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Manhattan’s affordable grocery stores could benefit from proposed tax breaks

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Two local officials have introduced a bill that could cut hefty rent taxes for qualifying supermarkets

Flickr/Ianqui Doodle

New York city’s grocery stores have been dwindling away over time, especially many of the smaller chains. Whether it’s due to being priced out, unable to compete with larger chains, or giving way to residential developments, the quest to find an affordable grocer is becoming increasingly difficult. Realizing the crisis at hand, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilman Corey Johnson have proposed a bill that could help keep Manhattan grocery markets in business.

At a recent City Council meeting, Brewer and Johnson introduced a bill that would exempt supermarkets from the city’s commercial rent tax, currently imposed on businesses that pay $250,000 or more in rent per year, reports DNAinfo. Supermarkets deemed “affordable” would have to meet other requirements before being able to reap benefits of the bill that include measuring more than 3,500 square feet in size with at least 500 square feet being devoted to fresh produce, accepting SNAP benefits, and having pharmacy sales that account for less than half of profits.

“We’ve seen too many neighborhood supermarkets threatened with closure in the last few years, and we’ve been to too many rallies to try to keep them open,” said Brewer in a statement.

If the bill is successful, over 130 supermarkets could qualify if they fit the script. “The proposal… would give our neighborhood supermarkets a fighting chance for survival," declared Johnson.

Since we last mapped the city’s disappearing grocery stores, dozens more have also made their departure, not just in Manhattan but across the boroughs as well. New York City grocery chain D’Agostino almost ended its 84-year run but was saved by a joint venture with Gristedes store owners, though several of its stores were shut down and just nine of 26 remain in business . However, a Key Food in Crown Heights wasn’t so lucky; its on its way towards becoming a nine-story residential tower with 37 apartments.