An impressively large crowd and a full slate of politicians rallied outside the Associated Supermarket on West 14th Street yesterday afternoon, demanding that the grocery store's landlord, Pan Am Equities, Inc., negotiate a reasonable lease rather than the exorbitant 500% increase—from $32,000 to over $100,000 a month—they dropped on the decades-old store last week.
The Associated has been serving the Chelsea and Greenwich Village communities since 1989, but if Pan Am refuses to budge on their number the store will close in May, leaving thousands of residents, many of whom are seniors on a fixed income, without a basic, affordable supermarket in the neighborhood. Associated store employees—the current manager started as a delivery boy here years ago—would lose their jobs as well.
Among the politicians in attendance at the rally were Council Member Corey Johnson, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried. Union leaders from Local 338 RWDSU and many members of Community Boards 4 and 2 were also on hand.
“This supermarket is one the last remaining sources of affordable groceries for residents of Greenwich Village and Chelsea," Johnson told the crowd. "No one should be forced to travel long distances to buy food, especially seniors on fixed incomes. Although we recognize that the landlord is under no obligation to charge a reasonable rent, in this case the neighborhood is going to suffer in favor of corporate profits. We are asking the landlord to come to the table and negotiate a new lease with the store owner in good faith. We’re not going to take this lying down."
Hoylman urged the Manocherian family, who own Pan Am Equities, to "do the right thing and renegotiate the lease with Associated Market," while Gottfried pointed out, "Manhattan residents can't stand idly by while our neighborhoods become the urban equivalent of gated communities. Part of the struggle against inequality is making sure that our neighborhoods have affordable, healthy options for basic staples like groceries."
Pan Am has apparently refused to respond to any requests for meetings with officials. No specific actions or remedies were put forth, but both groups—neighborhood residents and political officials—were clearly ready to fight. Nadler added, "Extreme commercial rent increases like this drive up the cost of living and drive out longtime residents."
In probably related news, directly across the street from the supermarket dozens of tourists lined up outside Black Tap Burger to take Instagrams of $15 milkshakes.