On May 11, 2011 the City Council adopted a text amendment to PDF Document expand the FRESH program areas in Queens Community District 12. 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.

The Food Retail Expansion to Support Health Program (FRESH) was developed in response to a citywide study, PDF Document Going to Market, conducted by the Department of City Planning in 2008, which highlighted the widespread shortage of neighborhood grocery stores providing fresh food options in several communities of New York City. The FRESH Program offers zoning incentives and financial benefits in these underserved communities. Its goal is to encourage the development and retention of convenient, accessible stores that provide fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, and other perishable goods in addition to a full range of grocery products. The new program offers a set of zoning incentives that provide additional floor area in mixed buildings, reduce the amount of required parking for food stores and permit larger grocery stores as-of-right in light manufacturing districts. The financial benefits, administered by the NYC Industrial Development Agency, exempt or reduce certain taxes for qualifying FRESH food stores.

FRESH Map

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 in Queens.

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 floor area 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.
FRESH sign

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.

In 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.