2007-01-11 / Other News

Georgetown Waldbaum's Closing For Makeover & Asbestos Removal

By Neil S. Friedman

(Inset at right)Sign in window of Ralph Avenue Waldbaum's announces store will close next week for several months of renovations and asbestos removal.          Photos by Neil S. Friedman(Inset at right)Sign in window of Ralph Avenue Waldbaum's announces store will close next week for several months of renovations and asbestos removal. Photos by Neil S. Friedman Following months of speculation, the Waldbaum's supermarket in the Georgetowne Shopping Center on Ralph Avenue will close down late next week for renovations, not serious asbestos problems, according to a spokesperson for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (commonly known as A&P), the supermarket's corporate parent.

He said the store is scheduled to reopen in three to four months with a slightly different name - Waldbaum's Fresh - to highlight the chain's retooled image.

A few months ago an anonymous flyer was distributed in the area alerting consumers and nearby residents that asbestos, which has been linked to certain cancers and other ailments, had been discovered at the store, located at 2149 Ralph Avenue.

In the wake of the flyer's disturbing information, State Senator Carl Kruger, Assemblyman Alan Maisel and City Councilman Lew Fidler each got involved in determining that the level of asbestos was not an immediate health threat to shoppers or residents in the immediate vicinity.

A&P's Rick De Santa, senior director of corporate affairs, told the Courier Tuesday, that in the process of evaluating the store for the overhaul, it was discovered there was some asbestos found in the ceiling from when the building was first built years ago when the substance was commonly used before its health hazards were identified.

De Santa criticized the misleading content of the flyer, which stated, "After public pressure Waldbaum's admits there is an asbestos problem in our local store." De Santa said he never said to anyone that the store had "a major asbestos problem" as indicated in the unsigned handout.

The A&P executive said he tried several times, but failed, to contact or determine the circular's author. He also acknowledged that he was candid whenever he spoke with the three local politicians or their representatives about the asbestos situation.

De Santa explained, "It was determined that the level of asbestos discovered did not pose a danger to the public or our employees."

State Senator Carl Kruger's chief of staff Jason Koeppel told the Courier this week that the senator had talked several times to Waldbaum's representatives who assured him that the primary reason for closing "is due to extensive renovations that could cause safety concerns for customers" and not the potentially harmful substance.

De Santa further noted that before store renovations commence, the asbestos will be thoroughly removed, according to strict government guidelines that require the location to be painstakingly examined by environmental inspectors once it is completely eliminated.

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