Press Releases

For Immediate Release
May 19, 2021

Melissa Grace, Joe Marvilli – (212) 720-3471

FRESH Expansion Will Bring More Green Grocers to Underserved Neighborhoods

Key recovery proposal will bring accessible, high-quality foods to more New Yorkers than ever before, improving health in their everyday lives

Map of NYC with green shaded areas

NEW YORK – City Planning Commission (CPC) Chair Marisa Lago today announced the start of public review for an update and expansion of the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program, to bring convenient, accessible grocery stores to underserved New York neighborhoods – a vital step towards reducing health inequities that were further highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We're New Yorkers; we love good, healthy, fresh food, and no New Yorker should have difficulty finding fresh food for themselves and their families. By expanding and improving FRESH, we make it even easier to build and keep green grocery stores in areas where low-income families live – improving their health and everyday lives,” said CPC Chair Marisa Lago.

“All New Yorkers should have access to healthy food, which is why this Council has continuously advocated for FRESH. I am thrilled we are bringing it to even more neighborhoods, and look forward to working with the City Planning Commission to make this expansion a success,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.

“I'm thrilled that FRESH is expanding its program to more neighborhoods across the city. At the heart of this program is the belief that a person’s zip code shouldn’t determine whether they can access healthy food, which is something I couldn’t support more. I’m proud many of my Council colleagues agree, and excited to keep fighting for programs like FRESH to improve the lives of New Yorkers,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Chair of the Committee on Land Use.

“NYC’s FRESH update will better position our City to reflect the needs of New Yorkers and protect the most vulnerable. Increased access to affordable fresh food is part of how we prevent diseases that are especially prevalent in Black and Latino communities. We also need to ensure that we are appropriately supporting businesses that promote healthier lifestyles. Healthier communities means we will be better prepared for the future to combat a pandemic like COVID-19. I look forward to our continued partnership with City Planning in getting this update and expansion to the finish line,” said Council Member Francisco Moya, Chair of Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises.

“Food insecurity was a grave threat even before the pandemic, and far too many Queens families live in food deserts without adequate access to fresh produce, fruits, vegetable and other healthy foods they need,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “My office will continue to work in close partnership with the Department of City Planning to ensure the expansion of the FRESH program into historically underserved communities in Northwestern Queens and Far Rockaway will, in fact, lead to the construction of new, sorely needed supermarkets in these communities.”

“Since the pandemic, many underserved communities have faced significant barriers to accessing fresh food,” said Jonnel Doris, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “The expansion of the FRESH program will not only help small grocery businesses to grow and thrive throughout the City, it is directly supporting the health of New Yorkers in these underserved neighborhoods.”

“Expanding the FRESH zoning incentives will increase the number of grocery stores offering affordable and healthy food to those that have historically lacked access and will be key to the City’s recovery from COVID-19,” said NYCEDC President and CEO Rachel Loeb. “We congratulate DCP on the start of this process and look forward to expanding the FRESH incentive to additional neighborhoods.”

“Food deserts should not exist in a great city like New York. That’s why we are happy to partner with DCP as it does the hard work to expand FRESH’s reach. That goal is even more important as part of the effort to recover from the pandemic. We look forward to continuing providing support to DCP as it implements the FRESH update,” said Jay Peltz, General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Government Relations, Food Industry Alliance of New York State.

“COVID demonstrated that affordable, convenient grocers selling healthy food are essential to every community. New Yorkers will now have the opportunity to weigh in on a proposal to extend the FRESH program, which provides incentives for supermarkets to expand and open to 11 additional neighborhoods,” said Nevin Cohen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, CUNY School of Public Health, and Research Director, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute.

This proposal is an investment in the health of New York’s communities. The lack of quality food options has a long-term impact on the health of New Yorkers, such as underlying health conditions and shorter life expectancy. As the city recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, the FRESH update will create more opportunities for healthy, accessible food for New Yorkers than ever before and lessen health disparities, especially in underserved neighborhoods. In addition, each new grocery store that opens is expected to generate between 30 and 100 jobs.

Created in 2009, this FRESH zoning incentive gives property owners the right to construct slightly larger buildings in mixed residential and commercial districts if they included a FRESH supermarket. It also allows grocery stores as-of-right in light manufacturing districts, increasing the locations where they can be built. In partnership with the City Council, DCP will expand the FRESH zoning incentive to 11 additional lower-income Community Districts throughout the City, including Staten Island for the first time, on top of the 19 districts where it already applies.

The FRESH program currently applies to:

Bronx Community Districts 1 through 7
Brooklyn Community Districts 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 16 and 17
Manhattan Community Districts 9 through 12
Queens Community Districts 12

With this update, the program will expand to:
Bronx Community Districts 8 and 9
Brooklyn Community Districts 1, 2, 12 and 13
Queens Community Districts 1, 3, 4 and 14
Staten Island Community District 1

The FRESH update would also:

  • Add specific rules an applicant must follow to create a new FRESH store near an existing location. Some communities have seen clustering of FRESH supermarkets, making it difficult for them to prosper. These new criteria would limit the potential for oversaturation.
  • For renovations to an existing building to construct a FRESH supermarket, building owners will no longer have to replace existing walls with windows – removing a potentially expensive step in the process.
  • Provide a waiver from parking requirements for sites using up to 10,000 square feet of retail area in lower density residential districts

Since the program launched, 27 projects have been approved for FRESH zoning incentives, out of which eight are occupied as of February 2021.

The FRESH update grew out of a 2018 DCP analysis, which showed that many neighborhoods remain underserved by high-quality grocery stores, emphasizing the need to expand and bolster the program. DCP also recently launched the Supermarket Needs Index, an interactive map that informs communities of nearby grocery stores and supermarkets – and shows what neighborhoods remain underserved.

The launch of the seven-month public review process starts the clock for FRESH update. The proposal will go to all impacted Community Boards for the districts listed above for review, followed by the five Borough Presidents and Borough Boards. The FRESH update will then go to the City Planning Commission for a public hearing and vote, followed by the City Council.