighbors over numerous expansion and development projects.

Frustrated residents came together to form Save Our Supermarket, an organization dedicated to saving the store, on October 15. Since then, the group created and distributed petition and collected signatures near the supermarket. An online petition was also recently launched, which has gathered more than 100 signatures.

Judith Collette, one of the group’s leaders, said she believed the petition influenced the university’s decision to save the supermarket, adding that she hoped Morton Williams would remain in its current location. But Kallett doesn’t have much faith that the university will keep its promise.

“NYU has amnesia — they made promises to the community and never followed through on them,” Collett said. “Older people and people who work in the area come to us, there is a hot and cold food bar, people have lunch there. It’s central.”

The university had was considered earlier providing space for a supermarket in its newly constructed building at 181 Mercer Street, billion dollar development which will add classrooms, residence halls and community areas to the NYU campus. The building was originally part of former NYU President John Sexton’s, largely abandoned building “NYU 2031” expansion plan.. However, the university ultimately decided not to include space for a supermarket in the final design of the building.

As part of the 2012 approval process for the 181 Mercer project, NYU struck a deal with the New York City School Building Authority to claim the Morton Williams site for a public school until the end of 2014. The deadline was extended twice to 2021 when authorities told the university they would continue building the school, putting the supermarket’s existence at risk.

Although Morton Williams signed a new 20-year lease for the site in April, it has a demolition clause that will be activated if the university decides to repurpose the site.

If plans to build a public school go ahead, the supermarket’s lease requires NYU to give it a year’s notice to vacate the site, spokesman Morton Williams said.

Avi Kanner, who co-owns the Morton Williams chain, which operates multiple locations throughout New York, said the company appreciates the support it has received from the Village community.

“We are grateful to the thousands of our neighbors who signed the massive petition to save their supermarkets,” Kanner said. “The West Village thrives on its diversity of opinion — in this case, the community is firmly united to ensure the preservation of this important service.”

Contact Carmo Moniz at [email protected]

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