Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and East Williamsburg are amongst a number of neighborhoods that should see an increase in fresh, healthy grocery stores if a City program goes as planned.

On Monday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced the updating and expansion of the city’s Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program, designed to bring convenient, accessible grocery stores to underserved neighborhoods and New Yorkers.

The program currently covers Central and East Brooklyn’s Community Districts 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 16 and 17. It has now been expanded to include North Brooklyn’s Community Districts 1 and 2, and South Brooklyn’s Community Districts 12 and 13. The program has also been expanded in seven other community districts in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.

The FRESH program makes it easier to build and retain stores that provide fresh foods and a full range of grocery products, and the expansion has been done in partnership between the Council and Department of City Planning.

The program uses a zoning incentive to give property owners the right to construct slightly larger buildings in mixed residential and commercial districts if they include a FRESH supermarket.

It also allows grocery stores as-of-right in light manufacturing districts, increasing the locations where they can be built.

Johnson said access to fresh, healthy food was a priority for him and for the council, and the expansion of the FRESH zoning incentive was a major step forward in the fight to ensure all New Yorkers could eat healthy no matter where they lived.

“Far too many neighborhoods in our city lack access to affordable, healthy food options,” he said, adding he would be working with communities as they reviewed the proposal. “We will continue working to ensure every neighborhood in our city has access to fresh food at reasonable prices.”

Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago said by expanding FRESH, the city was taking a step towards addressing a long-standing inequity the pandemic had laid bare: neighborhoods not having convenient access to healthy foods for their families.

“Putting high-quality food on the table and within reach of low-income New Yorkers is a top priority. Our families and communities deserve nothing less,” she said. 

Since the program launched in 2009, 28 projects have been approved for FRESH zoning incentives. Nine are currently open to the public. Separately, the Economic Development Corporation offers a variety of tax breaks for both for FRESH supermarket operators and developers that provide a FRESH store in their buildings.

Twenty-two supermarkets have been approved for FRESH tax incentives – creating over 1,000 new jobs and representing an investment of $100 million into the City’s economy, the City said in a press release.

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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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