Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Focus on Bruckner Boulevard Key Food

In yesterday's NY Daily News' Bronx edition, the paper focused on the possible loss of a Key Food supermarket in that South Bronx neighborhood: "A supermarket that has called the Bronx home for more than 40 years may go out of business in December because of skyrocketing rents. The News highlighted just what a tragedy the store's closing would be for a community that doesn't have that many large modern supermarkets.

As usual, the issue is rising rent that would make it unprofitable for the supermarket to continue to operate and service this low and moderate income community: "There is no way any supermarket in the South Bronx can pay $50 a square foot," said Richard Lipsky, spokesman for Jules Levine, the owner of Pick Quick Foods, which runs the Key Food. "The only way to cover the rent is to raise the prices, but the people in the community cannot afford to pay the prices."

As we have been commenting, this is a crucial health issue since the city has identified Soundview as a community that lacks decent access to fresh fruits and vegetables. As the News reports, we're calling on the mayor to hold Vornado Realty's hands to the fire since the real estate conglomerate is an active bidder on a number of city projects: "Lipsky is asking that Mayor Bloomberg step up to preserve supermarkets in the same way he is installing fruit and vegetable street vendors in the city's neediest neighborhoods - including Soundview, one of the city's targeted areas. He is angered that Vornado can push out a supermarket that serves 850,000 customers, accepts $2 million in food stamps and sells more than $2.3 million of fresh produce, and still be considered as a project bidder. "If you are not going to be a company concerned with the health of New Yorkers, why should the mayor help the company with his business?" Lipsky asked."

The community really wants to keep its Key Food and Council member Palma is actively working to insure that this happens. But as one commenter to the News puts it: "That's INSANE! Isn't there some type of law to prohibit him from raising rent 400%? NOBODY could in 2008 afford to pay such an increase, so clearly he must want them out! And that really does NOTHING for the neighborhood, as whoever could afford to pay that kind of rent, is clearly going to OVERCHARGE for EVERYTHING that they sell. If the new entity is even a supermarket...

The grass roots effort is being aided by Local 1500 of the UFCW and its able political director Pat Purcell. As the News points out: "The store also has the backing of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500, which represents the store's 100 employees.
"There is nothing they can do with this land that will benefit the community more than this," said union spokesman Patrick Purcell."

Council woman Palma is talking directly to Vornado and we're hopeful that the company will be reasonable and negotiate a settlement to this in good faith. If not, we're prepared to ratchet up the pressure on them so that they understand the urgency of the situation. Stay tuned.