By Jonathan Sperling
A month after Target announced its intent to muscle into Astoria, community members rallied against the retail giant’s plan, which would displace a 50-year-old supermarket that employs dozens of union workers.
Local leaders joined forces with residents and Key Food employees at the 31st St. Key Food Friday afternoon to describe how the store’s closure would dissolve more than 100 jobs.
“We’re here because union jobs are the economic anchors of our community. We need to protect the good jobs that are here before our communities continue to be built like strip malls,” said District 13 State Sen. Jessica Ramos.“This is also about protecting the character of our neighborhood.”
Target plans to open a 47,000-square-foot “small-format store” at the Astoria location by 2022, along with a second store on 82nd Street in Jackson Heights by 2020. Target’s small-format stores feature the same items as big-box stores, “but with smaller assortments curated for their local neighborhood,” Target says.
Jacqueline DeBuse, a spokesperson with Target, told the Eagle on Friday that the Astoria store would be “about one-third the size of a full-size Target store,” and “will employ up to 100 team members.”
Astoria community members who attended the rally told the Eagle that they wouldn’t know where to shop for fresh food if the Key Food were to close.
A Trade Fair Supermarket stands several blocks away on Ditmars Boulevard, but residents said they value the convenience of the Key Food, located just underneath the Ditmars Boulevard subway station.
“I’m against subsidizing CEOs, I’m against selling out this community,” said Jesse Cerrotti, an Astoria resident who told the Eagle he shops at the Key Food at least once or twice a month.
“It’s more about putting forward recognition of the fact that this is a recognition of the fact that this is a neighborhood that has what we need,” Cerrotti continued. “We have a community and by bringing in these large retailers it is devastating Astoria in a way that is not asked for.”
Key Food employees who spoke at the rally noted that Man-dell Food Stores, which owns the Astoria Key Food, “cares about this community, and cares about employees.”
“Thank God we have a union backing it up. Thank God we have a company that cares about us. We don’t want to lose this Key Food. It’s very, very important. We have great employees that are working hard to serve everybody here well,” said deli manager Laura Stevenson.
“We want to take care of this community the way it should be taken care of. Target won’t do that for you,” Stevenson added. “We do it for you.”