Last week we lost another authentic New York coffee shop, that rapidly vanishing part of the city's local fabric. The Evergreen on West 47th, a block east of Times Square, had been in business for 25 years. They'd just celebrated their anniversary. A sign in the window read: "we will go dark" on New Year's Eve.
The building owner would not renew their lease.
“We’re being forced out,” Evergreen's owner Ilias Argenas told DNAInfo. “They want the property vacant. Why? I have no clue.”
To the Post, he said, “We were pleading, we were arguing." But no lease. Not even for one more year.
The building that holds the Evergreen was sold.
When I went in for a farewell meal, a waiter told me it will be demolished for a new hotel. A little deli in the building will also close. Two small local businesses destroyed for yet another tourist hotel? We need that like we need a hole in the head.
According to news outlets and public records, the building sold for just over $101 million to Clarity 47 Parking LLC, which seems to be Icon Parking, the company that currently occupies most of the building. Will they keep it a garage or make it a hotel? An attorney for Clarity 47 told the Wall Street Journal that "the overall parcel is slated for redevelopment."
Hotels are killing our streets. They are currently annihilating the Flower District and the Garment District. Meanwhile, mass tourism has made it nearly impossible for New Yorkers to enjoy the city's cultural sites. When was the last time you tried getting into a museum? It's a nightmare.
City Hall could do something--like placing a moratorium on new hotel construction--but it won't.
And while the new owners get the permits together for their demolition and construction plans? The Evergreen will sit empty for at least a year, and probably longer, creating more miserable high-rent blight.
An empty storefront is a bigger tax write-off for building owners. Of course, the city and state could fix that by imposing a vacancy tax or taking away the write-off, but they do nothing and the problem continues.
So we continue to watch the city die before our eyes.
The Evergreen was a favorite among Fox News employees, whose building is right around the block, and the walls were decorated with autographed headshots of hosts like Megyn Kelley and Bill O'Reilly.
They also had Conan O'Brien and the cast of The Sopranos, along with the "First Ladies of Football." And, of course, many loyal customers who did not have headshots.
Thinking of losing his customers, Ilias Argenas told the Journal, "It’s going to kill me.” It actually could. Too often, senior citizens die soon after they're evicted from their businesses and homes. I've seen it happen many times, a literal casualty of hyper-gentrification.
A regular old coffee shop, the Evergreen was one of those easy and quiet places, full of New Yorkers, with just a smattering of tourists, stopping in for an affordable meal, a hot cup of coffee, a place to get warm and be comfortable.
It's that atmosphere that matters so much. It helps us to breathe. And we're losing it fast.