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When Pathmark opens its doors in Springfield Gardens Saturday, it will be the first new supermarket to come into southeast Queens in a quarter of a century after a long and controversial battle.
Since 1993, the project has faced community opposition and a change in developers as well as financial problems, but most community residents seem anxious for the store to open its doors.
Pathmark will anchor a 12-store shopping center that includes a Radioshack and Blockbuster Video, according to Pathmark officials.
"This Pathmark represents the opening of the first major supermarket in southeast Queens in 25 years," said Borough President Claire Shulman in a recent press release.
Until now, most Springfield Gardens residents have driven to supermarkets in nearby Nassau County for groceries, but now they will have a 60,000-square-foot supermarket in their own back yard.
Rich Savner, a Pathmark spokesman, said the store is closing its Woodmere, L.I. supermarket to open the Springfield Gardens location, which will be Pathmark's fifth store in Queens.
Pathmark President and CEO Jim Donald said 80 percent of the store's 350 employees live in southeast Queens. Of those 350 jobs, 200 of them are newly created jobs.
Rev. Edward Davis, of the St. Albans Presbyterian Church and member of the Queens Citizens organization, said the supermarket was originally spearheaded by the church-based organization, which in the early 1990s sought out a large supermarket in southeast Queens.
"I can't wait. It's been a long time coming," said Pat Oettinger of the QCO.
Oettinger said the project has already boosted private investment in the community, citing a new Burger King, which opened up across the street from the new shopping center. She said developer Forest City Ratner's proposal to build a nearby multiplex would bring more restaurants and retail stores to Springfield Gardens.
State Senate candidate Cynthia Jenkins said the new Pathmark will stop people from bringing their business and tax dollars to Nassau County. But Jenkins has based her candidacy on opposing the proposed multiplex theater.
The Mattone Group, a College Point-based developer, took over the Pathmark project from the original developer three years ago, when the project hit a snag with finances.
"The demographics speak for themselves," said Dana Beecher, a lease specialist with the company.
He said there are 15,000 households within a one-mile radius of the store that have an average income of about $60,000.
The project initially encountered opposition from the community, led by Councilwoman Juanita Watkins (D-Laurelton). Watkins cited the size of the store, traffic concerns, and its original plan of operating 24 hours a day as reasons for concern.
She said the City Council bill that granted Pathmark the zoning variance to build in 1995 specified the store would not operate for 24 hours a day and limited the size of the supermarket. Watkins also said the bill called for Pathmark to donate money to a fund that would be run by a local non-profit organization to help the area's small business community stay afloat.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani vetoed the variance, saying it was not proper for a fund of this type to be established. But the City Council overrode the veto, and Watkins said the fund would be established once the store is up and running.
Critics said Pathmark was forced to make a payoff to the community in the form of the fund in order to enter southeast Queens.
Pathmark put up approximately $5 million of the $20 million required to building the shopping center. The rest was put up by the Mattone Group and other businesses.
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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