Last week, Councilman Costa Constantinides, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and State Senator Jessica Ramos penned a letter to Jenel Real Estate and A&H Acquisitions asking them to identify the major supermarket chain they are currently in talks with to take over the spot of the longtime store.
“It’s important to know which retailer could be calling Astoria home in the near future,” they wrote, “especially because of Key Food’s strong commitment to organized labor.”
The legislators noted that during COVID-19, Key Food employees, who are members of UFCW Local 1500, were given personal protective equipment and hazard pay.
“We don’t want an exemplary employer to be replaced by a bad actor,” they added.
The letter comes after multiple reports that Man-Dell Food Stores, which owns the Key Food, plans to lay off all of the employees. The lease for the supermarket expires on October 31, and negotiations to remain have been unsuccessful.
Jenel Real Estate and A&H Acquisitions plan to build a new as-of-right commercial building for the site, anchored by a Target and another supermarket chain.
Lawmakers wrote in their July 20th letter that they were disappointed that negotiations with Key Food broke down.
“Key Food has a proven track record of serving this community and its employees well,” they said. “They have been a good neighbor and that’s not an easy thing to come by.”
The Astoria representatives made the case that keeping a supermarket on 31st Street is necessary because of its proximity to the Ditmars Boulevard stop on the N and W lines.
Thousands of residents walk the corridor, and as commuters get off the subway it’s a convenient location for them to buy groceries.
“This has been the case for 50 years,” they wrote, “and we want to make sure it’s the case for another 50.”
The letter concluded by asking the landlords to extend Key Food’s current lease for the short term, given that the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing and residents still face challenges with food insecurity.
“We understand that we’re in uncharted territory and even the best epidemiologists can’t predict the virus’ course,” they added. “But the thought of taking a supermarket offline this October is a scenario we don’t want to contemplate.”