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Locals Protest Associated Supermarket Rent Hike Outside Landlord’s Office

By Maya Rajamani | March 18, 2016 4:01pm | Updated on March 21, 2016 8:44am
 A rent hike could shutter the Associated Supermarket at 255 W. 14th St. by the end of May.
Locals Protest Associated Supermarket Rent Hike Outside Landlord’s Office
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CHELSEA — Dozens of demonstrators marched in front of a landlord’s corporate Midtown office on Friday morning to protest a rent hike that threatens to shutter their local supermarket.

Longtime patrons of the Associated Supermarket at 255 W. 14th St. fear they will be left without an affordable supermarket in their neighborhood if the grocery store between Seventh and Eighth avenues shutters when its lease ends at the end of May.

In February, property manager Pan Am Equities told the store its rent would be tripling, store supervisor Walter Brnjac told DNAinfo New York last week.

“We were devastated [by the news],” said 83-year-old West Village resident Nancy Bogen, who turned out Friday morning to protest the closure, accompanied by her husband, Arnold Greissle-Schoenberg, 92.

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

As residents and elected officials marched in a circle in front of Pan Am’s building on East 50th Street, they chanted “Save our supermarket,” “People over profits” and “Shame on you, Pan Am.”

Miguelina Figueroa, a West 30th Street resident of more than 30 years, held up a bright orange poster with “We Need Food Access” emblazoned on it.

“[I hope] we can at least send a message that this is not the way we would like things to go,” said Figueroa, 65, who has shopped at the Associated Supermarket since it opened in 1989.

She said she would have to take a bus or a train to buy basic food items, as many items at her local Gristedes and Whole Foods are too pricey.

Retired teacher Charles Baylor, 70, who lives at affordable housing co-op Penn South on Eighth Avenue, echoed her concerns.

“Chelsea is developing into a very well-to-do neighborhood, and those of us who don’t fit into that category, we need places to shop,” he said.  

Officials including the city’s public advocate Letitia James, state Sen. Brad Hoylman, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and City Councilman Corey Johnson joined residents as they marched in a circle in front of the building.

Friday’s demonstration came less than a week after locals, led by Johnson, staged a Sunday rally outside the Associated Supermarket.

“This is just a continuation of us saying we’re not going to take this lying down,” Johnson said toward the end of Friday’s demonstration as he addressed protesters. “We’re going to keep up the fight.”

After announcing his intent to speak with Pan Am Equities representatives, Johnson entered the property manager’s building, but came back out a minute later.

“They were instructed not to talk to us,” he explained.

Pan Am Equities did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

A petition circulated at the demonstration received more than 100 signatures from attendees and passersby, a spokesman for Johnson said after the rally.

Johnson is also circulating an online petition to gather signatures supporting the supermarket.

Demonstrator Loraine Brown, 83, an uptown resident and member of the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island's Community Board 8, said she came to the demonstration because the supermarket’s potential closure is “a community-wide issue.”

“Chelsea today, the Upper East Side tomorrow,” she said.

“Why doesn’t Pan Am negotiate the rent?” she asked. “It’s the compassionate thing to do.”