HARLEM — Dozens of community members rallied Friday with local leaders to urge Walgreens to save a beloved supermarket from permanently closing.
City Fresh Market, at 125 E. 116th St. near Lexington Avenue, is slated for closure because its landlord is planning to develop the site into a residential building with a ground-level commercial storefront.
The store is slated to officially close Monday at 8 a.m., officials said.
Walgreens is planning to lease the commercial space for a Duane Reade store.
Community members, along with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, called on Walgreens at the rally to sublease that space to City Fresh.
Officials and residents spoke of the lack of affordable, quality produce in East Harlem, which the store provides as a motivating factor.
“This is about equity and justice — food justice,” said Mark-Viverito. “Walgreens if you’re listening there’s a conversation to be had.”
Espaillat called the area the “Sahara Desert of food options in New York city.”
Although there is another City Fresh Market located nearby on East 120th Street and Third Avenue as well as big-chain stores, such as Costco and Target in the area, officials spoke of the roots the store has in the community.
City Fresh has been at the location since 2005 and a supermarket has been at the location—under various names—for decades. Since then it saw its rent nearly quadruple from $12,000 to $45,000, a store representative told DNAinfo New York earlier this week.
Maria Pacheco, an East Harlem resident and regular customer at the store, said the store is conveniently located by public transportation and is important for the elderly.
“The location is perfect for us seniors,” she said. “Please, whoever can help… help us here.”
Espaillat said he wants to repeat the success he had in Washington Heights, where Walgreens allowed a sublease to a supermarket in a similar situation.
"We fought and won… and we will fight and win again,” said Espaillat, the Democratic Congressional candidate for the district that includes Harlem.
Walgreens did not immediately respond to a request for comment.