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After 37 years, the pharmacy on 9th Avenue between W43rd and W44th Street is officially closed. This week hundreds of customers, residents and medical professionals stopped by the store to say goodbye.
“It was an emotional last few weeks. I had my staff crying as people kept coming in to say goodbye. We knew the children, the parents, the grandparents — and in some cases the great grandparents — of many of our patients. We watched and were part of the area’s transformation into what is now a thriving community,” said Steve Kaufman, Supervising Pharmacist at Duane Reade.
W42ST wrote about the closure of the popular pharmacy back in mid-October. Readers were encouraged to get involved by writing and calling the Walgreens corporate offices. Even local elected officials — including Senator Brad Hoylman — got involved, by sending a letter pleading to keep Kaufman and his assistant Enza Santoro at the location.
“I want to thank you for the wonderful article you wrote about us and Enza — the hero of Hell’s Kitchen. The thousands of emails, letters and phone calls that were sent to corporate headquarters asking them to reconsider was overwhelming,” said Kaufman today. “We appreciate the politicians who fought on our behalf, and the hundreds of customers, residents and medical professionals who came in to say goodbye. All the people who brought gifts, food, pastries, flowers is something my staff and I will never forget.”
Kaufman told us that he will be taking up a new role at the Walgreens store at Hudson Yards on W30th Street between 10/11th Avenue. Santoro will be working at the Duane Reade at the corner of W49th Street and 9th Avenue.
“We never realized how much we meant to the neighborhood until something like this happens,” said Kaufman. “It was a joy to be part of the Hell’s Kitchen community for all these years. Thank you for the privilege of letting us take care of you.”
“Manhattan Plaza pharmacy (Duane Reade/ Walgreens) was more than a pharmacy, Steve and Enza put the ‘unity’ in our Hell’s Kitchen community. They will be missed,” said local Daphne McWilliams — while grabbing a selfie with Steve and Enza.
Hell’s Kitchen activist Marisa Redanty told us: “I went by the Duane Reade this week and there was just a parade of people coming to say goodbye. I brought cookies, people brought gift cards. Everybody’s crying! it’s unbelievable! There was nothing on the shelves, the shelves are completely empty. People were not coming to get medication. They were just coming in to say goodbye. It’s been like that all week.”
Kaufman and Santoro were nominated as W42ST Hell’s Heroes even before the pandemic. Then they took to the front line in March 2020 to provide vital meds and manage the rising panic with calmness and professionalism while putting themselves at risk.
In March 2020, Kaufman nominated Santoro for the W42ST Hell’s Hero award, saying: “Enza Santoro came to the United States from Italy when she was five years old, and has lived on W43rd Street her whole life. She worked at the Victoria supermarket and Manhattan Plaza and is now the head pharmacy clerk at Duane Reade, on 9th Avenue. She is the kindest, most caring person I have ever met. She has taken money out of her own pocket to pay for people’s medication and has called pharmaceutical companies to get samples and coupons to help patients pay for their medications. She is constantly calling patients to see how they are feeling and reminding them to take their meds.”
This summer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer issued a proclamation that made Sunday, August 29, 2021 “Steve Kaufman Appreciation Day” saying that Kaufman was “one of the most devoted pharmacists in Manhattan” and during the COVID-19 and the AIDS crisis he had gone “above and beyond to support the community”.