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Food Desert Fears Grow in Crown Heights as Associated Supermarket Handed 30-Day Notice

Plus, Sen. Chuck Schumer discusses the American Rescue Plan — and more intel

The exterior of the Nostrand Avenue Associated supermarket, which has a red roof Via Google Maps

The Associated supermarket in Crown Heights must vacate within 30 days

Uncertainty over the future of the Associated supermarket in Crown Heights continues this week. The owners of the discount grocery store received a 30-day notice to vacate the premises this week, following ongoing protests, online petitions, and claims that the supermarket’s closure would leave parts of of Crown Heights in a food desert. The supermarket was previously issued a 90-day notice to vacate the premises.

Pablo Espinal, owner of the Associated store, has been operating on a month-to-month basis since his most recent lease expired in June 2020. A spokesperson for Midwood Investment and Development, the owner of the property, tells Bklyner that the company offered Espinal $300,000 and the right of first offer on the new supermarket space planned for the development so long as he vacated the property by the end of July. He declined the offer.

“I was never offered a guarantee to come back into the new development. The right of first offer is not a commitment to allow the supermarket to come back,” Espinal tells Eater in an email. “My goal is to continue to serve the community, and I would happy to sign a long-term lease with the developer to continuing [sic] serving the community.”

The imminent closure has prompted protests and online petitions in recent weeks, and attracted the attention of elected officials in both Crown Heights and Albany. There are other supermarkets within a one mile walking distance — a Foodtown on Franklin Avenue, a Western Beef on Empire Boulevard, and an upscale Lincoln Market — but locals worry the neighborhood’s selection of inexpensive grocery options is on the decline. In February, Midwood said it planned to construct a new, expanded supermarket in place of Associated, a move that some residents criticized, pointing to the newly constructed, more expensive supermarkets that have accompanied developments in other neighborhoods.

If Associated does not vacate the premises within 30 days, Midwood “will seek court intervention and pursue all available damages,” which could amount to “millions upon millions of dollars,” according to a notice from the retail company.

— Tanay Warerkar contributed reporting

In other news

— New York Sen. Chuck Schumer will meet with the Independent Restaurant Coalition this morning to discuss how the American Rescue Plan impacts neighborhood restaurants and bars. The bill includes a $28.6 billion grant program modeled off of the larger $120 billion RESTAURANTS Act.

— The Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect Heights has raised more than $16,000 to bring back its Open Streets program this year, which closed Vanderbilt Avenue to traffic for 15 weekends between August and November 2020.

— City Hall expands the FRESH program to 11 new community districts this week, a controversial piece of legislation that allows retail developers to negotiate additional space by building a grocery store on the ground level of a new building.

— East Village wine bar Ruffian has a reopening date on the calendar. Following a three-month hibernation, the bar will reopen for full-service outdoor dining on March 17.

— The New York Times remembers Jing Fong, a Chinatown dim sum restaurant whose closing has left a “crater” in the community.

— There’s still time to delete this: