Monday, September 28, 2015

Greenwich Village Ghost Town

Last week, blogger Travelerette posted a cornucopia of photos showing the ghost town that Greenwich Village has become, thanks to greedy landlords who kick out commercial tenants, and then warehouse the empty spaces while they wait for high-paying national chain stores to move in.

What happens? The spaces sit vacant for months and years.

all photos by Travelerette

This past spring, Tim Wu in The New Yorker online called this phenomenon "high-rent blight." It's a plague across hyper-gentrified parts of the city.

This summer, Tribeca Citizen found 100 empty spaces in their neighborhood and posted the photos.

Travelerette writes:

"I had gotten the general impression, while wandering around the Village, that there seemed to be an unseemly amount of hideous and depressing burned out storefronts where once there had been vintage clothing stores, Chinese restaurants that serve cold sesame noodles, and tea shops frequented by local drag queens. But was this just a vague impression, or could I back it up by careful research?

I decided to spend today roaming around the Village from Broadway to the east, Hudson to the west, Houston to the south, and 14th Street to the north. photographing all of the pathetically empty ghost buildings I could find. I was going to stop at 100, but at last count I had 103." And there's more.

There is no dis-incentive for creating high-rent blight. Leaving storefronts vacant is a big part of the hyper-gentrification process that is killing New York. Landlords hike the rents--doubling, tripling, quintupling--to essentially evict good commercial tenants. So we lose our beloved, long-standing mom and pops, and for what? Nothing, and then more nothing, followed by a Starbucks or Marc Jacobs. And the city isn't the city anymore.

It's time to fine landlords for leaving spaces vacant for extended periods of time. In San Francisco, landlords get fined. In London, it's done through taxes. Tell our City Hall to take action. Join #SaveNYC and fight for the life of this city.


Brad Marcus said...

DeBlasio is beholden to many of the wealthy developers and won't do anything to upset them or interfere with him getting re-elected. It's a crying shame that a once vibrant area is reduced to a ghost town out of greed, but this is what you get with a slimebag like that in office. New York should be a leader in finding ways to balance the rights of building owners with the good of the city. So far, the city is losing, big time.

Stuart Chamberlain said...

Don't they have to pay taxes on vacant properties? Are they so filthy rich that they can pay taxes for years with no income? And if they do get to deduct non-productive properties, that loophole should be closed.

Art said...

I honestly don't understand the economics from the landlord's point of view. Why not let the existing tenant stay on a shorter-term lease until someone else steps up to the exorbitant rent?

The Snowman said...

De Blasio may be beholden to Real Estate, but it was Bloomberg that orchestrated all of this.

As Wall Street regulates Washington, Real Estate regulates NYC. When Bloomberg was allowed to take power, it was one of the greatest examples of "Giving the Fox the Keys to the Hen House", in the history of the US.

I live in Greenwich Village, and much of it is looks and sounds like Times Square in the 70's.

Richard Federico said...

To Stewart and Art, it's a combination of factors, here is my top 10 list;

1. some greedy and unconscionable evicting practices.
2. the fact that there is more prime retail space than developers and landlords would like to admit, especially with all the new retail space being constructed and dumped on the market,
3. a little bank coddling anyone?
4. the financial ability to sit on empty commercial street level real estate and wait for a big chain suitor to come knocking as some landlords have all those upper residential spaces (the majority of the building) collecting rent for them.
5. foreign owners, or multiple owners with differing visions for the space causing delays in deals and constant litigation.
6. some owners are just waiting to sell the whole building to a big developer who will replace it with a much taller glass box.
7. unrealistic speculation while this false bubble waits to burst.
8. Some landlords are asking so much that they are scaring away even wealthy potential businesses and so these prime spaces remain empty sort of like a hot babe who can't get a date
9. big developers and property owners don't give a damn about the city, just trying to milk it for as long as they can get away with it.
10. a mayor who is out of touch with the real issues plaguing the city and/or too afraid to ruffle anyone's feathers and pass new legislation to stop this destruction.

Jonah Falcon said...

In London, you can find stores that have been around since the 16th century. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry opened in 1570. That's not a typo. 1570. It opened 70 years after Christopher Columbus made his famous trip. Sir Francis Drake wasn't born yet.

The London Gazette opened in 1665, 35 years after the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. A newspaper that is 350 years old. There's a coffee house established in 1705 (Tom’s Coffee House). And it's not even in the top 3 oldest businesses.

Where am I going with this? What will NYC have? What cultural artifact will remain? The answer is, none. There is no history in NYC. No one will boast about a tavern remaining open during a bombing, and the fact of the matter is the law of supply and demand will finally catch up and rich people who came for the culture will wonder, "What culture?" All we will have are the equivalent of The Smithsonians, but never create anything, because there's no creativity in NYC.

I invite you to look at SF right now:

That's a taste of NYC, except instead of bland, we'll have an urban blight.

Brad Marcus said...

Just remember that McSorley's Old Ale House has been in the same spot since 1854. At least there is hope...maybe the next mayor will see some value in a city with character and history.

kaarin von said...

Bleecker Street is now lamenting the sudden loss of BIanca Restaurant, a much-loved, family friendly, affordable, high quality restaurant with an amazing, friendly staff. Neighbors are reeling after learning they have closed since they were unable to renew their lease with their greed-sick landlords. If you want more info, get in touch with the peeps at Von, the bar next door. We've not only lost the restaurant and the comfort of delicious food, but we've lost a big part of our community. We've lost our friends.

Edward Sabatine said...

Great comment by Robert Falcon.

I loved all my visits to San Francisco, except the last one, which was like a visit to an elderly parent or friend who obviously was dying. One thing about the smaller cities (which New Yorkers could see in how quickly brownstone Brooklyn went) is that once hyper-gentrification hits, it engulfs the entire place in less than two years, you just don't get the surviving nooks and crannies that still exist in Manhattan.

But I agree with a sentiment. Turn a city into a mall, and for the people still living there, well you are living in a mall. Turn all cities into malls, there is nowhere to flee to.

Editor said...

Landlords get to deduct vacant commercial spaces dollar for dollar from their real estate taxes and corporate taxes. We are subsidizing vacancy blight while landlords await their chain stores. This is based on NYS law that we should change. If you want to learn about where power is, look at tax code.