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Neighbors: Closure Of Grocery Store Would Be Detrimental To Chelsea

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It's a scene playing out across the Big Apple with gas stations, restaurants and laundromats – a landlord raises up the rent, and a tenant is forced out of business.

But in Chelsea, residents have been fighting back to keep a grocery store from closing its doors, as CBS2's Tony Aiello reported.

The Associated Supermarket at 255 W. 14th St. is a small store, but it has a big selection. Now it is about to reach its expiration date after 27 years.

"It's terrible," one woman said in the store. "You know, not too many places to shop here in the area anymore."

"Good prices, very good prices," another woman said.

But the price is not right when it comes to the rent. The rent now stands at $32,000 a month, and the owner said the landlord wants to double or even triple it.

So he is making plans to shut the doors in May.

"This city is not for poor people, it's for rich people," said Cesar Castillo of Chelsea.

On Friday, customers, union workers, and elected officials protested outside the Midtown office of the landlord, Pan Am Equities. They claimed Pan Am is forcing a neighborhood asset to close in pursuit of higher profit.

"It is important for New York landlords to also be a part of preserving the fabric of a community," said state Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D-66th). "It's not just about making money."

If the store closes, the nearest large grocery store will be a Whole Foods two blocks east on 14th Street.

"You know what they say, 'Whole Foods, whole check,'" said city Public Advocate Letitia James. "And so what we need is an affordable – an affordable supermarket for the residents."

In fact, a 2014 survey showed Whole Foods as being more affordable than Gristedes, but more expensive than Fairway.

Regardless, residents are petitioning the landlord to explore options to keep the store open. As of Friday, the clock was ticking.

CBS2's Aiello called, emailed and stopped by the offices of the landlord, but Pan Am Equities had no comment.

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