Economy July 22, 2016 | 2:44 pm

Shuttering of East Harlem supermarket draws wide rebuke

East Harlem, NY – The National Supermarket Association(NSA), community leaders and elected officials, including New York City CouncilSpeaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat,rallied today on East 116th Street to denounce the imminent shuttering of CityFresh Market at the end of the month, and to demand that both Walgreens and thebuilding owner work with the community to preserve local access to healthy,affordable groceries.

The rally follows months of conversations between SpeakerMelissa Mark-Viverito, City Fresh Market owner Anthony Espinal, the propertyowner, and Walgreens to negotiate an outcome that would keep the store open forthe neighborhood.

City Fresh Market is an important asset to the community,especially after the closure of another significant local supermarket in EastHarlem – Pathmark on East 125th Street and Lexington Avenue. Estimated to haveserved over 30,000 local residents, Pathmark’s closure left over 200 employeesout of work and drastically changed the food landscape of the neighborhood.

Though a dozen other smaller grocery stores serve EastHarlem, few consistently stock fresh fruit and vegetables for local customersand families, instead stocking cheaper, unhealthy food items. Whole Foods isslotted to open at West 125th street and Malcolm X Boulevard in early 2017, yetit is likely that the chain will not address the needs of many communitymembers, as it is potentially too expensive for many East Harlem residents.

Residents in food deserts like East Harlem are often forcedto shop for groceries at local bodegas or delis, a practice which impacts thenutrition and overall food habits of local residents and families. Studies haveshown that many of these areas are plagued with malnutrition, elevated levelsof obesity, and other diet-related health problems.

Over 100 people attended the rally includingrepresentatives from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene– District Public Health Office, Community Board 11, Food Bank For New YorkCity and the New York Academy of Medicine.

“Similar to many other independent grocery storesthroughout New York City, this City Fresh Market fills a needed void in EastHarlem, providing residents easy access to affordable and healthy foodsoptions,” said National Supermarket Association President Rodolfo Fuertes. “Fora community historically deprived of healthy food choices, East Harlem needsmore supermarkets, not added barriers that force families to travel to greatdistances for the bare essentials.”

“My store has fed this community for years and providedgood paying jobs to local residents,” said City Fresh Market owner AnthonyEspinal. “The overwhelming support my supermarket has received from areaelected officials, community groups, local leaders and East Harlemites shouldnot go unnoticed. I hope that the decision makers will heed East Harlem’s callfor healthy and affordable food, and allow City Fresh Market to continueserving this neighborhood for many years to come.”

“El Barrio/East Harlem is in dire need of access to freshgroceries and losing yet another supermarket in less than a year will leavefamilies scrambling as they struggle to find ways to provide affordable food totheir families,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Any business that wantsto operate in El Barrio must be fully invested in the livelihood of theneighborhood they seek to become members of. I urge Walgreens and the buildingowner to work in partnership with our community to come up with a solution tomaintain a supermarket in this space.”

"Access to fresh and affordable food is key to keepingour communities healthy. However, in East Harlem and across our city, smallbusinesses that provide residents with balanced nutritional options are beingforced out," said State Senator Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan/Bronx)."We must protect our neighborhood supermarkets to reverse this trend. InWashington Heights, Walgreens worked with a local supermarket so they couldremain open and I hope a similar agreement can be reached here."

“Throughout New York City, too many small businesses arebeing forced to close their doors,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “CityFresh Market is just the latest example of a community-built andcommunity-loved business that is being threatened by skyrocketing costs,despite its invaluable contribution to Harlem. Every New Yorker deserves accessto quality and affordable food and we need to do more to ensure that ourresidents and their local businesses are taken care of.”