7-Eleven Incites Protests To Save Neighborhood “Character”

Counter-culture isn’t dead in the East Village, but these days it takes a big gulp of a scandal to stir the troops. 7-Eleven, the convenience store whose engulfing of the East Village we’ve covered before, is being met with fierce opposition as construction gets underway at its fifth neighborhood location, on Avenue A and 11th Street.

Concerned locals met in January, when Bob Holman, founder of the Bowery Poetry Club, spoke for citizens worried that 7-Eleven will “‘Pringle-ize our population’ with chains that are ‘boring and bland and not New York.’” The  40-some locals voiced concerns of neighborhood homogenization and the threat 7-Eleven poses to locally owned bodegas.

Protests have ensued, and while they lack the spark of the Police Riots that occurred twenty years ago down the street, the movement is beginning to grow. Anti-7-Eleven activists have printed 20,000 stickers reading “Shopping 7-Eleven? Shame On You!” which they plan to affix to the store’s doors once it opens. Others took the streets with chalk, drawing anti-chain messages on the streets and construction site.

But some doubt that chalk and stickers will stop the Best Buy-Starbucks-Forever 21 character of nearby Union Square from spilling east into Alphabet City. East Village native Garth Johnston lamented at Gothamist in a post titled simply “I Give Up:”

While yes, the neighborhood still has some economic diversity (especially further East) this is also a neighborhood with its own Standard Hotel, an historic district designation from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, tenements converted to mansions and more. The gentrification ship has sailed.

The gentrification ship may have sailed, but plenty of locals are trying to call it back to port. This Saturday at noon, the No 7-Eleven committee will hold a Bodega Walk, which will visit five locally-owned bodegas and hold a reading of a poem (Because nothing beats big business like POETRY!).

If protestors do keep 7-Eleven out of Alphabet City, the win may be only a drop of slurpee in the proverbial Big Gulp for the convenience store giant, which plans to open 100 outposts in Manhattan over the next five years. Whether you mind the 7-Eleven’s or not, the chain’s increased presence will certainly take away at least some of the local flavor of NYC. If you need to find us, we’ll be mourning over pancakes at the IHOP down the street from Bob Dylan’s old house.

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