Elected officials in western Queens are urging the landlord of an Astoria Key Food supermarket to extend the store’s lease at its 31st Street location, citing its value to the community amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The leaders fired off a letter to Jenel Real Estate and A&H Acquisitions, asking that the family-run grocery store get at least a one-year lease until a longer deal can be worked out, as it is facing closure after nearly 50years in the community.
“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. “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.”
Employees at the Key Food, located at 22-15 31st St. near Ditmars Boulevard, have worked overtime to meet the demand for quality, nutritious food as thousands of families have stayed at home to flatten the curve. Astoria residents also face longer lines to get into a grocery store, and barer shelves, while experts anticipate a second wave of COVID-19 this fall.
Yet, without an extended lease, nearly 100 union workers face unemployment in the coming months.
“Supermarket workers are stepping up to serve our communities and provide essential service during this crisis,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said. “The workers at Key Food are our neighbors and friends, continuing to work each day to make sure families are being fed. They should keep their jobs and this important community institution needs to stay open, especially during the pandemic.”
Key Food has long sought to remain on 31st Street, even as the landlords seek to demolish several properties to make way for a three-story Target store at the site.
“It saddens me to hear that some people have no moral compass in the middle of a pandemic,” Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas said. “Key Food’s employees are risking their lives to ensure northern Astoria residents do not go without food. We can not allow this corporate landlord to evict a small business, eliminate union jobs, and diminish Astoria’s access to food supplies during this crisis.”
Last May, the Astoria community, elected officials, and the UFCW Local 1500 members who work at the Key Food rallied in support of the supermarket, but no deal has been reached.
“Local grocery stores and supermarkets play a critical role in shaping our neighborhood’s already limited relationship with fresh and healthy food access,” state Senator Jessica Ramos said. “Throughout this first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, supermarket employees have demonstrated to be indispensable assets, helping sculpt our growth and community wellbeing. I join my colleagues, UFCW Local 1500, local leaders, and members of the Astoria community to advocate for an extension of Key Food’s lease to ensure local families have access to quality produce.”