Pathmark sets up fund to benefit southeast Queens

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Supermarket chain Pathmark has agreed to shell out $400,000 for southeast Queens over the next 20 years in a settlement aimed at stimulating the local economic development at other community projects in the area, City Councilman James Sanders, Jr. (D-Laurelton) announced last week.

The settlement announced last Thursday establishes a long-awaited fund that was supposed to benefit the community once the Pathmark store opened at the intersection of Springfield and Merrick boulevards in 2000.

The initial fund was included as a condition of the 1995 city council bill that was passed over then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s veto granting zoning variances the store required. But the account, designed to help small business owners in the area stay afloat, was never set up, Sanders said.

“The original goal was to make sure our local businesses could compete with the giant stores,” he said. “This money should be used as a boost to the community.”

Under the new agreement, Pathmark will donate a total of about $350,000 to a fund operated by a task force chaired by Sanders. Business owners in southeast Queens can apply to the task force to get money for small improvements, including awnings, signs, and other causes, Sanders said.

An additional $50,000 will be available for community initiatives such as youth, athletics or civilian patrol programs, Sanders said.

“We would have a very uneven development if we developed just our fine businesses that our kids would smash because they have nothing else to do,” he said. “We left room in the fund that it can do these things as well.”

Pathmark has agreed to start the community fund with at least $150,000, followed by quarterly payments of $25,000 for 1 1/2 years, Sanders said. After that, the company will pay $25,000 a year through 2007, and then 15 annual payments of $10,000, he said.

Sanders hopes to establish the task force by Friday to determine how the money will be distributed, and the group will be made up of area politicians, local residents and representatives from Pathmark and the owner of the shopping center, he said.

“I am going to ensure that task force moves quickly,” Sanders said. “That money does no one any good if it sits in the bank. I have no interest in letting Mr. Pathmark keep that money in his bank for one more minute earning him interest.”

Businesses and community groups within southeast Queens, including Springfield Gardens, Laurelton, St. Albans, Rochdale, Cambria Heights, Brookville, Far Rockaway and Rosedale, are eligible to apply for funds, Sanders said.

“They wanted to cover their catchment area, where people who come and shop at Pathmark live,” he said.

The original deal, which Giuliani called a payoff, was brokered by Sanders’ predecessor, Juanita Watkins, who drew harsh criticism for the agreement from fellow council members.

“This was a long, hard-fought battle,” said Bess DeBetham, head of the Local Development Corporation of Laurelton, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens. “So many people were wondering what happened with this money.”

Pathmark had been blasted in the community for not paying into the fund since it opened the store three years ago, but the supermarket chain claimed that the task force to manage the money and the mechanism to pay into the fund was never set up, said Rich Savner, director of public affairs for Pathmark.

“We were asked about fulfilling a commitment and there were certain things that were to be established for us to fulfill that commitment that never were,” Savner said. “Those critics may not have had all the facts in front of them.”

Although the deal to create a community fund is unusual – in fact, this agreement is the only one of its kind for the supermarket chain – Pathmark is eager to work with the community, he said.

“We consider ourselves part of the fabric of every community we operate in, and we fully intend to comply with terms of agreement,” Savner said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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