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Gothamist: Chelsea Residents Ramp Up Protest Against Greedy Supermarket Landlords

By Miranda Katz, 3/19/16

(William Alatriste)


The Associated Supermarket on West 14th Street and 8th Avenue is one of the lone surviving low-cost grocery stores in its area, as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and other pricier markets have popped up in recent years. But the supermarket’s landlord recently upped the rent from $32,000 a month to over $100,000 a month, which would force the market to close in May when its lease is up. Chelsea and Greenwich Village locals don’t want to see that happen, and yesterday, they protested with elected officials outside the offices of of Pan Am Equities, Inc., the store’s landlords.

This follows last week’s rally outside the market itself at 255 West 14th Street, during which Assembly Member Richard Gottfried argued that “Manhattan residents can’t stand idly by while our neighborhoods become the urban equivalent of gated communities.”

Elected officials say that they’ve repeatedly asked the Manocherian family, which owns Pan Am and controls at least 85 buildings in Manhattan, to participate in a conversation about the store’s future. While the Manocherians are under no legal obligation to charge a more reasonable rent, the electeds would like to see them negotiate a new lease “in good faith.”

“Pan Am Equities is demanding a truly unreasonable rent increase, leaving the store owners no choice but to close,” Council Member Corey Johnson said. “We’re asking the Manocherian family to consider the effect that this closure will have on their fellow New Yorkers. We are asking them to come to the table and negotiate a new lease with the store owner in good faith. No one should be forced to travel long distances to buy food, particularly seniors who are living on fixed incomes.”

Dozens of concerned residents marched outside of Pan Am’s offices at 18 East 50th Street, chanting, “save our supermarket,” “feed not greed,” and “negotiate the real estate.” DNAinfo reports that West 30th Street resident Miguelina Figueroa carried an orange poster that read, “We Need Food Access,” and said that if the supermarket closes, she’d have to take the bus or train to buy food, as the Gristedes and Whole Foods near her home are out of her price range. And Nancy Bogen, 83, said that both she and her 92-year-old husband were crushed by the news that the market might close.

“My husband walks there—he carries things back in both hands,” she told DNAinfo. “There’s nothing [else] within walking distance of our house.”

Pan Am Equities reportedly refused to speak with Johnson, who attempted to talk with the property managers yesterday. They similarly did not return our request for comment. In addition to Johnson, Public Advocate Letitia James, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Assembly Member Deborah Glick were present at yesterday’s protest.

As one resident wrote to the Daily News, Associated provides phone-in services and delivers groceries to customers’ doors at a low price: “If this store closes, we will be forced to pay high prices and most of our folks are low income. I am low income and disabled and it will hit me really hard in the wallet.”

“This city is not for poor people, it’s for rich people,” Chelsea resident Cesar Castillo told CBS2.

Advocates for the supermarket have launched a petition, which had 539 supporters as of Saturday. Community efforts like this have worked in the past: in February, Washington Heights locals convinced the landlord of an Associated supermarket there to renegotiate a rent increase and prevent a Walgreens from moving into the store.