After a meeting in early February marked by both impassioned pleas and extreme exasperation by hundreds of community members in response to developer Avery Hall’s future plans for the existing 5th Avenue Key Food site, a platoon of local and city-wide politicians have sent a letter to the Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and New York City Planning Commission to express they are “deeply concerned” with major portions of the developer’s plans.
The veritable “who’s who” of politicians who signed the letter include Council Member Brad Lander, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Velmonette Montgomery, New York Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, and Council Member Stephen Levin, as first reported by DNAinfo.
The letter — sent on March 7 — prioritizes the need for “a large, affordable supermarket and sufficient affordable housing for our diverse community.”
Community members and politicians believe that with the recent closing of the Gowanus Pathmark and the Met Foods on Smith Street, a loss of the 5th Avenue Key Foods would deal a blow to the community who rely on the supermarket.
The team of politicians who wrote the letter highlight that the 5th Avenue Key Food site has played a pivotal role in the development of Park Slope since the Baltic Street Urban Renewal Agreement was approved by both the City Planning Commission and the Board of Estimate in 1981.
The community organization surrounding the plan spurred the creation of the active Fifth Avenue Committee at the time — and is one of the main organizations that spearheaded the February 9 community meeting with Avery Hall. The letter explains:
“[the] urban renewal plan established a set of land use controls that were designed to promote the redevelopment of the area for commercial, residential, and community facility use – including the development of the 36,000 square foot Key Food supermarket, which provides access to affordable, healthy food and, for nearly 35 years, has become a staple for thousands of residents of Park Slope, Gowanus, and Boerum Hill.”
However the Baltic Street Urban Renewal plan is in effect until 2021. The letter asks the HPD and City Planning “not to approve a modification of the urban renewal plan that does not conform to these goals,” which would essentially take away Avery Hall’s legal responsibility to address the needs of the community.
The four points the politicians listed include:
“1. Providing a large, affordable, accessible, community-oriented supermarket with a long-term lease, local hiring, and respect for workers.
2. Deepening the affordability of the project, ensuring that at least 10% of the units are affordable to families at or below 40% of area median income (Avery Hall has indicated that they intend to rent 20% of the project’s 165 residential units at 60% AMI, 2.5% initially at 80% AMI, and 2.5 % initially at 100% AMI); and that there is a preference for residents who have been displaced from Brooklyn’s Community Board 6.
3. Ensuring that the project’s affordable residential units are required regardless of the presence of 421a or other relevant tax abatement and remain permanently affordable, so we do not face evictions or an expiration crisis in another few years.
4. Allowing for meaningful community input into the design and operations of the development.”
DNAinfo reports Avery Hall Spokesperson Ethan Geto believes their “revised plan will directly and constructively address the key issues raised in the letter and at the public forum.”
An meeting date has not been set for the HPD and City Planning decision.