Senior citizen Merlene E. Richardson, 68, lives in the Crown Heights community, where she walks to the Associated Supermarket on Nostrand Avenue and Empire Boulevard/Sullivan Place to purchase her groceries. Richardson attends the Associated Supermarket because the store carries the Caribbean American items that she needs, the market has a parking lot for customers, and it has taxis to drive customers back home.
“I’m frustrated because this is the only supermarket in the area that carries the products for the Caribbean American community,” said Richardson. “If this supermarket closed, I would have to travel 40 blocks to the Western Beef supermarket, rather than walk to the Associated Supermarket.”
The Associated Supermarket, located on 975 Nostrand Ave. in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, has been evicted and has been given 90 days to vacate so that another luxury high-rise development can go up. If the supermarket closes, residents say that they would have to travel far away to find quality foods reasonably priced. Many residents who live in the Crown Heights community are senior citizens, and say losing the supermarket would be a tragedy.
Vivia Morgan is a licensed real estate agent, Registered Buildings Department Filing Representative, and candidate for New York City Council to serve members of the 40th district. She started the petition to save the Associated Supermarket. The petition has been shared throughout social media and has over 2,000 signatures. Morgan hopes the petition will bring awareness to the public.
“We have senior citizens in our community that rely on the supermarket; the management of the supermarket have been helpful. I work closely with the precinct council, and in November the supermarket donated turkeys to the precinct so precinct members could hand them out to the community,” said Morgan. “If you are a local non-profit organization and you go to them and ask them that you are doing a block party, they donate water, juice, chips, etc. They are very accommodating to organizations within the community, and this would be a great loss to us.”
A candidate for NYC Council in district 35 and district resident Regina Kinsey has been frequenting the Associated Supermarket for years. She is in complete opposition to the supermarket closure, and she believes keeping this store open is vital, and losing the supermarket would be a huge loss for the neighborhood, and more importantly for our elderly population.
“Losing this store would create a food desert and that’s the last thing the community needs in the midst of a pandemic. Developers have stripped the community of so much already; many of our mom-and-pop stores are gone, and it’s time to take a stand. I encourage the residents to continue to fight this,” said Kinsey. “I’m calling on Congress to pass H.R4984—The Affordable Housing and Area Median Income Act of 2019. I’m asking residents to sign this petition on Change.org as well. The bill would adjust the AMI to accurately meet real income levels of the district and limit the developers from doing things like forcing out residents and businesses because of high rents.”
Manager Manuel Tavares who has worked at the Associated Supermarket since 1991 believes the store needs to stay open, not just for residents and senior citizens but for him and employees who will be unemployed if the market closes. Tavares has children to feed and working at the supermarket is what he’s been doing all his life.
“I just want to give thanks to all my neighbors, my customers that are trying to help us out and try to keep the store open,” said Tavares. “It’s like a family, I know everybody for a long time, everybody comes in and calls me by my first name, it’s not like those corporations were you just go in and you don’t even know who else is in the store or anything like that, it’s like a family thing.”
Morgan sent out an email to Movement to Protect the People, an organization that protects moderate to low-income people from being displaced from the Flatbush Avenue/Lefferts Garden area due to gentrification. MTOPP promoted Morgan’s petition, created flyers, and held a community rally and outreach to hand out flyers to the community.
A statement from MTOPP noted: “In the time of a worldwide health crisis that has hit the Black
community the hardest, to even consider the removal of a vital business related to our health and to create a food desert, as a result, is just incomprehensible and criminal.”
They added, “For 50 years this supermarket has serviced our community. We are determined to save this supermarket and to protect our most vulnerable population, our seniors. And we will not allow big real estate investment companies whose only knowledge about
our community is only as an address in an investment portfolio, to come and destroy and endanger the residents in this community.”
In terms of solutions they determined, “We are calling on all of our elected officials to begin to consider various ways to legally challenge this eviction and to stand with the community in stopping the eviction.”
A representative from Midwood Investment and Development, the real estate company in charge of the proposed new building, said, “We are not renewing their lease as we believe there is an opportunity to redevelop the site and provide the community with additional housing, including affordable housing, as well as new retail to serve the community at large.
“We appreciate both resident and employee concerns, but they do not account for the possibility of a redevelopment plan that could serve the community in a more comprehensive way by including new job opportunities, retail and mixed-income housing to serve the community.”
Morgan and residents of the Crown Heights community would like for owners to reconsider their order to vacate. Morgan would like for the owners to sit down with the community and discuss what their plans are. They want to see how owners and residents could try to work together, and keep the local supermarket that has been gracious to the community in helping local non-for-profits and seniors. They have a petition: Keep the Associated Supermarket at Nostrand Ave. and Montgomery Street from being evicted, Change.org