Rules for Special Areas

The Food Retail Expansion to Support Health Program (FRESH) was created in 2009 in response to a citywide study. PDF Document Going to Market. This study highlighted the lack of neighborhood grocery stores providing fresh food options in several New York City communities. The goal of FRESH is to encourage stores in underserved communities that provide a full range of grocery products including fresh meat, fruit and vegetables.

The FRESH program gives property owners the right to construct slightly larger buildings with reduced parking requirements in mixed residential and commercial districts if they include a FRESH supermarket. Financial benefits,administered by the NYC Industrial Development Agency, exempt or reduce certain taxes for qualifying FRESH food stores.  

See the most recent Supermarket Needs Index and where FRESH food stores have received approval for FRESH zoning incentives in “Ongoing Analysis”.

NYC Planning released a report finding that the FRESH program now brings fresh food within walking distance of 1.2 million New Yorkers, with stores serving an additional 300,000 in the pipeline. Read the report here.

The NYC City Council approved an update and expansion of the FRESH program. The update brings FRESH to more communities across the city, among other changes to ensure FRESH stores are evenly distributed and financially viable.

Learn more about FRESH and the updates here.

A developer seeking to utilize the PDF Document zoning incentives of the FRESH Program must demonstrate that the primary business of the retail space is the sale of food products. Prior to obtaining a building permit, the proposed store must be certified as a FRESH food store by the Chairperson of the City Planning Commission (CPC), verifying that the store meets the floor area requirements, the space is legally committed to use as a FRESH food store, and a grocer has agreed to operate a FRESH food store in the developed space.

The  requirements for a FRESH food store are::

  • At least 6,000 square feet of the store’s selling area must be used for a general line of food and other grocery products, such as dairy, canned and frozen foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh and prepared meats, fish and poultry, and non-food products, all intended for home preparation, consumption and use.
  • At least 50 percent of that selling area must be used for the sale of a general line of food products.
  • At least 30 percent of such selling area must be set aside for the sale of perishable goods, such as fresh produce, dairy and frozen foods (which may include fresh meats, poultry and fish), of which at least 500 square feet must be used for the sale of fresh meat, fruits and vegetables.
  • A percentage of the ground floor street wall of a FRESH food store must be glazed and transparent, contributing to a more active streetscape. All new security gates on the store front are required to be at least 75 percent transparent.
  • In addition, all certified FRESH food stores must also display the FRESH sign at the entrance to the store, indicating participation in the FRESH program and that fresh foods are sold inside.

In addition, all certified FRESH food stores must also display the FRESH sign at the entrance to the store, indicating participation in the FRESH program and that fresh foods are sold inside.

A development would be permitted an additional square foot of residential floor area in a mixed building for every square foot provided for a FRESH food store, up to a maximum of 20,000 square feet. The CPC may, by authorization, allow an increase in the maximum building height, up to 15 feet, to accommodate the additional floor area.

FRESH sign

In FRESH eligible M1 districts, a FRESH food store with up to 30,000 square feet of floor area would be permitted as-of-right, rather than requiring a special permit. Parking requirements in some zoning districts have been reduced for FRESH food stores. In M1 and C8 districts, the first 15,000 square feet of floor area in a FRESH food store is exempt from minimum parking requirements; in C1 through C6 districts, FRESH food stores with less than 40,000 square feet of floor area do not have to provide parking, except that these reductions in parking do not apply in portions of Manhattan Community District 12, Bronx Community District 7, Brooklyn Community Districts 5, 16 and 17 and the Special Downtown Jamaica District. 

The program requires a continuing commitment to operate a FRESH food store. However, in the unlikely event a FRESH food store is not economically viable on a particular site, the space may be converted to another use by CPC authorization or certification by the CPC Chairperson.

The FRESH Program is applicable in shopping districts in selected neighborhoods. These areas encompass portions of Manhattan Community Districts 9 through 12, portions of Bronx Community Districts 1 through 7, portions of Brooklyn Community Districts 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 16 and 17 and Community District 12 and the Special Downtown Jamaica District and portions of Community Districts 1 and 12  in Queens.

The zoning text amendment is now in effect. In addition, discretionary tax incentives are available through the NYC Industrial Development Agency (IDA). The tax incentives are discretionary and will be assessed on a per case basis for eligibility in the FRESH program.


DCP has updated the analysis to compare grocery stores and supermarket landscape across the city so that neighborhoods can see for themselves whether their Community District is well-served or in need of additional fresh food stores. The Supermarket Needs Index (SNI), DCP’s metric, shows that many neighborhoods remain underserved by fresh food stores. The Index, comprised of a set of important factors – concentration of stores, walkability, access to car, presence of families with children in poverty -- helps communities, food policy researchers and supermarket operators assess the number of additional stores necessary to meet the needs of the area.

Sources: Supermarkets and grocery store data is a subset of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets 2018 Retail Food Stores data found here. The Department of City Planning included stores that were over 5,000 square feet and whose primary purpose was the sale of food for consumption at home. The Supermarket Needs Index was created by the Department of City Planning using New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets 2018 Retail Food Stores data in addition to American Community Survey data on population counts, household access to a car, and the presence of families with children in poverty.