Former Supermarket to House Children’s Programs


Photo by Ian Michaels.

A space that once held a supermarket at 94th street and Columbus Avenue is being replaced, but not by another supermarket. Private school Dwight is opening an infant and toddler program in the space, and an early childhood education facility with a pre-K program.

A supermarket called Food City was on that corner for 44 years, but it closed in 2013. At the time, then-councilmember Gale Brewer tried to stop the closure. She said that it would be a devastating blow to the community, because Food City had good prices and accommodated older people.

Contacted about the new tenant this week, Brewer — who is now borough president but just won the Democratic primary to be the neighborhood’s council member again — said in an email to West Side Rag that the situation has changed and the need for a market there has diminished.

“When Food City closed, the community was upset because it was an affordable, locally operated market. We liked the long-time employees also. However, now neighbors enjoy shopping at Trader Joes, which opened after Food City closed, and a new supermarket is moving in at 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. We also have Whole Fools in the area, and another large supermarket at 70 West 95 Street would hurt the business at Mani’s Market and Natural Foods, both beloved delis where many residents shop. I am pleased that the space will be activated with an early childhood center; I hope that children will be running in the plaza!”

NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 39 comments | permalink
    1. Chuck D says:

      Congrats Dwight! Would love to see more schools open in the unused retail spaces on the UWS

      • Julia says:

        Purple Circle Day Care has opened on the SW corner of 103 and Broadway–used to be a Subway there and a series of stores (remember Strawberries?!) and candidates’ headquarters there.

    2. Otis says:

      I guess it never occurred to Brewer that once this supermarket closed newer supermarkets offering better prices and better selections would replace it. This is ultimately better for the community.

      Politicians like Brewer should not engage in cheap political grandstanding by trying to prevent market forces from working.

      • not available says:

        Mr. Otis
        Gale Brewer does not engage in political grandstanding.
        She has continued to work for the needs of the people of NYC rather than for “market forces”

        • Brewer was grandstanding when she announced there were too many banks in her City Council district. Like any natural ecosystem, the City changes as market forces, technological break throughs and natural disasters occur to disrupt the status quo. Brewer advocates preventing change, not allowing flexibility and minimizing diversity. Fixing things take a long time when legislation is designed to prevent real and significant action to properly correct problems.

      • chrigid says:

        Just to set the record straight: The owners wanted to build townhouses on the site, and Gale predicted (angrily) that we’d be deprived of a supermarket while nothing would be done on the site for years. And she was right.

        • zoner says:

          chrigid, that’s patently false. Per the way the zoning is now written there is no way to add housing of any kind to the site (nor any other site on Columbus or Amsterdam with these overblown setbacks). The potential application was for renovated and expanded retail, which would have long ago been completed and leased like on all the surrounding blocks. Brewer’s actions directly helped keep this site empty and forlorn for years.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        the commenters criticizing Gale Brewer are off base and advocating for dinosaur economics. Market forces do not solve all problems, and this is particularly true for real estate (housing and commercial) issues in NYC, where there are frequent “market failures.” Allowing market forces unfettered influence is in the interest of the wealthy real estate holders. The interests of the majority of middle class, working class, and poor residents can be countered through government action. Gale Brewer is superb at using the levers of government to support the interests and needs of the majority in the community. Profit for the landlords does not equal social good!

        Let’s remember Brewer’s much criticized “down zoning” from a few years ago. It was broadly mocked by these “free market fundamentalists”, but looking back, studies have shown that it helped save small businesses on Columbus and Amsterdam Aves, the two areas it was implemented.

        • Gale Brewer represents dinosaur economics and is superb at using the levers of government to support the interests of the vocal parochial few. Keeping the status quo to prevent incentive to change and limiting competition is detrimental. Regulations, technology, pandemic and climate change are the driving market forces that are setting the pace. Using innovation and resources, big profitable businesses are quickly responding to changes and consumer demands, government is only reacting after the fact.

          Can you cite the referenced studies and provide links?

          • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

            Nycissues, you’re just reciting dogma, most of which is irrelevant to this case. But it does amaze me that those who advocate for an unfettered free market, which in the case of NYC real estate benefits the rentier (landlord) class at the expense of renters, small businesses, and the community as a whole, don’t have any hesitation about claiming majority status. The voters on the UWS think differently.

            As for the study that showed Gale’s zoning reg to be a success in helping small business survive, it was conducted by the Wall Street Journal(!). I’m on an iPad so can’t link but it was covered in WSR on 4/21/2021 (“Amsterdam Avenue Retail is Doing Better than Much of the City”). It cites that Amsterdam between 72 and 86 had 10 national chains out of 176 storefronts: Bway, “which escaped zoning restrictions”, had 3x the number of chain stores and 2x the vacancy rate.

            • No dogma just facts.

              https://www.wsj.com/articles/storefront-vacancy-rates-drop-in-these-manhattan-neighborhoods-11618927200

              The study is not a formal data analysis and had no definitive answers. The article compared UWS with UES. It points to high density of population and “Amazon-proof” businesses for lower vacancy rates as major factors.

              “Most businesses lining Second Avenue are Amazon-proof, we’re talking nail salons, waxing joints and a ridiculous number of restaurants. Of the 138 storefronts I counted between 72nd and 86th streets, 73 were bars, restaurants or cafes.”

              Zoning was mentioned, using biased anecdotal evidence of possible success. Second Avenue has no zoning restrictions and had a lower rate of vacancy.

    3. RAL says:

      hope Dwight makes that eyesore of a bunker look better. Next need to do something with the old Babbingtons and the falling down ex Chinese restaurant

    4. Josh says:

      It was so sad when Food City closed. The owners of the building had wanted to build a much bigger retail space utilizing the open plaza space, like they did with another building on Amsterdam between 95th and 96th (Now 175 West 95th). So they refused to renew Food City’s lease, even month to month. And then it just sat there empty for almost a decade.

      • Cns says:

        Josh – WRONG. ownership has no connection with the owners on Amsterdam 95-96 St

        • Josh says:

          It did at the time. They also owned the building where Trader Joe’s was built and the building across the street that has been building commercial space for years. The actual ownership names might be different, because they usually set them up as separate corporations, but STAR was the actual owner of all of them as they built the retail a d then converted to condos. And I had that from the horse’s mouth, the STAR executive who managed all four of them.

      • Christina says:

        I used live in the building attached to what was once Food City in the early to mid 70’s. I was a kid then. The buildings were owned by Lefrak at the time.

    5. nybowperson says:

      From the Dwight website:
      Welcome to Wee Wonder, a warm and nurturing classroom experience for infants 3-12 months old and their parent or caregiver.

      Classes will meet on Tuesdays from 1:15-2pm, with doors opening at 1pm for settling in

      $50 a class

    6. Freya Ellinwood says:

      Love Gail’s reference to “whole fools.”

    7. This is excellent. But will this very much needed program be affordable to those most in need.

      • nycbirgit says:

        Certainly not at $50 per 45 minute class. The cost is in line with most kids’ classes on the UWS, but it’s meaningless to families in a lower socioeconomic class.

    8. LivableCity says:

      Wonder what this means for Dwight’s current 2s through K “ Riverside campus” that is branded with the same cute little lions, over by the Trump buildings around 67th and “Riverside South” or whatever it is called. This is closer to their upper grades, but they will be leaving some nice space over West too. Anyone know? Good luck and good health to all the pre-k and elementary kids this Fall, and all the adults who teach and work with them.

      • Dwight School is expanding to service an even greater portion of the Upper West Side community. Our thriving Riverside campus will remain and families with have another choice with what will be a newly renovated space on 94th Street.

        • Curious Cat says:

          When will the Wee Wonder classes be available at the 94th st location? Thank you in advance!

    9. RDRR says:

      We sure do have a lot of Whole Fools in the area!

    10. Margaret says:

      We still need another supermarket in the neighborhood. I shop at Trader Joe’s a lot but lines are almost always long, even pre-pandemic, and they don’t carry everything. Same for Mani’’s, although Mani’s is not as affordable as TJ’s. What the neighborhood does not need is another elitist expensive private school.

    11. Mark Moore says:

      Glad they’re not tearing it down and building some monstrosity there. Now maybe they can rent out their old restaurant, pizzeria, dry cleaners and framing store.

    12. Buddy H says:

      So much for “market forces,” which in the guise of unregulated real estate manipulators, we have to thank for blocks of empty stores on Broadway and elsewhere. At least Gale Brewer has tried to address that issue. And yes we do need more supermarkets, in case you haven’t noticed.

      • Miranda Smith says:

        There is a desperate need for a supermarket in the 80’s which now is a wasteland. Trader Joe’s Is far as is the awful Shop Rite which calls itself Fairway. (Smelly fish and meat and a lot of tasteless fruits . ) There is enormous empty space In this family area . Please open a great food market!

    13. D-Rex says:

      Brewer “…a new supermarket is moving in at 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.”

      No, not exactly.

      Not “new” but rather “relocating” from 97 to 96th.

    14. Small Business Owner says:

      To those who keep complaining about new building being built, Those “monstrosities” bring people into this neighborhood where local small businesses need customers. This neighborhood needs a mix of large buildings and small if you want to have a neighborhood in 20 years. I wish most people would stop crying over the new buildings. They are few and far between compared to the entire neighborhood and needed to keep the neighborhood going. That might help more stores to come in if there are MORE CUSTOMERS.

    15. Its not that easy to locate a business on the UWS. Even though there are many empty storefronts, that doesn’t mean they are suitable to be occupied or even allowed. Columbus Square is successful due to unrestricted zoning and large modern retail space. Attempts to help small businesses by creating restrictive zoning has been largely unsuccessful. We haven’t seen a large modern supermarket open up in the enhanced commercial districts created by Gail Brewer. More retail space to serve the residents of the UWS is needed.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        Nycissues, you are wrong when you say that efforts to help small businesses through “restrictive zoning” have been “largely unsuccessful.” Restrictions enacted by the Council, authored by Gale Brewer, on storefront sizes have in fact been shown to have a positive impact for retaining small businesses on Columbus and Amsterdam Aves, the two streets where they went into effect.

        • The enhanced commercial district zoning was designed to limit storefront size not business size. It did not help businesses with tax and rent issues. Landlords could still charge high rents for small storefronts. To make things worse banks were told to rent in small storefronts needed by the businesses that were supposed to be helped. The supermarkets that were to open in the larger storefronts never appeared. The small property sizes are the main reason for smaller businesses on the UWS.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            Nycissues, you do realize that “limiting storefront size” was a clever way of supporting small businesses? And it worked. I cited the WSJ study in my posting above.

            You predicted it would be a failure and you should cop to your mistake, and figure out where you went wrong in your analysis.

    16. ST says:

      Every single time Dwight has gone before CB7 it promises that “this time” is its last expansion. Yet it continues to expand on the UWS because it is a FOR PROFIT business. A family business, the Spahn family started when the father discovered there was money to be had in summer camps then moved into private schools in NYC. His son Stephen has run Dwight for decades as Chancellor while his daughter Jayme Stewart runs York Prep with her husband. Stephen’s son Blake, as Vice Chancellor, is tapped to take over Dwight. Even For Profit private schools receive significant tax advantages. Dwight in particular caters to wealthy children from overseas.

    17. Albert says:

      Neither Whole Foods nor TJ’s provide the shopping experience that low income neighborhoods need. I wish that the Food City site had been reincarnated as a place that serves our locale better

      • MaryC says:

        The Associated on 100th street between CPW and Manhattan ave is more community based in its product selection and prices.