Neighbors Of Brooklyn Deli Fight Gentrification With Grass-Fed Tuna Salad
Locally Sourced Vegetarian Citrus Fizz? $5.99. Grass Fed Himalayan Tuna Salad? That'll be $9.99. Taking gentrification and a rent hike into your own hands? Priceless.
That's how the neighbors at Jesse's Deli in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill neighborhood are trying to save their local convenience store.
Owner Jesse Itayim opened his doors in 1984 at the corner of Bergen and Bonds Avenue, spending time in that location and another before moving to his current location, 402 Atlantic Ave., in 1989.
The fate of the family business was threatened recently by a hike in the monthly rent — from $4,000 to $10,000. Itayim could not afford it, and he prepared to close after more than 25 years in business.
When customers and neighbors asked about the bare shelves at Jesse's Deli, they found out it was closing by July 31.
A neighbor started a petition and sent 1,200 signatures in support of Itayim to the landlord, Karina Bilger. Bilger returned it unopened, with a note saying there would be no renewal on the lease, and declaring all past offers rescinded.
Bilger has not responded to NPR requests for comment, but she told dnainfo.com that she tried to come to an agreement with the owner two years ago.
The community showed support for Jesse's by making mock posters that advertise prices increased two and a half times and "gentrified" products. They called the campaign an "Artisanal Rent Price Hike Sale," and displayed the bright posters inside the store and in the front window. A social media campaign used the hashtag #jessespricedout on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Organizers also appealed to Mayor Bill de Blasio and local Councilman Stephen Levin to support Jesse's and other small businesses by getting behind the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. The measure would require, among other things, a minimum 10 year lease.
The bill and the protest campaign for Jesse's Deli, a neighborhood staple for the working class, middle class, and creative class in the area, may be too late. The family is looking for a new location, preferably in the same area.
Mohenad Itayim, Jesse Itayim's son, is still confident in the business his father started over 30 years ago. "We are fighting to the end," he said.
"We do not know where we'll end up."
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.