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Syracuse mayoral candidates respond to closing of Nojaim Brothers supermarket

Tom Magnarelli
Laura Lavine, the Republican candidate running for mayor of Syracuse, in front of the Nojaim supermarket.

Republican Syracuse mayoral candidate Laura Lavine is blaming independent candidate Ben Walsh and elected officials for the closing of the nearly 100-year-old, family-owned, Nojaim Brothers Supermarket in the city. Tax breaks were given to a competing Price Rite grocery store about a mile away.

Standing in front of the Nojaim store, Lavine questioned why tax breaks were given to another grocery store so close to this one.

“We need to stop giving benefits to people when our long standing family businesses are getting crushed," Lavine  said. "Employees here walk the groceries across the street to some of the residents. That is a huge loss for us.”

It’s also the loss of about 50 jobs. The opening of the Price Rite earlier this year, in an area considered a food desert, was meant to show a coming together of financial help from the city, county and state according to then-Executive Director of the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency, Ben Walsh. But now, its opening is seen as one of the reasons for the Nojaim store closing.

Walsh said he also helped the Nojaim store expand in 2014.    

“The idea of trying to pit neighborhoods against each other or suggest certain projects have impacted that, that’s not a productive conversation to have," Walsh said. "We need to focus on filling the gap when Nojaim closes.”

Democratic mayoral candidate Juanita Perez Williams agrees. In one part of a provided statement, Perez Williams said instead of assigning blame, the city needs to focus on making sure people have access to fresh food.

"If Nojaim’s Market is no longer in a position to fill this role, then we must find another solution, ideally one that can serve both the Near West Side and a growing population of apartment dwellers living downtown," Perez Williams said.

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins said public housing across the street and in the surrounding can still provide the demand for food and other goods within walking distance. The Nojaim supermarket is expected to close its doors next month.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.