Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Evergreen Coffee Shop


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.


Scout said...

"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."

If nothing else, that's reason to rejoice; maybe those fascist nutcases will starve.

John M said...

It's been going on for so long now. Maybe it started earlier, but Bloomberg gets my vote as the one single force that turned a city where people lived and worked -- that always attracted tourists --- into a city that exists for tourists, taking the people who live and work here for granted or, worse, devaluing them to sacrificial fodder.

Our inability to enjoy a museum or even a nighttime walk in Times Square doesn't matter to the city and real estate powers. Somehow I thought it might change under de Blasio, but that was a ridiculous notion. He's no better, he's just quieter about it. Ineffectual, at best.

Scout said...

I agree with John M, but until the city can find an income stream that can compete with tourist dollars, this will just continue. City Hall certainly won't raise corporate taxes, out of fear of businesses moving to NJ or CT (or even further away, as AEP did in the mid-80s, relocating from NYC to Columbus, Ohio).

blueflame said...

Thanks for this, and for your Blog in general...LOVE it, and love that U document what's happening so well. As one of the many Ppl that tried to stop the HoJos from closing years ago, and someone that misses Cafe Edison immensely, I applaud Ur efforts...Thanks again! and Happy New Year!

Unknown said...

Could you go into a bit more detail about this: "An empty storefront is a bigger tax write-off for building owners."

Is it that there's a specific tax incentive for keeping a stprefront vacant? Or is this just about how businesses' ability to offset profits from one part of the business with losses from another manifests in commercial real estate.

I'm no accountant or real estate mogul, but I am very curious. Especially is there's a policy proposal to be made ("...imposing a vacancy tax or taking away the write-off") I would love to have a better understanding of current tax laws.

Jeremiah Moss said...

It's been explained to me, and I still don't fully understand it. But maybe someone here knows accounting/tax code and can decode it.