Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Town Hall Meeting in Soundview

This evening there will be a town hall meeting in the Soundview section of the Bronx to inform the community about the growing campaign against the eviction of the neighborhood's one large supermarket. This meeting is the first step in actions being taken against Vornado Realty and Trust, the landlord of the shopping center where the Key Food supermarket operates.

More aggressive actions will follow if Vornado fails to hear the community's call for it to cease and desist-and a rally and protest in front of the store is planned for next week. Here's the NY Daily News' take on this evening's event: "With urban supermarkets becoming an endangered species, Bronx residents will meet Wednesday night to try and save one of this dying breed.
A recent report from the Department of City Planning highlighted the importance of local grocery stores to public health while showing a recent wave of closures has left large swaths of the city - including much of the Bronx - underserved. Nearly the entire South Bronx was found to have a "high need" for more supermarkets."

Given this high need, the actions of Vornado are a slap in the face to the residents of the Soundview neighborhood: "In a borough where few people own cars and public transit coverage is less than ideal, closing a major grocery store could mean a difficult trek to the next-nearest supermarket, or force the least mobile to rely on higher-priced local grocery stores. "A lot of the people who patronize Key Food walk there," said Francisco Gonzalez, district manager for Community Board 9. "The only other supermarket in the area is across the highway and not as accessible to this neighborhood - especially for senior citizens."

And, as the DCP report on supermarkets points out, the neighborhood supermarket is a key for public health: "The report linked local markets and access to fresh produce to public health, showing that underserved areas of the Bronx have high rates of diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes. The area around Key Food at Bruckner Plaza is one of the few places in the Bronx deemed to have adequate supermarket access, according to the report. Residents gathering at tonight's meeting convened by the Neighborhood Retail Alliance and City Councilwoman Annabel Palma (D-Soundview) will discuss ways to try and keep it that way."

Here's the full press release for this evening's meeting:

Press Advisory
Town Hall Meeting in Soundview to Save Our Supermarket

Where: IS 131 885 Bolton Avenue
When:Wednesday, May 14th
Time: 6-8 PM

A community town hall meeting, organized by Councilwoman Anabel Palma and Community Board #9, will be held today 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 purpose of the town hall meeting is to alert and activate the Soundview community in order to get Vornado to support the extension of the supermarket’s lease at a price that is realistic for the neighborhood. The plan is to hold a rally in front of the store a week later on the 22nd of May.

The organized outrage of the Soundview community is important so we can empower the elected officials to put the kind of pressure on the real estate company that will make a difference. Vornado has received millions of dollars of public benefits from the city and needs to behave like a good corporate citizen.

In addition, we will be calling on the mayor to use his good offices to intervene on the community’s behalf. Soundview has been identified as a community where diet-related diseases are epidemic, and where access to fresh fruit and vegetables is way below the city wide average-exacerbating the health problems in the community.

Because of these health issues, the Department of Health has targeted this neighborhood for the introduction of produce vendors. The Key Food sells over two million dollars worth of produce every year, vegetables and fruit that are essential for the health of Soundview. Clearly, the store’s demise is not good for the health of the community, and that’s why the City Council Health Committee Chair Joel Rivera, and Councilman Jimmy Vacca, will be joining with the community tonight..

We will be calling on Mayor Bloomberg to act on behalf of all of the residents of Soundview in the name of public health. As the mayor has said on countless occasions, no economic concern is as important as the health of New Yorkers.