Thursday, May 08, 2008

Crain's Keys on Supermarket

In this weeks Crain's New York Business magazine there's a nice focus on the plight of the Key Food supermarket in Soundview: "A fight is brewing in the South Bronx over the future of the Soundview neighborhood's largest supermarket, Key Food. Situated on Bruckner Boulevard at White Plains Road, the 30,000-square-foot grocery store may be forced to close when its lease expires at the end of the year. Vornado Realty acquired the Bruckner Plaza shopping center, where Key Food is one of the anchors, for $165 million last year. Last month, the developer said it plans to quintuple rents to about $50 per square foot."

And the fight has only just begun-or as Jimmy Durante might have said; "They ain't seen nothing yet." Next week at IS 131 there will be a combined Town Hall and Community Board meeting to address the community concerns with the possible eviction of Key Food. As we say in our advisory:
"A community town hall meeting will be held next Wednesday to inform the community about the potential eviction of the Key Food Supermarket in the Bruckner Boulevard shopping center in Soundview. The reason for the possible eviction is because the landlord, Vornado Realty and Trust, is seeking to charge the store $50 per square foot in rent. This kind of rent would make it impossible for Key Food, or any supermarket in this income community, to be
able to offer the neighborhood good healthy food at affordable prices."

The community and its CB is already up in arms, especially after Vornado secretly met with City Planning to discuss its shopping center expansion plans after Key Food was sent packing. As we say in the Bronx, "That's not happening." Especially not since the expansion would require a full land use review and City Council approval.

Something's gonna have to give because no supermarket can afford to pay that much for rent in the South Bronx. As we told Crain's: “No supermarket can pay that kind of money, certainly not in that neighborhood,” says Richard Lipsky, head of the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, a group fighting to keep supermarkets in New York City's outer boroughs."

This situation presents a real challenge to area elected officials. The picture is painted well by the chair of the local board: “People rely on that store to be there,” says Enrique Vega, chairman of the Community Board. “We've heard they [Vornado] want to knock down the grocery store and put in another big-box store.” The shopping center currently houses a Staples and a Kmart. “The community doesn't want another big-box store; they want a supermarket,” Mr. Vega adds."

As we've been discussing, the situation can be seen as part of an overall city wide public health problem with disappearing supermarkets: "The next-closest supermarket is a Pathmark, which lies more than 10 blocks away, a distance that will prove difficult for seniors and young families to navigate with groceries. Just last week, the Department of City Planning released a report on the accessibility of supermarkets and fresh produce to city residents. The report ranked the South Bronx below the median in terms of grocery store accessibility."

Clearly, if Vornado doesn't budge, something will have to be done to impress upon the billion dollar baby that this stuff doesn't play here, especially not when the company's living large off of the public sector. The heat is gonna definitely rise in the Vornado kitchen in the next few weeks.