It's Just Not Nice

By Dale Kaplan
Designed by Alex Hochberg

Is it too naive to say “it’s just not nice” when it comes to describing New York real estate development, probably, but I’ll say it anyway? According to many Dumboites these words describe Front and York’s decision to lease a 12,350 sq. ft. double level CVS right across the street from Dumbo’s beloved pharmacy and beauty retailer City Chemist.

Excessive dust, construction noise, traffic lane reductions, and a disappearing sidewalk resulted in a conglomeration of minor and major inconveniences that were felt by both the residential and business communities of Dumbo. Those located right across the street from the construction site, such as City Chemist. were the most affected by the disruptions.

As the project has come to completion and as the green construction walls have descended. City Chemist will soon be confronted by the generic national chain store as their new across the street neighbor. I’ll say it again, “It’s just not nice”

While the beloved pharmacy always had a stellar reputation in the areas of customer service and product curation Dumboites became even more respectful and loyal to the neighborhood pharmacy during the pandemic. Amanda Pizzo, the supervising pharmacist and her staff have always treated the people of Dumbo like family. Amanda was the one who administered the vaccines to the young, old and middle aged without causing even a wince of pain. When the boosters became available, the pharmacy called those who were eligible and there she was, syringe in hand. We all sat by the prescription counter with her watchful eye making sure nobody had an allergic reaction.and she relayed the fears of those with any type of injection phobia with kindness and understanding.

Bob Gerland, 85, a professor of philosophy at NYU for 65 years and a former Dumbo resident currently living in downtown Brooklyn still makes the uphill trek to City Chemist with his Grand Pyrenees puppy, Molly, for all of his pharmacy needs. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else” he stated. “Amanda and the crew are terrific.”

Referring to Front and York’s retail choices, the dealmaker Jason Schreiber has been quoted as stating the following , “They help strengthen the dynamic retail collection in the neighborhood.” While this is certainly true of the other new retail tenants joining the hood such as Devocion coffee, the Korean dessert shop and a French preschool, many fail to see how CVS fits into the equation.
“We have 2 amazing pharmacies already. How many drugs can you take? I need lunch not pills” stated Philip Greenberg, photographer extraordinaire who has lived and worked in Dumbo for over two decades.

“This is a violation of the spirit and history of Dumbo,” added architect Selim Vural of Vural Studio.

Dumbo has been practically a national chain free zone except for Starbucks and Scotch and Soda. Residents, business people and artists are still feeling the pain over the loss of P.S. Bookshop, the former literary hub of the neighborhood, which was replaced by the Amsterdam clothing chain as a result of a property tax issue between Two Trees and the bookstore. At that time, the neighborhood also lost ZOE, a popular women’s clothing venue as well as Journey Home.

“Amanda Pizzo is the best”, states Andy Epstein, a member of Dumbo Action Committee. Knowing who owns City Chemist makes him feel more comfortable than shopping at the big chains. “We know how corporate chains work, no profits are invested back into the neighborhood and the money is all sucked up by overpaid executives and stockholders.”

Small independent pharmacies such as City Chemist and Modern Chemist have other issues to contend with in addition to proximity to the corporate giants, Many health insurance companies are now requiring their customers to have their prescriptions filled at the large, generic national chains such as CVS which affects the bottom line for the small guys.

Cam Cross, a Dumbo resident and Barbara Reich of 911 Environmental Action have taken a more practical view of the situation.

Reich states that the one positive factor is that CVS will be open late. “Sometimes one needs Pepto Bismol, hemorrhoid cream, diapers etc. in emergency situations after 7:00 pm. Later hours will also be of convenience to the tenants of Farragut Housing who do not have a late night pharmacy close by. “

Cam Cross who fills his prescriptions at City Chemist takes a more optimistic view. He believes that City Chemist will not be impacted by much. “The new buildings going up will mean that more people will need to find services in the area and therefore a third pharmacy is going to be necessary.”
Amanda is quoted as saying “We will continue doing what we have been doing, proudly serving the people Dumbo.”

There is no doubt that City Chemist is loved by the people of Dumbo and their cumulative message is loud and clear: “We have your back!!!”

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