Activity at Long-Vacant Food City Raises Hopes for New Market; Cries of ‘Save Our Supermarket’ Still Echo

Some activity inside the former Food City. Photo by Mark.

A sudden spurt of activity at the former home of longtime supermarket Food City at 705 Columbus Avenue near 94th Street has raised questions about whether the spot will once again have a supermarket.

Food City lasted for 44 years before closing in 2013. After we broke the news of the impending closure, residents and politicians including current Borough President Gale Brewer and Comptroller Scott Stringer rallied to get the landlords to renew the lease.

Photo by Tara.

The family-owned supermarket was one of the few big supermarkets in the area, and had reasonable prices in an area where prices had been rising. But the market closed anyway, and has now sat vacant for more than six years. Owners The Lefrak Organization had told Brewer that they wanted to work with the city to rehab the space because “The existing 50 year old facilities are outmoded and in nearly irreparable condition.” It’s not clear if any work was done over the next six years.

During that period, several other supermarkets closed in the area. But Trader Joe’s opened a new location about two blocks away at 92nd and Columbus (there is a raging debate on the UWS about whether Trader Joe’s is a full-service supermarket or a specialty market filled mostly with snacks — we do not plan to weigh in on that debate here!).

This sign is still up at the site. Photo by Mark.

But in recent weeks, we’ve received tips about construction in the old Food City space, raising hopes that it will once again be a supermarket. A rep for The Lefrak Organization told West Side Rag the company had no comment. Courtney McGee, a spokesperson for Gale Brewer’s office, said that Lefrak told them they are cleaning and updating the space in the hopes of attracting a new tenant. “We have told them we would really like to see a community supermarket,” McGee said.

Thanks to Mark and Tara for the tips.

NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 41 comments | permalink
    1. JaneW says:

      There’s a raging debate over Trader Joe’s only selling snacks? Their 72nd Street location sells the best meat and veggies I’ve ever had!!

    2. Marie DeRosa says:

      YES !!! PLEASE !!! A real supermarket with fair, competitive pricing is what we need!

    3. Sherman says:

      There’s a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe’s within walking distance of this location.

      It doesn’t make much business sense to open a competing supermarket in this area.

      Furthermore, it’s not up to Gale Brewer to dictate to the LeFrak Organization what to do with this space.

    4. Lord Of The Slice says:

      great, now do a story on how FAMILY SMALL BUSINESS Mani Market has outlived the influx of major Grocery Chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s (and even made investments in major improvements in their space!).

      Shop local, folks. Support the community!

    5. Kenneth says:

      The DOB BIS website does not indicate there are any recently issued or open work permits for this address. The demolition work depicted in the photograph would normally require the insurance of a contractor work permit by the DOB.

    6. Mark Moore says:

      Sounds like they’re just making a push to rent it again.

      What would you say the rent is on that building, $50K/month? I’m just guessing. At that rate they would’ve lost out on almost four million dollars in rent since Food City closed.

    7. UWS Bill says:

      “Owners The Lefrak Organization had told Brewer that they wanted to work with the city to rehab the space because “The existing 50 year old facilities are outmoded and in nearly irreparable condition.” It’s not clear if any work was done over the next six years.”

      This is the quote of the piece. A landlord has a successful long term tenant forces them out by jacking up the rent and expects taxpayers to rehab the space. LOL!!! The biggest surprise is that the city didn’t!

      • your_neighbor says:

        So where did you read that the Lefrak company expects taxpayers to finance the renovation of the space?
        Stop making things up.
        It will be nice to have a nice store or stores put into that space – definitely have other food options in the immediate area so don’t need another dirty Food City type place.

        • notsofast says:

          Read the article again — carefully this time. “Owners The Lefrak Organization had told Brewer that they wanted to work with the city to rehab the space…” What do you suppose “work with the city” means? Taxpayer subsidy, that’s what it means! If they want to rehab the space on their own dime, who’s stopping them?

          • your_neighbor says:

            You can’t get a taxpayer financed refurb of a property if there is no such thing.

            The Lefrak company wasn’t asking for a handout, it was most likely just saying that if the city wants to rent it for their own use, the Lefrak company could do a buildout for them – probably for less cost than what the city’s rigged contract bidding process would cost. This is very common for large commercial landlords. The space is large enough and would be a good location for a senior center, a homeless support center or many other kinds of government run programs.

            Anybody spending their own money to open a supermarket in an already well served area would be nuts.

            Please let me know what program Lefrak can apply to for a taxpayer funded renovation of their privately owned structure.

    8. Sean says:

      It should be something for the tourists with rides.

    9. Kevin McLaughlin says:

      I think they are building a bike path.

    10. Scott says:

      Food City was absolutely disgusting. It’s demise was a sign of progress. That we are lamenting it shows how far left we have gone.

      • lynn says:

        Speaking of disgusting, does anyone know what’s going in the old Gristede’s spot on 86th and B’way?

        • Beth says:

          Gristedes at 86th and Broadway has reportedly been leased to a child/baby-related business. But that has not been confirmed (though not surprising considering the number of child-related businesses that have recently opened–music schools, children’s gyms, storefront preshools, etc.

          • lynn says:

            Hmm, that’s interesting. It doesn’t affect me personally, but if it’s something necessary then I hope it’s a successful business. I’ve always wondered how the day care on 72nd street btwn Broadway and WEA is doing (where the old DR was located). I never see anything going on there.

    11. ben says:

      I wouldn’t go so far as saying TJ’s only sold snacks but their grocery options are indeed rather limited. Personally, I just do not like buying prepackaged produce. Feels odd.

    12. Fay S Barrows says:

      I miss Food City

    13. APD says:

      Why would anyone spend money at Trader Joe(or is that Joachim?), a German company masquerading as if it were a nice American grocer. It was founded during the Nazi era and hides its origins.

    14. Demcen Jern says:

      Actually, Trader Joe’s is a yuppie pick-up place masquerading as a food market. They wouldn’t have anything to do with the UWS-unlike Food City-until the neighborhood became affluent and much whiter.

      • Gina says:

        Finally people speaking out, I totally agree
        w/ Ben, APD, Demcen, find little appetite
        for all those overly packaged items. Always
        get the feeling, it’s imported from some where
        overseas. And BTW, unless your an Amazon
        member, you no longer get a break on weekly
        Fish or meats sale at WF. Folks not all of
        us need Amazon Prime. So yes a fair family
        minded Food Market can’t hurt……

      • Sean says:

        The yuppies were here in the 80s. Those you speak of are millennials.

      • notsofast says:


    15. Nina Felshin says:

      Mani’s is the best! I encourage others to support it. Diversity of all kinds prevails, people actually make eye contact and talk to each other, unlike the mega-stores nearby, and the staff is friendly and knows regular customers. It serves the whole neighborhood, not just affluent white folks.

      • Filatura says:

        Agree about Mani (not Mani’s — Mani is the name of the owner’s hometown in Greece). Funny that nobody has mentioned the D’Agostino at 91st & Columbus, which seems to be fading into the dust. When it first opened it was the best thing in the neighborhood, with wide aisles, good produce and a great frozen section. But even before Trader Joe muscled in a block away, D’Ag’s seemed in decline. Now it appears moribund: half-empty shelves and employees who act distracted and depressed (and probably have every right to be). Even the lights seem dimmer. I’m not sure how they hang in, unless they’re just running out their lease. (I have a vague memory that D’Ag’s was acquired by Red Apple some years. Maybe that’s contributing to its apparent decline.)

    16. Sean says:

      Fairway is up for sale.

    17. Mary says:

      TJ’s is great and sells everything!

      • APD says:

        Hey Mary, the owner of TJ was a proud member of the Wehrmacht during WW II. Remember that war? Herr Albrecht and his kids have an inordinate amount of chutzpah to open on the UWS.

        • KK says:

          Eh, the chutzpah really lies with those of us whose families were killed by Nazis – and we’re shopping at TJs. Well. Shande is really more appropriate

        • Tostonesfix says:

          APD — Are you suggesting that the Upper West Side of Manhattan is Jewish territory and that a business that may or may not have ties to Nazi Germany should not do business there because you consider it a Jewish area? If that’s the case, that’s really messed up.

          • APD says:

            No, what I’m saying is that if people knew that TJ was wholly-owned by a German family lead by Herr Albrecht who served in the Wehrmacht, they wouldn’t buy their pistachio nuts, whether they (the people, not the pistachio nuts)were Jewish or not. So tell us Herr Albrecht, what did you do during the War?

    18. harry says:

      MANI’S right next door, IS a community supermarket! How can y’all not mention them and act like it wouldn’t be weird for another community supermarket to open up right next door!?