Park Slope residents fight to keep Key Food site

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PARK SLOPE, Brooklyn — Sometimes a supermarket is more than just a place to shop for groceries.

"We been depending, coming here for years," said shopper Mandy Jusino. "I come here everyday."

More than 30 years ago, before Park Slope was considered one of the best places in the country to raise a kid, people living in the blighted neighborhood had to convince the city to invest in the community.  Eventually they did as part of an urban renewal plan.

"We didn't know it was going to be a Key Food.  We were just fighting for a supermarket," said Pat Conway of the Fifth Avenue Committee.  "A place that could be kind of a community center that would attract other small businesses to the area."

Today that supermarket is surrounded by some of the most expensive houses in the city. But with public housing just a few blocks away it still provides an affordable place to shop for Brooklynites across income levels.

"They're very expensive.  They're like $4, $5," said shopper Lillian Castillo referring to the regular price for a box of cereal she had just purchased. "I got them for $2.99 are you kidding me?"

"This is a precious corner of diversity," said Lisel Burns who lives around the corner from the store.

Now Burns and hundreds of others living in the neighborhood are asking developer Avery Hall Investments to include a new supermarket in the plans for the parking lot and store it is currently in contract to buy.

Non-profit owner Bisi Iderabdulah says she's had enough of construction cranes hanging over the neighborhood without any input from the community.

"I'm born and raised in Brooklyn.  I've had two businesses here," said Iderabdualah.  "I know it's important to make money, but what we're seeing right now is what I would call over development and the destruction of neighborhoods."

But after hearing the outcry from the masses, the developer got the message. Before Tuesday night's meeting, the design which includes 165 units, more than 40 considered affordable housing, and retail space, only called for a small grocery store.

But, in a statement,  a spokesperson for the developer told PIX11, "after receiving input from the community about the acute need for a food market in this space, we have committed to including a grocery store with a wide selection of products to accommodate neighborhood shoppers.”

But if the developer doesn't follow through on the promise, Burns says it may just be time to leave the borough she loves.

"It's over.  It feels like you can just go to a mall in New Jersey.  I mean why live in Brooklyn?" said Burns.

The developer was not required to hold a public meeting last night but chose to do so to try and win over the community.  Still, some who attended the meeting are worried that when the Urban renewal restrictions run out in a few years, the development plans could expand, which they say would not fit with the current community standards.

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