Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Since the second part of the High Line opened in June 2011, the neighborhood's small businesses have suffered and dropped like flies, especially those blue-collar businesses catering to car, truck, and taxi drivers. Here's a quick roundup:

6/2011: Poppy's Terminal Food Shop changes hands, later shutters
6/2011: 10th Ave. Tire Shop is pushed out for High Line development
8/2011: Bear Auto forced out by landlord for upscale development
8/2011: Olympia Parking Garage closes when landlord quintuples the rent
9/2011: Village Lukoil shutters
9/2011: D&R Auto Parts reports 40% drop in profits since High Line opened
12/2011: Brownfeld Auto pushed out by landlord
12/2011: Chelsea Mobil sold and shuttered for upscale retail

We can add Kamco Building Materials to the list, as it will be replaced by a pair of giant, $40-million condo towers.

The Real Deal reported the news in October but didn't mention Kamco. They said, "The two-towered project will have about 90,000 square feet of residential space--condominiums with the possibility of some rentals as well--rising both east and west of the tracks," because "apartments looking directly on the High Line are more valuable."

It's possible that few people will care about the disappearance of a business that sells plywood, drywall sheets, insulation, and some pretty snazzy hardhats.

Still, it's part of a larger story, one in which the High Line is like the asteroid responsible for the K-T Impact Event that wiped out the dinosaurs in a mass extinction, but the High Line is wiping out a neighborhood and its long-time dominant businesses.

One other thing--all these businesses are in open lots or single-story buildings. Above them, there's nothing but blue sky, blocked only by the ever-rising luxury towers. That will soon be gone, too.


Spacepope said...

If all those buildings are gonna blot out the sunlight, I wonder if the High Line will still be considered a draw for the yup-scale. This could be the case of the snake that swallows its own tail.

Ed said...

I grew up in a well heeled neighborhood. When rents started slowly to rise in the 1980s, a common complaint of the well heeled people living there was that there was no way of buying anything practical like hardware in the neighborhood anymore.

So its not really that wealthy people in Manhattan really like having to go to New Jersey to get their car prepared or whatever. Luxury goods command a greater premium than other types of goods. Once the commercial rents rise to a certain point, only the stores with the highest premiums, eg luxury stores, can afford to pay them. So you only get stores selling luxury goods, and chains which have a somewhat different dynamic.

City governments love love love rising real estate prices and rents, though this particular administration is particularly in your face about this. They mean more property tax revenue for the government and clear out the riff raff (fewer seedy neighborhoods means less crime and less strain on the city social services). The same goes for newspapers, dependent for their revenue stream on advertising from the people who can afford the commercial rents if they don't have large real estate portfolios themselves.

But economically, rents are, well, rents; they function like taxes as a dead weight loss and ultimately depress economic activity. A local government that took a long term view -these don't exist- should be alarmed about real estate prices going up too quickly. At least they would halt all policies in this case designed solely to increase real estate prices.

TyN said...

The perfect theme song for Manhattan is "Little Boxes".

Theodore said...

It's reading stories like this that perfectly encapsulate why, after 12 years in NYC, I moved to Cleveland.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much longer that open scrap metal yard near the corner of 28th and 10th ave will last. I'm amazed that it's survived the overall neighborhood transition, especially since the Highline literally crosses over it. I can't imagine it could hold out much longer.

chris flash said...

IF the city gave a shit, they would enforce iron-clad zoning restrictions that would discourage the wholesale slaughter of small independently-owned neighborhood businesses.

But they don't so they won't....

Anonymous said...

Who gives a shit if these businesses leave?! That's the free market. If you don't like it, move to a totalitarian country. Don't try to turn ours into one!