The Associated Supermarket at 975 Nostrand Avenue (Image: Google Maps)
The Associated Supermarket at 975 Nostrand Avenue has been given 30 days to vacate its space, after negotiations about the supermarket’s presence in a future development fell apart.
The 30-day notice was delivered to Associated’s leadership yesterday. The supermarket has been operating on a month-to-month basis since its most recent lease expired in June 2020.
Uncertainty about the supermarket’s future in recent weeks has prompted frustration and protests from some nearby residents, who say losing the 30-year-old supermarket will make it harder to access affordable food, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement provided to Bklyner, a spokesperson for Midwood Investment and Development, the property owner, said Midwood had offered Associated’s owner, Pablo Espinal, $300,000 in addition to the right of first offer on a new supermarket space in the planned redevelopment of the site, in exchange for assurances Espinal would vacate the property by the end of July. They also offered Espinal the option to vacate with a payment of $400,000. But Espinal refused both offers and, the spokesperson said, also declined to consider moving to a nearby vacant site.
“When we started exploring the site’s redevelopment, we were up front with Mr. Espinal and gave him a discounted rent for the last five years so he could stay in place while our plans were formulated,” the Midwood spokesperson said. “In fact, we recently offered him a deal that would give him an opportunity to reopen his Associated in a bigger, improved space planned for the site, on top of a generous financial offer.”
The statement continued: “Mr. Espinal has declined every offer to date, insisting on unreasonable guarantees and terms that no owner would provide. We look forward to resolving this matter and moving ahead with plans for a new, larger supermarket to serve the community – with or without Mr. Espinal – and much-needed affordable housing on this site.”
The notice also accuses the Associated of failing to adequately address city building violations, and of allowing for-hire vehicles to park at the supermarket’s lot in violation of the lease. And it warns that, if the Associated does not vacate the property, Midwood “will seek court intervention and pursue all available damages,” which could number “millions upon millions of dollars.”
Bklyner previously reported that Midwood had told Associated leadership that they would not renew the supermarket’s lease beyond the spring, prompting backlash. An online petition to save the Associated has gathered over 4,500 signatures, and local elected officials Assemblymember Diana Richardson and Council Member Laurie Cumbo have issued statements in support of the supermarket.
While there are other supermarkets in the area, including a Foodtown on Franklin Avenue and a Western Beef on Empire Boulevard about 3/5ths of a mile away, residents have long feared that development could reduce the number of inexpensive grocery options in the neighborhood, which includes a large Black and Caribbean population.
No construction permits have yet been filed. But Midwood has said it plans to build an as-of-right, mixed-use development with housing and retail. The site is currently zoned R7-1, which allows for the construction of mid-rise apartment buildings, along with a commercial overlay.
In February, Midwood said they would include a new, larger supermarket in the development, though some residents have expressed concern that newly-opened supermarkets in adjacent neighborhoods are often more expensive than the discount stores they replaced.
Reached by phone, Espinal told Bklyner he was looking for a guarantee that the Associated would be given a space in the new development, which Midwood would not commit to. He said his attorney was reviewing the 30-day-notice and that he was still deciding on next steps.
“I’m here to continue to serve the community,” Espinal said, citing neighborhood initiatives hosted by the supermarket like free grocery giveaways and PPE distribution events. “That’s what I want to do. The community wants us to be here, we’ve been like a family to them. They know us by our first names.”