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Developer Says Key Food is Not Being ‘Muscled Out of The Neighborhood,’ Wants Them to Stay

Key Food Astoria (Google Maps)

May 9, 2019 By Christian Murray (Updated May 10)

The owners of the Key Food property on 31st Street are mystified that supermarket workers and Astoria’s elected officials are holding a rally outside the store Friday accusing them of unfairly pushing the supermarket out of the neighborhood to make way for a Target store.

The rally, put together by Council Member Costa Constantinides and State. Sen. Jessica Ramos, will protest the property owner’s plans to demolish the 22-15 31st St. building to develop a three-story building for Target, arguing that it will put supermarket union workers out on the street.

“Dozens of union jobs are at risk if we allow Key Food on 31st Street to get muscled out of the neighborhood, depriving residents of a community staple that provides quality fresh food,” Constantinides said in announcing the rally scheduled for Friday at 2:45 p.m.

The developer filed plans to demolish the Key Food site and the adjacent building—that houses a bodega, Subway, The Rock Health & Fitness Club, and more– last month. Key Food’s lease ends next year and it has not been renewed.

But Michael Hirschhorn, a representative of the owner Ditmars 31st Street Associates, said that the narrative put forward by the elected officials is not the full story of what has transpired.

He said that the developer has spent 2 ½ years in negotiations with Key Food in an attempt to get the grocery store to come back once the property is developed. He said that they were offering rent that was 25 percent to 30 percent below market rate.

“They have been a good tenant for more than 20 years and I want them to stay,” Hirschhorn said. “We want a supermarket—it’s good for the neighborhood and they are a proven quality operator.”

Key Food’s lease ends in October 2020, at which time the store will be demolished and development will begin. The building will be three stories high, with the top two floors being for Target and the ground floor and lower level dedicated for retail.

Hirschhorn said that the development will take about 18 months and will improve the neighborhood.

He said they have been calling on Key Food to take 25,000 square feet of space in the new building—about the same amount of space the grocery store currently has.

“We came up with a number of layouts, numbers, rate schedules and we were negotiating for 2 ½ years,” Hirschhorn said. “We spent a lot of money on architectural fees trying to get a space that would work for them.”

Hirschhorn said that Key Food walked away from talks three months. He didn’t disclose how much the developer was asking for in rent compared to what Key Food is currently paying.

The lease that Ditmars 31st Street Associates entered into with Target does prevent certain types of supermarkets from opening in the new development, Hirschhorn said. However, he said, that provision applies to “discount” supermarkets and stores such as Key Food, Trader Joe’s and Stop and Shop would not be prevented from opening there.

“Sure there are limitations because of Target, but many can still move in there,” Hirschhorn said. He said that the developer wouldn’t have engaged in negotiations with Key Food and other supermarkets if they couldn’t move in.

Man-Dell Food Stores, which owns the Key Food franchise, could not be reached for comment. However, a spokesperson for the company told Astoria Post last year that it was trying to persuade the developer to pursue a design that would keep the supermarket in place. Last week, the company said it would like to stay there and had been trying to negotiate with the owner.

The developer plans on getting a supermarket in the space despite the lease limitation, Hirschhorn said. The developer has been in discussion with four or five supermarkets since the Key Food negotiations ended, with some of them being union shops.

“They [the protesters] mention the union issue. That is not an issue for us at all,” he said.

Hirschhorn said that the company got calls from elected officials late last year exerting pressure on them to make a deal with Key Food.

“We wanted to make a deal but the numbers have to work for everyone,” he said.

He said that the developer worked out a deal with The Rock, finding the gymnasium space across the street at 22-06 31st St., that the owners are also developing. TJ Maxx is the anchor tenant in that building.

Hirschhorn said that he first heard about the protest through an article in the Astoria Post last week.

He said that he is considering showing up at the rally. “I think people need to know the truth. We want Key Food there; we want a quality grocery store there; and we don’t want to see the loss of union jobs.”

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38 Comments

Eliza Doolittle

All I know is that I don’t trust anything that comes out the mouth of a ‘developer’. The developer says they’ve been ‘trying to work things out with Key Food…that they want them to return to the new space?’ Yeah, right. For a PRICE, to be sure.

For those of us without cars, Key Food is the only real ‘supermarket’ in that area. Berry Fresh and Market Basket (or whatever it’s called off of 20th Ave.) are in completely different parts of Astoria, and not convenient for those who live closer to Key Food.

I never thought I’d say it but…. I’ve really loved my time in Astoria (first by 30th Ave), and esp. once I moved up by Ditmars five years ago. But, Ditmars has changed so much, that it’s now more along the lines of 30th Ave and Bway, which is to say ….over-saturated, and losing that neighborhood-y feeling every day.

I knew that rents would climb, esp as Astoria overall became more ‘popular’. And so I’ve always had other neighborhoods in the back of my mind, as backups for me to consider moving to, should I no longer want to pay Astoria prices.

But now, it’s not the rents that are likely going to motivate me to leave but…. the over-development in and of itself, and all that brings. Obnoxious full-of-themselves types moving in …. too much traffic…. too many instances of almost being hit by impatient SUVs…reckless, unchecked food delivery guys on e-bikes…. self-centered people everywhere I look…. cars not only double-parking, but parking across crosswalks, and sometimes even across sidewalks (yes, I said cars parking on the sidewalk, on certain side streets)…. For Rent signs everywhere (which points to greed)…. no one holding the MTA accountable for its horrendous service, poor management, corruption…..

I really think I may be done.

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Peter Roussos

I’ve seen Astoria grow from small town to being no different than Manhattan. I grew up and still live in Astoria since 1978 and can tell you one reason people moved here was for it being DIFFERENT than the norm. When you want to change the character of a neighborhood to suit your needs then its time for YOU to leave and look for what you then want. Sadly the neighborhood has changed for the WORST. Crime, subway bus overcrowding, over development, big business all have added to the degradation of the Astoria I grew up in and miss. Everyone cant have it there way. Hence the reason Astoria is not the way it use to be. 🙁

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Peg T

Let’s look at the big picture. As one person commented – this is not the right place for a target. Why is everyone trying to change neighborhoods. This will send Astoria down the black hole. It will no longer be a family neighborhood it will fall victim to corporate greed as so many others have done before. The area isn’t equip to handle that amount of traffic. Marshall’s should not have even been built here. I too was born, raised and still reside in the neighborhood – it is sad to watch and have no say about a company coming in a buying up a block of stores to rip it down and put up some giant mega store and laugh all the way to the bank. The building of target is a dis service to the neighborhood. And all of you who are looking forward to it coming, let me know how you feel when it is open and you can’t get a seat on the train and the traffic is backed up for blocks under the tracks and the foot traffic becomes so heavy you are annoyed just walking down the street.

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Mary

I can’t believe we are arguing over keeping that dump Key Foods. The parent company should take the abortion pill.

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Staxy

Key Food is convenient because it is by the subway but its over priced and the staff could use some training in dealing better with customers. I do not know why our elected officials are running to rally after reading this article. Supporting a small private business i can understand but Key Food is a big business and has stores throughout the country. I don’t see our officials rallying to support the small homes and older building tenants they are being pushed out to make way for luxury apts. I guess like some others have pointed out on this board its a photo op that they can add to their resume when they compete for a seat with someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

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Anonymous

I have been living in Astoria since 2005 and when I absolutely have to I shopping at this Key Food. One thing I know I can always count on when I go shopping here is a frustrating experience.

With the exception of a few people, customer service is horrible, cashiers have an attitude and good luck trying to find an employee, particularly in the produce department, that can speak English. And even if they can, one who is willing to help.

And let’s talk about actual product for a moment. Keyfood’s inconsistency with product is constant. More often than not if you find something you like the chances are very slim you’re going to find it again when you go back to the store. This holds particularly true in the frozen food section.

I also feel that Keyfood is not accommodating to seniors who have no other choice but to shop here by charging them a delivery fee.

If this area has a chance to get a better run, better quality supermarket on 31st St. then I hope it happens because we certainly need it and we certainly deserve it.

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Akim

They also need more international products and goods for the diverse neighborhood.

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Pat Macnamara

Clueless Costa, a political hack, is always looking for a photo op with his trusty podium. Vote this bum out. Much of Steinway street between 30th avenue and Broadway is fast becoming a ghost town with shuttered stores, garbage, bums, graffiti, and petty crime. The strip between 28th avenue and Astoria Blvd is clogged with double parked cars, litter, and sketchy characters. Yet he is fixated on a lousy grocery store. They must give him a 20% discount on expired produce.

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Eliza Doolittle

The strip between 28th Ave and Astoria Blvd is clogged with double-parked cars, litter and ‘sketchy characters’. lol. You mean ‘scary Muslims’? That’s what you were getting at, no?

Funny that you failed to mention the other (‘non-sketchy’) folks who routinely double-park and idle …. by the Dunkin Donuts at 38th(?) Street and Ditmars… in MTA bus stops all up and down Steinway and along Ditmars?…. or the rampant double-parking by the Souvlaki Lady and Lefkos Pyrgos?…. or in front of all the Greek restaurants on 23rd Ave?…. or all the parents in their SUVs who double-park all up and down the blocks surrounding the school on 21st Ave. by 37th Street…you know, the parents of the kids who are ‘too good’ to have to take a bus home or to walk, and so instead, the lazy parents and their lazy kids inconvenience everybody else by double-parking often for 10-15 minutes, waiting for their kids to get out from school….?

No mention about all those double-parkers?

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Salvatore Coppola

Key Food will be no loss to the Ditmars area, Target’s has a great grocery store hi. And the prices will be cheaper than Key Food

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Native New Yorker

“Suburban”? Astoria is only 7 stops from Midtown! Sorry but Astoria’s secret is out. Times change. Change with the times or move out to the real suburbs.

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Crawdad

Um, Astoria is the furthest thing from “suburban”. It’s right across the river from Midtown Manhattan, the largest business district on the planet.

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Jane doe

Under the train in ditmars is no place for a target!! I love target but it is already to congested there and this is going to make the car traffic and people traffic even worse!! For the pet that is the ditmars station every day it is going to be a nightmare right there!! Instead of the new apt building on 31 between ditmars and 21 Ave the target should be there! It would make the traffic (people and car) so much better then right under the train!

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Duh

Everyone acts like this is the only supermarket in the area! I agree, it is located in a great spot, easy to get to, most importantly convenient for most, but we have a Trade Fair, Best Market and other little shops to make a pit stop to also. Things are changing!

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Pat Macnamara

Trade Fair is disgusting-every location. Worst management and price gouging.

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Anonymous

Haha unions. We still have those? Am I the only one who thinks “corruption” when I hear that word?

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ajoe

key food there is crap… would be happy to see it go for something better. we should be protesting so that they put a TRADER JOES!!!

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Mike Doyle

Google the song “I am I said” and you’ve heard my story. Astoria, the place of my birth, baptism and elementary school. L.A. where I’ve lived most my life my mind travels to the old Astoria pool and living on 31st hearing the clack de clack of the steel wheels on the tracks heading for Ditmars, there’s more yet, those memories are much. Keep the charm of Astoria!

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Robert

The issue I have is changing the Ditmars area from that small town feeling to megastore mania..

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Eliza

There are a lot of rumors and misconceptions floating around. One fact: the new Target will be clothing and home goods only. No grocery section! This was stated in the original press release. So it’s good to hear they’re negotiating for a grocery store to go on the ground floor, even if it isn’t Key Food.

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Joe

How about stepping into the 21st century with Queens’ first Trader Joe’s?

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Anonymous

Lol it may not be our part of Queens but there is a Trader Joe’s in maspeth Queens already.

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a

lived in astoria 10+ years, never been to maspeth once.. we need a trader joes here, it would do so well.

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Dan

I wonder if any of the elected officials who are setting up this rally received campaign funds from Key Food. Something is not right!

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Steve

Some staff at this Key Food location look miserable. I do not like shopping there. If it stays open they should all be trained to at least greet customers and be courteous.

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MJanet

I personally love shopping at Target because it has almost everything I need whether it’s groceries, clothes, makeup, and whatever else. I would welcome a mini Target at this location. Target also gives to many charities and most Target stores have helpful and friendly staff unlike many of the markets around here.

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