QNS: Astoria continues fight to keep Key Food open

Originally published in QNS on August 28, 2020.

Community leaders rallied support to keep an Astoria Key Food grocery store open beyond the end of its lease on Oct. 1, and to prevent a Target from settling in its place.

 

Joined by a handful of elected officials, about 60 Astorians came out to show their support for the grocery store, located at 22-15 31st St., and the union jobs it provides on Thursday, Aug. 27.

“Our communities have been under attack by corporations for a very long time,” said state Senator Jessica Ramos. “We want to protect the 150 jobs of these essential workers who showed up to work every day at the peak of the pandemic, putting their lives at risk for us.”

In addition to Ramos, state Senator Michael Gianaris and Zohran Mamdani, who recently won the Democratic primary for Astoria’s state Assembly seat, called for support for the Key Food on Thursday.

“We have a system and a society and a government that is stripping the dignity of its working class people to give more and more to those who already have too much,” Mamdani said.

Rally-goers shared concerns that without Key Food, residents would lose access to a vital grocery store at a time when about 20 percent of New York City residents are out of work.

Macaela Sears, the co-founder of the Astoria Food Pantry, said that the food crisis in Astoria is real. The night before her pantry opens, a line begins to form around the block, she said.

“Our neighbors are spending all night on the sidewalk because they’re afraid they won’t have enough food for their families,” Sears said. “Like it or not, this is the backdrop for this Target, which has seen record sales during this pandemic, bulldozing into our community and forcing out this Key Food and 150 unionized jobs with it.”

Key Food’s lease with Jenel Real Estate expires on Oct. 1, 2020. The real estate company, in collaboration with A&H Acquisitions, reportedly plans to knock down the existing two-story structure and build a three-story structure housed by a Target on the second and third floor.

Niether Jenel Real Estate nor A&H Acquisitions could be reached for comment.

Queens lawmakers have spent the past several months writing letters and advocating on behalf of the local grocer.

“Key Food’s employees have gone above and beyond through this crisis, to make sure northern Astoria has access to nutritious food,” Councilman Costa Constantinides said in May. “The only thanks they’ve given is a warning that they’ll be out of a job by October, if not sooner. The landlord must work on a short-term solution to keep Key Food serving our community, as well as truly work with them to keep them in northern Astoria.”