Chelsea residents are about to lose the longtime Associated Supermarket on West 14th Street and 8th Avenue, after the building's landlord served the market a $168K monthly rent hike. But they're not letting their grocery store bite the dust without a fight, and elected officials and community members are hosting a rally tomorrow in hopes of saving the store.
The Associated has served the neighborhood since 1989, surviving a whole lot of gentrification and the opening of both a Trader Joe's and Whole Foods outpost a few blocks north. But Pan Am Equities, which privately owns the building at 255 West 14th Street, apparently thinks its time for the Associated to go—they increased the grocery store's rent from $32,000/month to $200,000/month. Officials with the store say it will close in May if they cannot renegotiate the lease.
Should the grocery store close, elected officials and residents say the neighborhood will be strapped for affordable food. "This supermarket is one the last remaining sources of affordable groceries for residents of Greenwich Village and Chelsea," Council Member Corey Johnson told us in a statement. "No one should be forced to travel long distances to buy food, especially seniors on fixed incomes." Johnson, who will co-host a rally outside the supermarket at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, says that while Pan Am Equities are free to charge whatever rent they wish, residents will suffer so the landlord can make an extra buck. "We are asking the landlord to come to the table and negotiate a new lease with the store owner in good faith," he said. "We’re not going to take this lying down."
It's unclear how much of an increase the market will be able to tolerate, but at the very least, store supervisors say the 500 percent increase is not at all feasible. "The rent we're paying now is almost up to the limit of what we can pay," Joe Falzon, a store supervisor, told DNAinfo. "But even if [the landlord] doubles the rent, we still won't be able to [pay]."
Last month, an Associated Supermarket in Washington Heights temporarily managed to stave off eviction after a Walgreens attempted to move into the site. The landlord agreed to renegotiate a rent hike thanks to community efforts to prevent the store's closure.