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Locals fear food desert after Crown Heights supermarket hit with eviction notice

The Nostrand Avenue Associated Market.
Photo by Ben Verde

The Associated Supermarket on Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights is slated to shutter, sparking fears that a food desert could develop in western Crown Heights. 

The grocer was recently given a 90-day notice to vacate the building near Montogomery Street after its lease negotiations fell through, and despite an ongoing commercial eviction moratorium which would likely end by the date on the notice, according to sources familiar with the situation.  

Shoppers who live near the store bemoaned the longer treks they would have to make for essentials once the location shutters. 

“I’m going to have to go the extra mile now,” said shopper Sharon Thompson who lives around the corner from the Associated Market.

Others worried that the store’s closure could pave way for a food desert in the neighborhood. It is not the only supermarket in the area — a Western Beef grocer lies four blocks down Empire Boulevard — but locals fear other supermarkets may close in its wake as Crown Heights’ valuable lots are sold off to real estate developers. 

“You have to go several blocks down Nostrand or up Nostrand or down Empire to get a comparable sized supermarket that will have most of your basic needs other than a bodega,” said neighborhood resident and Community Board 9 member Alejandra Caraballo. “While it doesn’t meet the technical definition of a food desert, it can be that.”

While some newer developments have brought new supermarkets with them, those businesses typically come with higher prices than the discount sellers that precede them. 

“There are a lot of neighborhood grocery stores that are being closed out for development that aren’t being replaced with other grocery stores, or if they are, being replaced with higher-end deli’s or wholesome markets, or places like Lincoln Market in Prospect Lefferts Gardens that are significantly more expensive,” said Caraballo.

The closure of Associated Market would mean a loss of more than just a food source, according to Community Board 9 Vice Chair Warren Berke, who pointed out that management of the supermarket has been especially involved in the community since its opening 30 years ago.  

“The management of Associated has always been very supportive of this community,” Berke said. “They donate things, they help the stakeholders when they need freezer space, they pick up and drive senior citizens back and forth from the store. There’s a lot of things they do to support — it’s going to be a loss all around.” 

Plans for the approximately block-long space have not yet been announced, but many in the community speculate that the sprawling site will house a shiny new apartment building like the lot directly adjacent to it which has been cleared for a new residential project. The lot is currently zoned to allow for a mid-rise apartment building similar to one that sits across Nostrand Avenue from it. 

Property records show that the lot is owned by Josh Usdan and Midwood Development. 

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