Astoria residents, officials bring fight to save Key Food to Target headquarters in Manhattan

Photo by Dean Moses

About two dozen Astoria residents took the fight to save the neighborhood’s Key Food grocery store to Target’s headquarters in Manhattan on Thursday, Sept. 17.

The rally, which took place at 521 W 25th St., is the most recent demonstration by community members, joined by state Senator Jessica Ramos, City Council candidate Tiffany Cabán, Assembly candidate Zohran Mamdani and Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, to prevent Target from taking the place of Key Food, located at 22-15 31st St., and to save the union jobs it provides.

Organizer Stylianos Karolidis, an Astoria resident, told QNS that as someone who cares very deeply about union jobs and gentrification, he decided to get involved in the community’s work to stop the national chain from opening a store in Astoria.

“We wanted to come to Target’s corporate offices here on the West Side to let them know that wherever they are in New York City, we will begin showing up,” said Karolidis. “Because Target has been unresponsive to us, because Target has been unwilling to support these union jobs. We are preparing to work with every single mayoral candidate and with numerous City Council candidates to develop a network of politicians in New York City who are opposed to Target wherever they want to go.”

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

At the rally, co-founder of the Astoria Food Pantry Macaela Sears spoke about the neighborhood’s food crisis, emphasizing the need they see every day at their own food pantry.

Cabán said that Target’s arrival in Astoria would be detrimental for family-owned and small businesses.

“During the pandemic, small businesses throughout the city have continued to be devastated. They’re struggling to keep their doors open,” Cabán said. “When I walk into some of the shops trying to keep their stores open, they literally say that this Target would be a death note, that it would cement their futures — not to mention what we’ve already talked about in terms of food insecurity.”

Photo by Dean Moses

Ramos, who has opposed Target opening another storefront in Elmhurst, said that while the retail store offers low prices, “all we’ve gotten is low wages.”

“Key Food is a family-owned business whose model has actually allowed for living wages with benefits, with pensions and real compensation that every single worker deserves at every single workplace,” Ramos said. “And until Target becomes that good actor that we expect, then we don’t want them in our neighborhood and we don’t want them anywhere near Queens.”

The fight to save Key Food, the long time grocer on 31st Street, has been ongoing for some time now.

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

They are set to lose about 150 union jobs once it closes.

When the rally concluded, Karolidis tapped a petition and letters addressed to Target to their offices’ front door, saying they will have to read it that way.

Photo by Dean Moses

Mamdani said this fight is a “microcosm” of larger battles happening now.

“Oftentimes we only take the opposition that we can see. It doesn’t allow us to connect the dots and I think that we need to not only fight power where we see it, but also where it lives,” Mamdani said about protesting at Target’s headquarters. “This is far closer to the heart of Target than the soon to be location is. This is their corporate offices. We need to ensure that this is not something that they can’t look away from.”

A Target spokesperson told QNS they are excited to move into Astoria.

“Target is excited to bring an easy, safe and convenient shopping experience to guests in the Astoria area with our new small-format store,” they stated. “As a tenant in this development, we would welcome a grocery store as our neighbor and we’ve worked to ensure our lease does not include restrictions around grocery options for the community.”

Additional reporting by Dean Moses.