CB 11 Officials Condemn Racist Waldbaums Backlash: ‘Italians Were Not The First Group Here’

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CB 11 December

Photo by Rachel Silberstein/Bensonhurst Bean

Our reporting on the closure of the New Utrecht Avenue Waldbaums after 37 years, and the supermarket’s subsequent sale to the Asian grocer Jmart, unearthed simmering anxieties about demographic changes in Bensonhurst. In some cases, comments on social media and our site turned explicitly hateful towards Asians.

Community Board 11 (CB11) officials condemned the racist rhetoric at yesterday’s monthly meeting. District Chair William Guarinello expressed in strong terms that, while he understood the frustration neighbors felt over the purchase of Waldbaums by Jmart, such remarks were unacceptable.

“I would like to say on behalf of the community board that we do not tolerate any sort of insensitive comments,” he said. “Especially the kind that I have heard about on social media and on petitions. Italians were not the first group here, before us was the Norwegians and before them the Dutch. All we can do as a community is talk to the owner about making sure that they assimilate into our community and make people feel comfortable shopping there for their essentials. We have to cut the rhetoric and reach across the aisle.”

When a neighbor expressed concerns about noise and construction debris at the supermarket site, Councilman Mark Treyger also weighed in, turning the focus to the 70 out-of-work Waldbaums workers.

“Demographic changes enrich our neighborhood,” said the councilman. “I appreciate the comments that the board has made on the issue. I will talk to anyone that has any problems with construction and noise. It is more pressing that the employees of the Walbaums found out about losing their jobs though the media rather than through the store.”

The Walbaums deal is so divisive, that some Chinese American neighbors say the vitriolic online response has exposed how their some of their typically polite non-Asian friends feel towards them.

Stanley Ng, a longtime Dyker Heights resident who serves on Community Education Council 20 (CEC 20), told us how a Facebook post (below) from his neighbor of 10 years effectively ended their friendship.

Stanley Ng saw his neighbor and friend of 10 years post this comment to her Facebook wall. (Screenshot)

Stanley Ng saw his neighbor and friend of 10 years post this comment to her Facebook wall. (Screenshot)

When Ng confronted her about the post and the term “FRIGGING ASIANS,” he says the woman first tried to justify her comments, and then just deleted the post.

“Well, on Facebook, nothing gets deleted forever,” said Ng.

Additional reporting by Benjamin Cohn.

  • Sean F

    Well done, and well said, CB 11. I rescind my earlier comment about our CB. Clearly they are paying attention to the community as it exists and is evolving, and my perception of them was mistaken. I apologize to any members who may have been offended by my dismissive statements about the CB.

  • Racism.reciprocated

    You would think these people would be smart enough to hide their real name or faces before they post. I guess they are too busy thinking with their mouth rather than their brain. Typical guidos.

    • Sean F

      Actually, most of the ones who post on this site do so under cutesy Internet handles. This speaks more to animal cunning or lack of conviction in their beliefs than any actual intellect. The word is “trolls”.

      • Truthhurts

        I think you are trying too hard to sound intelligent. 90percent of the people reading this are Italians and they’re not the brightest. I think your trying to call me a troll but you like the rest of them need to read between the lines. Racism is well alive just look at the Super Bowl. I don’t need to sugarcoat it, just like how Italians are so vocal with their hate for the Chinese.

        • Sean F

          To the best of my knowledge, I didn’t specifically call you anything. An Internet troll is, by definition, “a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.” That pretty much covers nearly all of the racist posts on these blogs.

  • Drew B

    I don’t hide my face and I uphold all of my comments about this matter.

    With that said, quite simply, if the neighborhood is protesting this decision, there is obvious signs of rifts in the community. Stanley Ng cannot answer a protest with a protest…let alone with a biased opinion because he is Asian, just because he is some Community Board. I could understand backlash from a few individuals, but there is obviously a small minority of us that are, by all means necessary, against this deal to open a Jmart.

    This doesn’t mean I am a racist or bigot. It means that I have reasons beyond race as to why I feel it would a bad decision to open another large Asian mart, economically.

    I guess the only step left is to attend these Community Board meetings myself, because they are doing a satisfactory job of keeping everyone in the community happy.

    • Sean F

      The neighborhood isn’t protesting this decision (which isn’t a “decision” but a legal business transaction). A vocal minority are protesting it, mostly on racial grounds. Very few people from the neighborhood have made a cogent economic argument against the store, and clearly it doesn’t matter since American capitalism doesn’t care what the neighborhood thinks. The majority in the neighborhood (being Asian) is probably either in favor of JMart, or holds no opinion either way.

      “by all means necessary”? These are enormously troubling words in any discussion in which race plays a part. By those words, you are saying that you would support an effort to picket the store and impede employees and shoppers once it opens. Or to sabotage the renovations. Possibly taking up arms and/or using explosives to deny the store’s rightful owner from opening his business.

      At this stage, there is nothing CB11 can do to stop the store. JMart has legally purchased the store, and clearly has the appropriate licenses to operate in New York City.

      And who knows? It’s possible that a large chain Asian market like JMart might put some of the Asian mom-and-pop stores out of business, just as big chains like CVS and Rite Aid have done to other mom-and-pop stores. JMart may actually give you the chance for more diverse options in other locations in the neighborhood.

      • Emerald5Forever

        I am one of the Asians who feel that another Chinese supermarket here is unnecessary. The entire neighborhood has become supersaturated by them, quite frankly, but as you said here, capitalism doesn’t care about neighborhoods. To be precise, whoever has the dough has the say. It’s always been that way.

        • Truthhurts

          Exactly this is capitalism at work. I am praying for the day these self entitled brats realizes that and stop with their pointless petition, protests, and rants.

          • Sean F

            They won’t. They are “real Americans”, so they must know more about capitalism than we non-Americans.

          • Emerald5Forever

            True, Asian-Americans are perpetual foreigners…that is the sad reality.

            I laugh at how these “real Americans” act so elevated…weren’t their predecessor also immigrants? They also faced discrimination from Anglo-Americans and weren’t considered white, but they persevered and made a good community for themselves. However, now that another wave of immigrants has come here, they act and behave ignorantly, when they themselves were once the undesirable group…total hypocrisy.

            If you ask me though, it is a pecking order: the Asians took their spots, and they moved themselves up.

          • Drew B

            I don’t have any hatred or resentment towards the Asian community. I have many Asian friends myself. But I draw the line when you open 3 Rub-N-Tug’s on my block and I constantly see desperate and suspicious men enter these places.

            Asians can take any spot they want, they paid for it and earned it, but don’t force disgusting habits from your culture upon me and my family. I shouldn’t have to explain why a ‘Beauty Spa’ is open at 11PM and why there are so many like it that have curtains hiding the inside to my children.

          • Emerald5Forever

            Let me just say those massage parlors are not a reflection of real Chinese culture.

            I doubt you have no hatred or resentment toward Chinese, because you contradict yourself again, by denying that you have no hatred and then blasting Asians for their disgusting habits.

          • Erik

            I blame the clients, if there weren’t so many horndogs who could beat off for free instead of paying for it there wouldnt be anyone selling it

          • Drew B

            A ‘real’ American is a Native American – and there less than ~1% of them that make up Bensonhurst’s demographic. As for mastery in economics and capitalism, don’t speak on what capitalism is if all you can do is spit out a Wikipedia definition.

            The same people here who boast about their knowledge of Capitalism are the same people who are probably voting for Bernie Sanders….complete oxymorons.

          • Emerald5Forever

            I think he purposely put quotations around the term to show the fallacy of it, because some people who aren’t Native Americans believe that they are real Americans.

          • Sean F

            Correct.

          • Sean F

            I’m pretty sure I didn’t use a Wikipedia (or any other) definition of capitalism. I did use it in regard to trolls because it’s simpler to grab a (surprisingly) correct definition than spend time explaining the obvious to the oblivious.

            As for whom I’m voting in November, America uses a secret ballot system. It’s none of your business, but you might be very surprised if I went into my voting habits in detail. Too many assumptions, Drew.

          • Drew B

            Nobody really should care who you are voting for, that is personal preference. I was alluding to the fact that people don’t understand the facts. AKA voting for Bernie Sanders, a Democratic Socialist, when you are a firm support of Capitalism – it just don’t make sense. And I was only using it as an example, trust me, I wouldn’t single out a spotlight for you, especially you, or anyone.

          • Sean F

            Understood and appreciated, Drew.

          • jonni2

            what about the people who were here before the indians? why do you assume they were the first ones here?

        • May Yeung

          Werd. while I appreciate Chinese restaurants, I like the diversity of Bhurst more…

          Also, that Walmart was kinda icky before.. I can only imagine it in Chinese hands… = X

      • Drew B

        ‘By all means necessary,’ in my book at least, means doing everything I legally can to make sure that my voice is heard, just like many others – who cannot go on the internet and post their opinions publicly due to either being computer illiterate or shy/nervous to do so.

        There are way to have your voice heard without being racially prolific about it. If the community doesn’t like it, they don’t have to shop there, but at least give us some equivalent chances. Give us some equivalent of an Asian market catered at the non-Asians in the neighborhood. There are still a very healthy part of non-Asians in the neighborhood who’s options have slowly been dwindling due to the recent decade’s Asian influx.

        • Sean F

          “by any means necessary” is not limited to legal means. If you meant that, you should have said it. Otherwise, you sound like a white Malcolm X or Black Panther.

          Depending on which area of Bensonhurst such folks are in, how about Net Cost? How about Key Food? How about Food Dynasty? How about Stop & Shop? How about Shop Rite? How about the former Met on 20th Ave (I don’t know what brand it is now)? How about Cherry Hill Gourmet Market? How about Ideal on 20th? How about Meats Supreme? How about Frank & Sal’s? That’s just off the top of my head, and not even addressing the non-Asian produce markets. There are plenty of non-Asian shopping options in the neighborhood.

          • Drew B

            You’re the one saying I have too many assumptions, meanwhile you’re painting me out to be some kind of dictator…you don’t know me so you can label whatever you want. All the places you mentioned I can place on one single city block. You wanna go name-for-name and compare how many Asian stores there are to non-Asian? Can you fit all of the Asian stores on one block? I can show you multiple blocks on 18th avenue that are nothing BUT Asian. This is not being racial, these are facts.

            You also say depending on which area of Bensonhurst a person is from….If I want to go get authentic Italian food at a Salumeria, I need to walk 14 blocks. However, if I wanted to get Asian food, I can walk one block….in ANY direction. There is a difference that either you’re ignorant to accepting or you just don’t see. The difference is that multi-cultural stores are FINE, but don’t monopolize the entire neighborhood with food from one area of the world. In that case, I want Australian food, Scandinavian food, Middle Eastern food, etc, and NOT just one store in a 15 block radius.

          • Sean F

            I made no assumptions. All I did was ask if you actually meant the words you used. You say you want to stand up and speak in front of the CB on behalf of the community, and that you “I don’t have any hatred or resentment towards the Asian community”, yet you use terminology that has been racially loaded for 50 years. If you want to be the voice of the community, even if I disagree with your position, I would expect you’d use more considered rhetoric.

            As for the stores, you wrote: “Give us some equivalent of an Asian market catered at the non-Asians in the neighborhood.” So, I gave you a number of equivalent options. You simply have to face it that the Asian are out-numbering the Caucasians in the neighborhood. Clearly, the shopping habits of the non-Asian people here aren’t sufficient to support non-Asian supermarkets in any significant numbers. If they were, we’d still have Waldbaums.

            I get what you seem to want to accomplish, but you can do it better without the racial rhetoric.

          • King Mills

            Waldbaums is gone because it was literally garbage. Always had to check to see if items were expired or not before buying. And the frozen storage units always had freezer-burn. Makes me gag thinking about the filth on the ceiling tiles, floors and shelves. I’m glad the Pathmark on 61st is gone too… same story.

          • Sean F

            I agree. It was a pure case of supply and demand. The economics of those stores simply no longer works in Bensonhurst. All the more reason to support the remaining stores, and encourage successful replacements.

          • OneObservantOne

            Surely you know that the parent company of Pathmark and Waldbaums went out of business. It had nothing in particular to do with those two stores.

          • Sean F

            I don’t know much about the history of the parent company’s financial woes, but those two stores were going downhill for some time. Whether that was mismanagement at the store level or corporate, neither of those stores were high performing, and the community looked elsewhere. I suspect that is why there wasn’t a flurry of bidding for those locations.

            What is happening with the PM on 61st? Does anyone know?

          • Smoonyc

            Manichevitz Family LLC won the auction for the 61st Street PM – and at least for the other PM in Park Slope that they won, they weren’t going to replace it with another supermarket so now there’s even less options for groceries here than before!

          • Drew B

            What is my racially loaded rhetoric? Show me what is offending you over a topic that revolves around race. Which rhetoric would you prefer, Sean?

            I can’t be half as racially loaded as some of the things I have seen on here.

          • Sean F

            You used the phrase “by any means necessary”. That phrase was beloved of the militant black-power movement, and beloved of the militant Islamic movement today. It is highly racially loaded.

            Modify it to “any legal means necessary”, as you said you really meant it, and I’ve got your back. Otherwise, your speech is as abhorrent as those other groups.

  • trololo

    I can appreciate(but am surprised) CB11 standing up and basically saying “stop being an idiot”.

    • Drew B

      I’m still not impressed until they actually act, rather than speak

      • Sean F

        My question remains: how should they act? The CB has no legal authority to stop the sale of the Waldbaum’s property. What, exactly, do you want them to do?

        • King Mills

          They have the ability to keep the Health Department inside that stores location 24/7/365. They also have the ability to enforce hiring practices & other labor laws. Better make sure no illegals are working inside and that everything is up to code and people being paid properly with the right benefits. Also that their food labeling is up to code. It is U.S. Law that all ingredients of ANY packaged food sold in this country be written in English. If not, the State can confiscate the items.

          • Sean F

            No, they can’t. City Charter mandates that each Community Board can only (1) “Consider the needs of the Community District that it serves;and (2) Cooperate with, consult, assist and advise elected governmental officials about any matter that “relates to the welfare of the Community District and its residents.”

            They hold no legislative or enforcement authority. They serve purely as an advisory unit, solely at the municipal level. They can’t do anything about food labels or other Federal regulations.

          • King Mills

            They can alert the Health Deapartment!!! That’s what their job is. To alert the officials & proper authorities!!

            And a community board member better be looking out for the welfare of its people alright… Food labeling is a major public health safety issue!!

          • K

            I’m confused. What kinda of package food isn’t labeled? They’re considerate enough have the ingredients in both language imo.

          • Sean F

            There is a very big difference between “they can alert the Health Department” and “They have the ability to keep the Health Department inside that stores location 24/7/365”. You can alert the Health Dept, and I can alert the Health Dept, and it probably has just as little influence on where the Health Dept assigns their under-manned force of inspectors as if the CB did it. But, no CB can make any other agency do anything.

            Food labeling is a Federal matter. All the local Health Dept can do is police cleanliness and general conditions. They can’t do anything at all about food labeling. Totally different jurisdictions.

          • Sean F

            Correction: Jurisdiction over grocery stores appears to be held at the State level, by the Dept of Agriculture and Markets, not the local Dept of Health. The DoH has jurisdiction over restaurants and food service establishments.

  • Dawn Gannon Tozzi

    Typical politically correct response from the CB!

    • Drew B

      I agree, they use political correctness because they are fearful of their civil service sector jobs being at jeopardy

  • Rager

    Finally someone spoke against these ignorant prejudice minorities. That backlash makes the neighborhood look SO bad when in reality its one of the most diverse areas in the city besides Chinese there are many Eastern Europeans, Middle Easterns, Hispanics and the older generation of Italians and Jews here. Sadly people will look at social media and think the neighborhood is as crappy as it was in the 80s.

  • BachelorsButtons

    First off, if I were Stanley Ng, I would’ve ended that friendship on the basis of sloppy grammar. I mean, don’t complain about stuff not being in English and then go and use lousy grammar. What an embarrassment!

    Secondly, a supermarket is a supermarket. Who gives a damn who owns it? I expect that this supermarket will sell all the typical American mass-produced garbage as well as, apparently, Asian (which means, what? Chinese?) mass-produced garbage.

    You don’t like that, then go shop somewhere else. There are plenty of other places. I know the stores that I like and I play my part to keep them in business. Everyone else here should do the same instead of demeaning their neighbors from behind the safety of computer screens. The stores that get the business stay in business. Simple.

    Anyway, life goes on. Trying to stop demographic change is like trying to stop the ocean with a rope of sand. In other words, you’re wasting your time. This neighborhood has been a constant wave of change for the past 100+ years, nothing has stayed the same for too long.

    If you want to stay above water, then ride the wave, my friend. Smile at your neighbors, help one another out, and spend your dollars in the stores that make this place special. And, above all, dress your best!

  • Carrier

    Sounds as if some people are hateful toward Italians….I mean, calling people “guilds” and stating they are “brainless”? Generalizing? You sound pretty stupid, yourself…There are all kinds of predjuice, I guess…Would it hurt to have a supermarket that could cater to everyone?

  • jae34

    If the area was lucrative for non-Asian markets they would’ve placed a bid but obviously they utilize their resources and brains first unlike said racists. Why do you think Wegmans their first NYC store @ DB/Navy Yard instead of Bensonhurst?

  • May Yeung

    LOL, On the other hand, I do appreciate the usage of “frigging”…

  • Chinese27plusyrsinbhurst

    Money talks. Whoever has the money will do whatever he/she/organization/whatever legally see fit. Its that simple. It’s not even about the neighborhood, the WORLD is about money. You have money? You have an idea? You are game to do it. Maybe non-asian markets tried to bid but was outbid? Maybe the non-asian markets didn’t bother because of the different demographics? Who knows…Am I for JMart? Not necessarily, considering there’s a couple in the 5 block radius. But, JMart won the bid. That’s that. Heck, I want a pizza store! I hate traveling “X” amount of blocks for it, but that’s just how the neighborhood has changed and will continue being a revolving door of change.There’s still a Food Dynasty.