Whole Foods seeking more land for its Gowanus supermarket

The Brooklyn Paper
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Whole Foods could get the whole block.

The giant natural and organic food retailer is in talks to purchase two industrial sites on property adjacent to its planned store on Third Avenue and Third Street in Gowanus, the owner of one of the lots told The Brooklyn Papers.

If the purchases go through, they would more than double the size of Whole Foods real estate along Third Street, reaching the entire length between Third Avenue and the Gowanus Canal.

Meanwhile, the city Department of Sanitation — citing “character integrity issues” — this week closed one of the businesses operating next to the planned supermarket.

“Whether we want to leave or not, Whole Foods is going to own this block,” said Tony Cantilli, an owner of the Red Hook Crushers, which has recycled and sold building material on a one-acre piece of Third Street for the past 21 years.

Owners of the second lot, which houses All-Boro Building Supplies, did not return calls seeking comment.

Cantilli, who said his company was in talks with Whole Foods, blamed the retailer for the unexpected closure

“Let’s just say that Whole Foods is a very powerful poperty owner,” Cantilli said. “And if [Whole Foods] says they have problems with us, the city has problems with us.”

Whole Food denied Cantilli’s assertion. “This is an unfortunate rumor that is absolutely untrue,” said spokesman Fred Shank. “Whole Foods Market is focused on the operation of one one company: our own.”

Before the city’s Business Integrity Commission [BIC] recommended that Sanitation investigate the crusher, there had been just two violations on the site — one in 2003 for “dust conditions,” and another in 1999 for leaving concrete bricks and other debris on the sidewalk.

Sanitation denied that Whole Foods had anything to do with its decision to close the plant.

“There were character and integrity issues related to operation,” said Department of Sanitation spokesman Keith Mellis. “We investigated, took some steps and eventually reached the end of the road.”

The BIC did not return phone calls seeking comment for this article.

Whole Foods is envisioning a glistening store at their Third Avenue and Third Street site — a marked departure for the two-acre lot, a junkyard when Red Hook Crushers came to the neighborhood in 1985.

But as previously reported in The Brooklyn Papers, the urbane grocer came onto some unexpected complications this fall when underground gasoline storage tanks were found on the site. Now the store’s opening has been delayed until 2008.

Plans released last year show a 42,000-square foot building with a large underground kitchen and food preparation area. In the fall, cleanup of the site was slowed when underground storage tanks were found buried on the site.

Currently, the Massachusetts-based retailer is revising its design, according to a spokesman for the company.

Spokesman Shank declined to comment on how new acreage could affect their building plans.

“Whole Foods Market is constantly looking at sites for possible new store locations,” said Shank.

Red Hook Crushers was the last business of its type in Brooklyn. It attracted 75 delivery trucks a day and produced between 500 and 1000 cubic yards of mixed aggregate — dirt, brick and concrete used for paving streets and building.

Updated 2:57 am, December 11, 2013
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