Four years later, promise rings hollow

By Erika Mahoney

April 4, 2013 Updated Apr 6, 2013 at 6:41 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A parking lot full of broken glass, potholes and trash is all that remains of a hollow promise for nearby Northside residents.

"Please let it happen," Samantha Mangan said. "For people like us, that can't get around that much, let it happen."

Mangan, a single mother of four, says the promise of a new grocery store has been the talk of the neighborhood for more than a decade.

For her, it would mean better access to healthy foods. In order to buy groceries now, she has to walk a far distance, and her asthma adds to the challenge.

In 2009, Binghamton city leaders assured residents a new grocery store was in the works. A groundbreaking ceremony was held. Money was awarded for the project.

The Broome County Legislature approved a $40,000 grant for the project in May 2009 and then-Senate President Malcolm Smith gave another $150,000.

Smith, who was acting as a representative from the state to deliver the check, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on bribery charges related to an alleged plot to curry favor for a New York City mayoral run.

The funds for the project were spent on the demolition of the old McDonald's site near State Street, according to Northside Neighborhood Assembly Coordinator Janet McHenry.

"We had gotten money, as well as money from the city, and money from the Community Development Block Grant, to actually demolish that building," McHenry said. "It was filled with mold."

In November 2009, city leaders held a groundbreaking ceremony. And in March 2010, they took a first swing at the demolition with hopes of opening the store that fall.

But three years later, all that remains is an empty parking lot.

"We're trying, we have had a lot of hurdles, a lot of obstacles," McHenry said. "But it's not a done deal. We will keep pushing, we will have a grocery store."

According to McHenry, hope is still on the horizon.

She says city leaders and several groups are in the process of negotiating with a few chains. She declined to provide further details. In 2009, city leaders said a Save-A-Lot would be build there. A Save-A-Lot opened earlier this year in Johnson City.

But for Mangan, the wait is weighing on her and her kids.

"Getting groceries is kind of hard because we don't have a car and we are on foot and it kind of hurts our feet after walking around for a while," Christy Mangan, 11.

Or, they have to pay for a cab, something a neighbor agrees is a financial strain.

"They are expensive to go anywhere," Brandi Natterer said. "It's like $9 to go to Walmart. So that's $9 I could save by going to a store across the street."

Local residents say the daily struggle to put food on the table could be solved with a new store, one they hope comes sooner rather than later.

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