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Key Food Site Needs 'Deeply Affordable' Housing And Market, Politicians Say

 A rendering released Feb. 9, 2016 of Avery Hall Investments' plans for 120 Fifth Ave., a parcel that's now home to a Key Food grocery store.
A rendering released Feb. 9, 2016 of Avery Hall Investments' plans for 120 Fifth Ave., a parcel that's now home to a Key Food grocery store.
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Avery Hall Investments

PARK SLOPE — Heeding the call of hundreds of angry Park Slopers, Brooklyn elected officials are asking for strong support from the mayor's office to make sure a "large, affordable" supermarket and "deeply affordable" housing are included in the mixed-used development planned for the Key Food site at 120 Fifth Ave.

City Councilman Brad Lander, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and other officials say they're "deeply concerned" that developer Avery Hall Investment's plans for the property "do not meet the community's need for a large, affordable supermarket and sufficient affordable housing for our diverse community."

The officials laid out their concerns in a March 7 letter to the Department of City Planning and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

"The community is making its voice heard loud and clear: We need to keep a large, affordable grocery store at the Key Food site," Lander told DNAinfo New York on Tuesday. "We are grateful to have the attention and support of Mayor de Blasio and his administration on this critical issue."

Getting the agencies to follow community demands would mean a change of course for the city.

The Planning Department and HPD have control over the property's future, and must approve any changes to an urban renewal plan that governs the site. HPD officials told developer Avery Hall Investments in June that it would support the developer's proposal as long as 25 percent of the apartments were affordable, officials said.

The developer is in contract to buy the property and build housing and retail on it, including 165 apartments, 41 of which would be affordable.

HPD didn't mention the supermarket in its June 2015 correspondence with the developer and left open the possibility of modifying the affordable housing component, Lander and other officials said in their letter.

Lander and the other elected officials are now asking DCP and HPD not to approve a change to the urban renewal plan unless it meets community goals. Locals who were surveyed about the property said their top priorities for the site are a roomy, "community-oriented" supermarket and apartments that are affordable to very low-income families, according to the Brooklyn officials' letter.

An HPD spokeswoman said city officials are in "active discussions" with Avery Hall, elected officials and community leaders about the property's future.

"The mayor knows this community well, and understands how important affordable housing and local supermarkets are for the neighborhood," HPD spokeswoman Melissa Grace said Tuesday.

A spokesman for Avery Hall Investments said Tuesday the developer "has been working diligently, week-in and week-out" with Lander and neighborhood advocacy group Fifth Avenue Committee "to find mutually acceptable solutions to concerns expressed by the community."

Spokesman Ethan Geto said Avery Hall Investments was aware of local concerns about the supermarket and housing affordability, and "has been working in good faith to amend its plans so as to accommodate these and other community concerns to the extent possible while maintaining the viability of the project."

Avery Hall Investments expects to present revised plans to a "community stakeholder group" convened by Lander and Fifth Avenue Committee within the next few weeks, Geto said.

"The revised plan will directly and constructively address the key issues raised in the letter and at the public forum," Geto said.

The urban renewal plan governing 120 Fifth Ave. was created in the early 1980s after years of organizing by local residents determined to turn a rubble-strewn empty lot into a community asset.

Three decades later, Park Slope is no longer the blighted neighborhood locals sought to improve. Avery Hall Investments is in contract to buy 120 Fifth Ave., now home to one of Park Slope's largest and most affordable grocery stores, and wants to build housing and retail on the property. 

Avery Hall's proposal was met with harsh criticism at a public meeting in February where more than 400 locals turned out to see Avery Hall present its plans.

Lander and other officials echoed and amplified locals' concerns in their letter, saying that the loss of the Key Food would have a "dire impact" on the neighborhood, especially in light of the recent closures of a Pathmark in Gowanus and a Met Foods in Boerum Hill.

Electeds Letter to HPD and City Planning Re Key Food UPDATED[1]