In Brooklyn, an Echo of the Jamaica Plain Whole Foods Debate
There are differences — In Brooklyn, Whole Foods' plans for a store have dragged out for eight years.
For a vision of how the JP Whole Foods debate might have gone differently, look to Brooklyn.
On Tuesday, a city panel was to have decided whether to give a special permit for the organic grocer to build a two-story store in what the NY Times calls an "undeveloped area" of Brooklyn.
The JP Patch sister site, Bedford-Stuyvesant Patch, has also been following the controversy.
The debate in Brooklyn echoes the one we had here in JP after the grocer announced it would open a store in the space formerly occupied by Hi-Lo Foods. Take this paragraph, for instance, from Bed-Stuy Patch.
At a hearing in January, local manufacturers and artists voiced their opposition to the 52,000-square-foot supermarket, saying that Brooklyn’s industrial and creative industries should be preserved and that a big-box retailer would hurt local small businesses.
The NY Times reports that "a small but vocal opposition group says the project will hasten the end of affordability and enterprise in the industrial neighborhood."
There are key differences, however. The process in Brooklyn has dragged on for eight years, while in JP the store opened 10 months after the Gazette broke the story that they aimed to come. That may be partly because in JP, the company did not have to get any special permits. Groups like the JP Neighborhood Council, an elected, volunteer advisory board, had no real leverage, despite attempts to get the company to enter a Community Benefits Agreement.
Another difference is of scale. The JP store is on the small side at only 13,700 square feet. By contrast, the Brooklyn store would be gigantic — two stories and 52,000 square feet.
[Editor's note: A tip of the hat to JP resident Dax Bayard-Murray, who pointed out the Brooklyn story in a Facebook post to "We Are All Whole Foods."]