Bronx leaders and labor groups bristled when it appeared that a new supermarket proposed for the Kingsbridge Armory would benefit from public subsidies. In late 2009, the supermarket and a planned shopping mall were scrapped.
But public subsidies requested by two established Bronx supermarkets have generated no such opposition in early 2010. On Tuesday, February 9, the New York City Industrial Development Agency okayed some $3 million in tax breaks and bonds to rebuild and expand a Norwood Foodtown that burned in December, and $5.6 million to expand a Western Beef supermarket on Park Avenue in Tremont.
The NYCIDA issues tax breaks and bonds on behalf of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which backed developer The Related Companies at the Kingsbridge Armory in 2009.
Newly-elected City Comptroller John Liu was the only high-profile figure to oppose the supermarket subsidies on February 4. Even Liu found the requests reasonable; he opposed the subsidies on principle, because he wants the NYCIDA to generally vet requests better, a spokesman for the comptroller explained.
Both the Norwood Foodtown and the Tremont Western Beef will benefit from FRESH, a new NYCEDC and Department of City Planning program. FRESH stands for Food Retail Expansion to Support Health.
The city wants to help supermarkets, delis and bodegas in produce-poor neighborhoods expand to offer more and better foods. Business and property owners in the south and west Bronx, upper Manhattan, northeast Brooklyn and southeast Queens are eligible for tax breaks and more. In some cases, the DCP will waive zoning rules.
The owners of PSK Supermarkets plan to build an 11,000 square foot, $3.7 million Foodtown on E. 204th Street, where the old 7,000 square foot Foodtown and a diner burned. Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer.
Western Beef plans to acquire 2050 Webster Avenue and build a 35,000 square foot, $11.5 million supermarket, some 10,000 square feet larger than the Western Beef around the corner on Park Avenue. The new supermarket will boast a brick oven bakery and a deli. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring.
The FRESH program targets less affluent neighborhoods where potato chips and soda pop predominate, where apples shrivel and delis offer sub-par meat, the same neighborhoods where more people suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure.
“Thanks to the FRESH program, we have the opportunity to help ensure that all New Yorkers have the food choices that for too long have been lacking in certain neighborhoods,” NYCEDC president Seth Pinsky said.
The new Western Beef will flank a 20,000 square foot Western Beef warehouse and 33,000 square feet of supermarket parking. Together, it and the Norwood Foodtown will retain 90 jobs and add some 65 more.
Those who questioned public subsidies at the Kingsbridge Armory were concerned that a new supermarket would bump established supermarkets, delis and bodegas from the neighborhood. Many also requested that Related guarantee living wages for shopping mall workers in exchange for the subsidies.
Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@c
©2010 Community News Group