Despite protests from local residents and politicians, the Associated Supermarket on West 14th Street and 8th Avenue has closed, facing a massive monthly rent increase. The supermarket had operated in Chelsea since 1989, staying put even as waves of gentrification brought both a Whole Foods and Trader Joe's to the area—but its lease was up this month, and the market's landlord, Pan Am Equities, tripled the rent, which was originally $32,000.

Joe Falzone, one of the owners of the supermarket, said that the landlord was not at all receptive to the community's concerns—Pan Am refused to budge, let alone talk to politicians, community members, or reporters.

"It wasn't feasible for us to stay," Falzone said. "The store would have never made it paying that kind of rent."

The West 14th Street location employed between 35 and 50 people, depending on the time of year, Falzone said. Some of them were able to get jobs at other supermarkets through Associated's connections, but others are now out of work.

"I am deeply disappointed that Pan Am Equities chose profit over people and forced a neighborhood institution that has served our community for decades to close its doors," said Councilmember Corey Johnson, who had been spearheading the effort to save the supermarket. "Despite numerous attempts by a broad coalition of stakeholders to engage in a dialogue with Pan Am about this issue, the landlord failed to respond in any way."

Johnson also said that he had heard Pan Am received an offer from another supermarket to lease the space, but rebuffed that offer. Pan Am did not respond to our request for comment.

When word of the rent hike got out in March, area residents protested, saying that the supermarket was one of few remaining places where they could purchase affordable food. At a March 13th demonstration outside the market, Johnson urged the Manocherian family, who own Pan Am Equities and controls at least 85 buildings in Manhattan, to "do the right thing and renegotiate the lease with Associated Market," arguing that "no one should be forced to travel long distances to buy food, especially seniors on fixed incomes."

Politicians and residents staged a second protest the next week, this time outside the offices of of Pan Am Equities at 18 East 50th Street. Some locals in attendance said that if the market closed, they wouldn't have any affordable options within walking distance.

Supporters of the supermarket circulated a petition, asking Pan Am to renegotiate the lease "in good faith." It garnered 864 signatures, and that, coupled with the community outcry, seemed hopeful—particularly considering that in February, Washington Heights residents took similar action when their Associated Supermarket was threatened by an eviction, and managed to save the market. But this time, there was no such luck, and the West 14th Street store shuttered on Sunday.

State Senator Brad Hoylman told us that "the closing of the Associated Supermarket on West 14th Street is a significant blow to affordability in Chelsea. Plus, it's insulting to our community that the landlord never tried to try to hammer out a new lease, in spite the fact that supermarket was a good tenant and hundreds of neighbors demanded this."

According to EV Grieve, in its closing, the market encouraged people to go to the East 14th street location, which has the same owners. But the fate of that market isn't clear, either: its lease is up in two years, and though its new owners at Blackstone have said they're committed to keeping an affordable supermarket in the space, there's no guarantee it'll be Associated. Falzone said that they're still in negotiations, and made a proposal several weeks ago but haven't yet heard back.

As more and more mom and pop shops have shuttered in the face of insurmountable rent hikes, some local politicians have pushed for legislation that would require mandatory lease mediation and a one-year lease extension for small businesses. And last year, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer released a report with a number of policy ideas to help small businesses, such as tax reductions and zoning changes that would make more retail space available.

"A neighborhood is more than buildings and apartments—livability means access to essentials like transportation, open space, and affordable groceries," Brewer said today. "Manhattan's overheated rental market is threatening New Yorkers' access to supermarkets, and every idea needs to be on the table to reverse the trend."