Some say it’s the best grocery store in the neighborhood. Others says it’s the most affordable.
It has a car park, and fresh produce. And if the Associated at 975 Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights closes, people will have to travel 3/5 of a mile to get to the next closest supermarket — leaving some residents in a food desert.
In the last four days, more than 2,500 people have signed a petition to save the Associated Supermarket — with many adding their personal reasons why — after landlords told its owner last Thursday that the lease would not be extended beyond the spring.
Associated Supermarket Owner Pablo Espinal told Bklyner the supermarket, which has been there for 30 years, has been operating on a month-to-month contract with landlord Midwood Investment and Development since last summer.
On hearing news of the eviction, Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts-Gardens neighbors have banded together to try to save the supermarket, or at least have a say in the future of the site.
Last week, New York City Council 40th District hopeful Vivia Morgan started the Change.org petition to both inform the community about what was happening, and get feedback on how people felt about it.
“Well, the community spoke by signing,” she said. Morgan said the supermarket sold fresh, well-priced food, served the local seniors, and had a handy carpark. Local mom-and-pop stores were rapidly disappearing in the neighborhood, she said, and she wanted the community to have more of a say.
“I’m hoping that the owner of the property would be able to see there’s a lot of people signing, and maybe we can have a conversation to see how we can work together… let us know what their plans are. If we could organize a Zoom meeting with the community, management and the owner, that would be fantastic.”
Jean Standish was one local who signed the petition, commenting that many of those who rely on the supermarket are senior citizens and people with large families. “Even missing the Associated for a day would endanger the health and well-being of the community,” she said.
Bayla Gottesman added that the community “needed” the supermarket. “Without it we are left with either bodegas that don’t stock fresh produce or a large selection of meat/dairy, or much more expensive groceries. This is the only available affordable true grocer for a long distance.”
Many feared for the job losses in the community, with Associated Supermarket Manager Manny Tavares telling Bklyner the store employs about 40 people.
Evelyn Ortiz said the supermarket gave her a job when she was a young adult, helping her bring home extra funds and giving her work experience. “They are committed to supporting the community and providing opportunities to local residents,” she said, urging the landlord to reconsider the eviction.
On Saturday, a group of local residents joined another City Council 40th District hopeful, Edwin Raymond, in a rally to stop the closure of the supermarket.
After the rally, Raymond took to Instagram to tell his followers that he hopes the landlord and any future developer makes sure whatever they build doesn’t inconvenience those who rely on the supermarket.
“You can’t always stop development, but you can make sure it’s being done in a way that makes sense,” he said.
“If indeed something gets built there, hopefully it’s mixed-use and the commercial space in the bottom can continue being the supermarket people are accustomed to, that would probably be the win-win for everyone.”
Midwood has not made public its intentions for the site, and the Department of Buildings shows no permits filed. The zoning of the lot allows for the construction of mid-rise apartment buildings. A Midwood spokesperson told Bklyner negotiations over Associated’s future had been ongoing for years.
“We’ve been in close touch with the owner, Mr. Espinal, for more than two years about our intention to change the use of this property and willingness to work with him through that process,” the spokesperson said. “We remain open to working with him toward a mutually agreeable path forward and look forward to continuing those discussions.”
New York’s commercial eviction moratorium ended Jan. 31, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed legislation to extend it to May 1.
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