Plans for an overhaul of the Merrick Mall Stop & Shop — local residents frequently bemoan the condition of the property — have been delayed for so long that some its neighbors can scarcely believe that construction work is now under way.
Nevertheless, they say, the chain-link fences, heavy machinery and men in neon vests and hard hats outside Stop & Shop are good signs, and they look forward to seeing the work completed.
Barry Fox, president of the Merrick Park Homeowners Association, who has for many years advocated for Stop & Shop to renovate its store in a manner acceptable to the residents of Merrick Woods, said that he and his neighbors are “thrilled to death” that construction has at last begun —generally speaking.
Years of delays and bruised trust have made him cautious. “We’re going to be on guard for any revisions in the plans, because they’ve revised the plan 12 times,” Fox said. But he acknowledged that homeowners’ relationship with Robert Bencivenga, Stop & Shop’s senior director of real estate for the New York metropolitan area, has been good in recent years.
“We can say that this was not the original plan,” Fox said. “The original plan was to demolish [2174 Hewlett Ave., an office to the south of Stop & Shop] and to build a Super Stop & Shop that was going to stretch the entire block … This is an abbreviated plan, which has all the elements that we asked for, with the exception of the fact that we wanted a 10 o’clock closing, and we did agree to an 11 o’clock closing … I have all the agreements that we made. They’re about three pages long. And these things all came about in the last 10 years.”
Randy Shotland, president of the Merrick Chamber of Commerce, also agreed that the renovation was long overdue. He said he it would help improve central Merrick.
“They have to redo a lot of things in that store. They have to redo the whole parking lot,” Shotland said.
Richard Cincotta, owner American Coin and Stamp Brokerage on Merrick Avenue in downtown Merrick, said he was glad to see the former Escapes nightclub behind Stop & Shop being torn down.
“I was wondering when they were going to get something done over there, after all these years,” Cincotta said. “As far as the area, it can only help bring more people in. It’s a little bit of a nuisance … back there at the moment, but that will end … I think when they get done with it, it’ll be certainly for the betterment of the community.”