Park Slope Food Coop vs. The Soviet Union / How the Brooklyn grocery store reminds of the ´Evil Empire,´ only with better bean sprouts (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS OP-ED) BY ALEXANDER NAZARYAN 03/28/12)
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Democracy was the word I most often kept hearing at the Park Slope
Food Coop’s contentious Tuesday night vote on whether to consider a
ban on Israeli products.
Proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement argued
that it was only democratic to have all 16,000 of the progressive
supermarket’s members vote on the issue. Meanwhile, the pro-Israel
contingent countered that Israel was itself a democracy and any
attempts to compare it to apartheid South Africa needed to cease for
But another word kept occurring to me: communism. No, I don’t mean
the lazy Park Slope stereotype of a neighborhood rife with Brown
graduates who vote Green. I mean actual communism, marching in
colonnades down Red Square.
Yes, I just compared a supermarket that sells organic arugula to the
so-called “Evil Empire” of Lenin and Stalin. But the comparison is
not an outlandish one. This is a grocery store that offers "amnesty"
to lapsed members, summoning images of some refusenik returning to
his Moscow apartment from the Gulag.
I left the Soviet Union some two decades ago, having spent my
formative years in Leningrad. And I left the Park Slope Food Coop in
the late 2000s, having had enough of its long lines and mandated
monthly work shifts, not to mention a pervasive rudeness that one
might expect to hear from a Chelyabinsk boor, but not a woman decked
out in Kate Spade and pushing a Bugaboo stroller down an aisle of
I very briefly rejoined the coop this week purely in order to hear
the Israeli debate (the general meeting at which that debate was held
is members-only; and though press was forbidden, I ventured forth in
the pursuit of truth, as did fellow journalists from other outlets).
The proposal was voted down last night; I watched the vote and then
left the Coop for what I think will be the last time. Somehow, the
squat grocery store at 782 Union St. reminds me a little too much of
the socialist paradise — in the worst possible way.
To be fair, it started as a good idea. In 1973, 56 years after the
Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, a group of
well-meaning red diaper babies in Brooklyn decided to start a grocery
store that presciently coalesced around revolutionary ideas about
eating that, much later, Michael Pollan would make famous. They ate
well before eating well was hip.
They would buy local and organic, from small farms when they could.
They would buy responsibly, too. In its first year, the coop refused
to buy sugar from South Africa. Later, Coca-Cola would be removed
from coop shelves for “exploitative” activities in Latin America. And
both meat and alcohol were not stocked initially in deference to
members’ cultural tastes. (© Copyright 2012 NYDailyNews.com. 03/28/12)
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