The Whole Foods Market in Gowanus is using the bike lane and sidewalk that run along its side as a loading dock, blocking the path with forklifts, trucks, and pallets, say irked neighbors and cyclists.
A musician who lives around the corner from the high-end grocer claims the store’s unloading obstructs the Third Avenue paths nearly every day and sometimes into the evening. The congestion shows a gaping hole in the store’s planning and proves why the city should have never let Big Kale get the zoning variance to build such a huge facility, the longtime resident contended, saying it has ruined that side of the street for him.
“It’s pretty chaotic over there, with trucks unloading and not taking care where they do it — and sometimes multiple trucks,” said Martin Bisi. “I’ve actually stopped walking on that side because of it.”
Park Slope cyclist and road-safety gadfly Doug Gordon snapped a photograph of a Whole Foods forklift driving over a bike lane on the afternoon of April 28. Gordon said he has seen the same thing happen a few times over the last month, but a spokesman for the craft-beer-and-prosciutto dispensary claimed that Gordon’s snapshot showed a one-time occurrence and compared the forklift to a car backing out of a driveway.
“It was an unfortunate incident, but it was a one-off incident and it happens,” Michael Sinatra said. “There is a lot of activity that goes on in the loading dock, but we work hard to make sure that bike lane is clear.”
But another Park Slope cycling advocate argued that Whole Foods is using a public space for a private function and that the company could have easily put its loading bays on its lot. The organic-centric grocer should work with the Department of Transportation to rejigger Third Avenue so that bike-riders’ right of way is preserved, the activist said.
“It’s disappointing no one raised this as an issue before the building was built,” said Alex Knight. “As of right now, it’s less safe than it was before they opened and that needs to change.”