After more than two months of speculation—and impassioned community-organizing to salvage the Park Slope Key food—400 locals gathered at PS 133 last night to hear developer Avery Hall Investments present plans for a mixed-use project on the site of the community’s largest, cheapest, and most loved grocery store.
As reported by DNAinfo, Avery Hall co-founder and Park Slope native Brian Ezra revealed two mixed-use buildings would take the place of the current grocery store and parking lot (a “highly inefficient use of retail space” according to Avery Hall). Though Ezra had previously said he would take into consideration the community’s wishes to keep a market that resembled Key Food—large and cheap—last night’s presentation did not reflect that. The current market at the intersection of 5th Avenue and Sterling place is 36,000 square feet; Avery Hall’s planned grocery store is 7,500 square feet, according to DNAinfo and plans released by the developer.
Ezra said the intention was to create a retail space that was “vibrant and diverse and a place that people in Park Slope want to come to,” but in reaction to that, residents revealed they could not feel less similar. What Ezra would give them, they said, were “aesthetics” and “fluff” not convenient and affordable groceries with wide aisles that felt, relievingly, not at all like the standard, cramped and wallet-draining shopping experience common in New York City.
In addition to the relatively meager ground floor market, Avery Hall plans two residences: one five stories, the other six, and a total of 165 apartments, including 41 affordable units. In total, there will be 52,000-square-feet of ground floor retail space—a number that puts into sharper focus how much the developer did not prioritize the kind of spacious market the neighbors have demanded. The new one would take up approximately one-seventh of all available retail space.
Another planned element would significantly restructure the current lot: while Butler Street and Fifth avenue are interrupted by the Key Food parking lot, Avery Hall’s plans would open that path up again to create a “public piazza,” filled with tables and social opportunities to replace all of the hanging out that has never happened there, and that nobody asked for.
In attendance were not only hundreds of angry residents, but also Borough President Eric Adams, Public Advocate Letitia James, and City Councilman Brad Lander, all in support of the neighbor demands. Before the meeting, City Comptroller Scott Stringer also released a statement asking for a “full-service affordable supermarket.”
In response to overwhelming pushback, Avery Hall’s Ezra had this to say to those in attendance. “We’re going to go back, we’re going to think long and hard and do everything we can to improve the project as best as possible.”
It sounds nice, but then again, Ezra has said similar things before.