Monday, November 11, 2013

Where's it all going?

It looks like NO711 is headed towards a racially divided face-off. NO711 is 100% white and mostly middle-class. Store employees are neither. 

Two months ago, when the opening seemed inevitable, I asked 7-Eleven Corp if they'd be willing to give back to the community. Their public relations consultant agreed. I suggested engaging with youth services, men's shelters, services for abused spouses and healthy food services. Together we began looking for options. But, as one local social service director explained to me, the social service organizations here depend on the good will of the local community, so it is unlikely that any service will collaborate with 7-Eleven as long as a local group like NO711 opposes it. 

Meanwhile, the 7-Eleven store opened despite a stop work order. Apparently 7-Eleven feels that their illegally placed refrigerator units and industrial fans are the building owner Jared Kushner's problem, not theirs. That's a low blow for 7-Eleven, but they've got a high commercial rent to pay, and with the rent Kushner's getting from them, it's even lower of Kushner not to resolve the stop work order immediately. But what does he care?

The store will, following standard procedure, give its outdated foods to a church soup kitchen, in this case the church on Avenue B.

So the store is here, so is NO711, an ugly race confrontation is imminent, and no community give-back beyond the pro forma. 

At a meeting with the NO711 group in June, I let the group know that I didn't want to be involved beyond cutting the checks for the grant that I got for them as the block association treasurer. I support NO711 as neighbors, but years ago I recognized that the neighborhood as it is today is nothing that I beleive strongly enough about to work to preserve.  It's a gentrified neighborhood, belonging moslty to youth of privilege. I accept that reality. I stay here only because I have an affordable apartment a block away from a park and a pleasant library I enjoy, and within walking distance of Chinatown and the East River, and I know this place and many of its people of whom I am fond. 

In September, the 11th Street ABC Block Association board asked 7-Eleven to meet with the block. They wanted to meet with our board alone (presumably to gain the credibility of having met with the block association) but would not commit to meeting with the block (presumably because it would be a public meeting and many of the explanations of their business model might not look good to the press). When we insisted on an open block meeting, they asked to meet with me alone, not as a representative of the Block Association or NO711. I agreed. That's when we got started on a community give-back. I wish it would go further. 

Lately my feelings have been all over the place. Would a zoning restriction on chain stores save the local butcher? Probably not. It would save New York for upscale restaurants. That'd be great for tourists who look to NY for a change from suburbia, but I don't feel that as something worth fighting for. I don't feel proud of washing my hands of all this, and I wish 7-Eleven had backed out long ago, but I don't see the situation now going towards good for anyone. The corporation appears to be still willing to give back to the community. But the residents around the store are unhappy and you can't blame them. 


shmnyc said...


Greetings. Which organizations are refusing to take food/money from 7-Eleven?

With food stamp and unemployment benefits being cut, and food banks running out of food, it's hard to believe that any organization that provides food to people who need it would reject assistance from 7-Eleven. Or that the church on Avenue B would agree to accept expired food but not fresh.

rob said...

According to the 7-Eleven rep, it's not "fresh" food in the sense of prepared for the soup kitchen. It's foodstuffs that the store will not keep on its shelves any longer, food that would otherwise be trashed. I might better have written "excessed" food. I don't know exactly what their "excess" policy denotes. Is it unused daily pizza? Is it potato chips approaching its package expiration? In any case, my description was not intended to imply anything underhanded on their part, and I think there's nothing underhanded in it, because this is a company store, not a franchise store, so the company couldn't evade any responsibility for any scandal. But food donation is a matter of company policy, and that was not part of my 'negotiation' with them -- they mentioned it to me for my information as part of their pre-exisitng policy. What I was interested in was not at all food donations -- since they already do that. I was asking for an engagement with, specifically, services for abused spouses, youth services for kids a risk, mens shelters/services for the homeless or substance abusers and quality fresh food services like fresh farm shares to benefit low income residents.

shmnyc said...

I didn't think anyone was being underhanded. I was questioning the community organizations saying they wouldn't accept badly-needed resources from 7-Eleven.
And yes, 7-Eleven doesn't really have "fresh" food.

boweryboy said...

Rob, you really do not have to fight 7-11, but you don't have to help them either. The minute you start down the road of stipulations, you've fallen into their trap, and you can no longer feign opposition.

I hated when the Gap opened on St. Marks, but we survived that, and it's long gone. So too shall this pass. But my only question is: what food are you wanting them to donate, even if stale, that you would be proud to deliver to the needy?

Old Ho-Hos aren't doing anyone any good, but I'm not seeing much healthy food there. Sometimes a vendor with crappy food might fill a void that gives a vendor with healthy food a pass from doing the right thing. 7-11 is not an isolated enterprise as long as there is some Community left whether you like what it's become or not. I'm not so happy with it myself, but I still have my pride.

rob said...

Hey boweryboy -- My 'negotiation' (it was just suggesting, since I wasn't representing anyone but myself) with 7-Eleven was not about food donations. It was about engagement with services for youth at risk, services for abused spouses, men's shelters and fresh food services for the low-income. "Engagement" means a long-term relationship w/funding, including coordination or expansion or structural/physical assistance, among others (not donating food).

Driving out the 7-Eleven on A will not bring a center for youth education, youth recreation, youth theater and arts, something that the voiceless in our community really needs. More likely, the 7-Eleven would be replaced with another upscale restaurant or cafe. In this, I side with shm, in case I haven't been plain.

The food donations are 7-Eleven's model. I didn't ask them for it; I didn't ask them about it; I didn't find them a church; I didn't look for one. That's their thing. Saves them a bit on garbage collection, as a friend pointed out. But chips are chips.


Rob, though you're onto something, you missed the mark BIG time by comparing the racial diversity of the No 7-Eleven group to that of the store employees. Apples and Slurpees. The accurate comparison would be the racial diversity of the bodegas vs the 7-Eleven and the last time I checked, bodegas weren't overflowing with white folks behind the counter.

Follow the money! Who cares if unicorns ran the 7-Eleven, because you know where the money goes? Back to white, Texan Republican fat cats. And the last time I checked, they didn't need you, or anyone frankly, advocating for them.

rob said...

My discussion with 711 occurred when the store was scheduled to open and our weekly protest had dwindled to exactly me and the NO711 leader and no one else showing up. Where was everyone all spring, summer and all through September?

Under those circumstances, it was rational to negotiate.

Early on, NO711 met with a local bodega owner. They said they weren't worried about their customer base, but they did agree that 711 didn't belong.

I would like to see NO711 promote a city-wide zoning change like the one I suggested for them. But if I had to choose between a successful youth service and a bodega -- no offense to the handful of bodega owners here -- I'd favor the youth.

Stiglitz, in his latest "Price of Inequality" points out that a consequence of inequality is the lack of social interaction between the extremely wealthy and everyone else. I see something similar in this neighborhood: middle-class older whites fighting over the presence of younger whites of privilege, while the low income communities here are unheard -- not even included in the discourse and issues of the day.

Has anyone from NO711 taken the trouble to find out whether the employees in the 711 are local or not? If they're not, that'd' be good for your case. Have you asked to sit down with them for a talk so there's an understanding of one another? Or is it going to be a race fight? Do you think the local bodegas will come out to support NO711? You'll need them, but they haven't so far.

bwryboy said...

Thanks for struggling with this issue and for sharing it here. Your work on behalf of this community is always appreciated, if not always acknowledged.

I'm not sure that we can turn back the clock around here, not sure we really want to; but I hope we can at least re-direct the future a lil'.

For me, I don't see that "showing up" in the streets is very effective any more. Seems too 60's to me.

I'm more for pro-bono lawyers, lobbyists, accountants, and basic administation work to affect change. So, the zoning ideas seem more possible to me, and with the new administation coming in, there may be more help in the near future.

My one sad example is to look at how much Margaret Chin has already achieved since her re-election: BID in soho, S. St. Seaport highrise, new development on the Mulberry St. Garden, and her new term hasn't even started yet. I hate them all, but imagine if she was actually on the side of her voters.

Maybe there's more hope for Rosie. We just need more people making phone calls, sending emails, writing letters, and shmoozing her donors-!. And leave the marching to Pleney or whatever old school types that are still hanging on, because I don't think it will be the underserved minorities and youths who will help their own cause -- they've got enough to deal with just getting by.

Clarence Wallace said...

All the huffing and puffing going on about this whole 7-11 thing in the community have made me realize a trend going on with the long established and out of touch villagers. The muddled messaging and hysterical non-sensical demonstrations and picketing is the exact same exhaustive and hopeless bitterness I have recently seen from the long tenured Stuy town activists-- who apparently think they own the property and should be given the same rights as owners-- I have never seen such a disdain for an entire group of people i.e. students, recent grads etc... and no seems to mind that TSP is a disgusting place for the most part. Why can't these types of social movers pour some passion and their apparently abundant time into a cause which could actually be widely embraced and stop persecuting contributing and productive businesses and the law abiding residents who have come here to better themselves and ultimately seize on the american dream. It still exists I do believe. I really can't seem to understand why certain social movements are anchored by self-serving motivations such as the stuy town people organizing hysterically over the prospect that their $800/month rent for 1300 sq ft could go up to $820.

Anonymous said...

Omg i haven't been 2 a Bodega since they stopped selling drugs, they had some great coke, l

Anonymous said...

Omg i haven't been 2 a Bodega since they stopped selling drugs, they had some great coke, l