Local Pols Are Trying To Save NYC’s Affordable Supermarkets

Gentrification and the arrival of gourmet groceries have put supermarkets out of business. Now neighborhoods are fighting back.

By Jeff Vasishta February 15, 2017

The “affordable” supermarket has been a staple of New York for years. The likes of Met Food, Associated Supermarket, and City Fresh may not have always had the best decor or the widest of food choices. But if it’s a 99c can of Goya beans or 2-gallon bottles for $3 of apple juice along with fresh produce you’re after, then they are the best place in town. Recent tax hikes, though, have seen them vacating our streets faster than politicians with unexplained deposits from Russian banks.

At a City Council meeting this week, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilman Corey Johnson said they plan to introduce a bill that would exempt “affordable” supermarkets from the city’s commercial rent tax.

The tax is currently imposed on the businesses between Murray Street and 96th Street in Manhattan that pay $250,000 or more in rent per year, Brewer said.

RelatedAs Paris Imposes A Massive Tax Hike On Second Homes, Other European Cities Gain In Popularity

“We’ve seen too many neighborhood supermarkets threatened with closure in the last few years, and we’ve been to too many rallies to try to keep them open,” Brewer said in a statement. The tax “puts an unfair, regressive burden on businesses in some of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods, where there is immense upward pressure on commercial storefront rents,” she added.

The bill would also require ta minimum of 500 square feet of the retail space be used specifically for selling fresh produce. Any grocery stores where pharmacy sales make up more than half of the store’s sales would be exempt.

Manhattan’s commercial rent tax zone included 132 supermarkets as of last summer—all of which could potentially qualify for the exemption if they meet the bill’s requirements, according to a survey conducted by Brewer’s office.

RelatedBrickbats And Bouquets For Mayor De Blasio’s Proposed “Mansion Tax”

As gentrification has done multiple sweeps of NYC, these supermarkets which often served the immigrant communities where they were located, have been increasingly replaced with the likes of Whole Foods and organic markets and gourmet grocers. With affordable housing scarce, the lack of affordable food choices has been especially painful to working class residents. The closings have been widespread. In Manhattan a City Fresh Supermarket in Harlem, a D’Agostino in Murray Hill, a Met Foods in Little Italy an Associated Supermarket in Chelsea, a Key Food in East Harlem and Inwood—have all shuttered. In Brooklyn, a Key Food in Clinton Hill and Gowanus have also closed.

There has also been an economic impact. Crain’s referenced a joint report by the city’s Department of Health, Department of City Planning and Economic Development Corp., a typical 30,000 square-foot store provides between 100 and 200 jobs. When the Pathmark on 125th Street in East Harlem closed, the local economy lost 236 employees—about a quarter of all supermarket jobs in the area. Each grocery worker generates approximately $2,800 annually in city taxes.

Councilman Corey Johnson said in a statement of the latest proposal, that it “would give our neighborhood supermarkets a fighting chance for survival. As the cost of living continues to rise, the stores help ensure that our city can continue to accommodate the seniors and working class families that built our city into what it is today.”

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.
How To Choose The Right Real Estate Agent
When it comes to real estate, people seem to feel detached from understanding the intricacies of an industry that has been around since the year…
Five Reasons Why All Entrepreneurs Must Keep Their Eyes On China
It is hard to overestimate the importance of Chinese influence on the modern global economy. Carving out a place in Chinese market and winning over…
Property Listings: Big data vs. The Right data
These days there is no shortage of articles discussing “big data” or “data analytics” as the exponential growth of available information on demographics and consumer…
Property listings: Big data vs. the right data
These days there is no shortage of articles discussing “big data” or “data analytics” as the exponential growth of available information on demographics and consumer…
Just One Click Away: Digital And Mobile Technologies
Web and mobile capabilities are linking real estate professionals, their clients, and properties like never before. The property search process has been re-imagined and real…
New technology will change the real estate industry forever
Wearable devices are trending in technological advancements and are changing the way people share and retrieve information. Recent releases like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and Google’s…
Greenland USA Develops Residential And Commercial Properties That Exemplify Modern Living
New York City is experiencing an alarming affordability crisis. For low, moderate, and middle income New Yorkers housing has become a serious challenge, all around…
New Retail Strip Is Coming To Astoria Area With A Troubled Past
It seems like a bad coincidence, but the Dutch Kill neighborhood, located in otherwise prosperous Astoria, did manage to live up to its, ahem, colorful…