Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Oyster Bar Blight

After 55 years in business at 54th and 7th, the Famous Oyster Bar was forced to close one year ago. The owner of the restaurant said a new landlord took over the building and the rent was hiked, from $12,000 to $50,000 a month.

The hostess told me that the new landlord refused to renew their lease. "I think she'll keep it empty," the hostess said. "I think the building is coming down."

One year later, the space is still empty. Gutted and stripped. (The antique neon sign made it to Delancey Street.)

Landlords are allowed to do this in New York. They're allowed to kick out long-term, beloved businesses by jacking up the rent or simply refusing to renew the lease. They're allowed to leave the spaces empty for years, waiting for property values to increase, waiting for Starbucks to make the right offer.

In the meantime, we're left with a dying city. And no one is doing a thing about it. #SaveNYC.

Oyster Bar to Close
Neon Sign to Delancey


Anonymous said...

Well, dying city is a relative thing: for the people who are vested in increasing real estate values, the city is vibrant and alive.

Such that, ultimately, it seems to come down to a question of property owners vs. property renters.

Want to see things get ugly?

Lets cut to the chase and pose the #SaveNYC question such: would you, owner of that charming 1Br Co-Op, support small business to the tune of when you go to sell your apartment you only break even and make no profit?

Only THEN will you hear, thru the howls of protests from the ownership class ("true" new yorkers or not) the true spirit of the "dying" city...

Lets face it: this town is nothing if not maximizing rapacious profits in real estate, and every single person who owns a chunk of it will resist, tooth and nail, any real efforts to reform that urge.

Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous 9:12 am comment.

For what it is worth, there are still people who live in NYC not because of some real estate investment. My family, for example, are fifth generation New Yorkers. Some of my relatives live in Mitchell-Lama co-ops in which owners may not profit but must sell back to the co-op.

In any event I would agree that NYC is "dying" in its transformation from a place to live; a place of authentic communities and neighborhoods;artistic and intellectual vibrancy; and civic commitment, to what it has become, per Michael Bloomberg's plan - a superficial urban "environment" for suburban-reared recent college graduates, tourists and the very rich.

Randall said...

@Anon 9:12

Believe it or not, there are people in this world who don't put money above all else.

Those people are usually interested in things like "community" and "originality"

Rapacious is the right word for it; that is for sure.

Scout said...

Property taxes are enormously to blame, but no one talks about them because they know they can't do anything about taxes.

I imagine the property taxes on that Oyster Bar building comes close to six figures annually. That means the owner needs to collect around $10,000 a month or more just to break even on taxes, water, maintenance, etc.

Renters tend to think that landlords keep every dollar they collect, blithely ignorant of the enormous expenses the city government takes from them.

Scout said...

Actually, I now realize that I was looking at the wrong building - I imagine that property taxes on this building are at least in the mid-six figures.

Anonymous said...

I live in a Mitchell lama coop. Pay $700 month for a large 1 bedroom. Even though I will have no capital gain, I get an apartment that would rent for $4000 for only $700 and the taxpayers make up the cost.

Anonymous said...

I agree that there are many people here who value more than money; unfortunately, few of them own property, hence the evictions and hypergentrification.

The flip side of this is that there are many people here who say they care about these things, but only to the extent that it doesn't impact their ability to sell their charming 1Br co-op at a maximal profit at some point in the future...

Dave - Everywhere said...

@Anonymous 5:53

You're very welcome!

Anonymous said...

201 West 54th Buyer Llc
842 7th Ave.

Property Tax Bill
Quarterly Statement
Activity through February 20, 2015

Annual property tax $215,211

Anonymous said...

This city is fucked. I don't foresee a viable future without compromising integrity and respect for greed and wealth. New York City is already becoming Geneva. Only the uber wealthy will be able to reside and work here. The rest of us, the 99% the plebeians, will be only so lucky if we can live near the nuclear plant in Staten Island.

Anonymous said...

Is there some tax advantage that landlords get when they keep their commercial properties empty? It' hard to understand why they would forgo some much income, if they are not reaping financial rewards in another way.

Anonymous said...

1 block away from the Oyster Bar is the offices of NYC & Company. Sadly, they do nothing to help the small business community, and should be audited when it comes to the retention of members. Seems like Bubba Shrimp, and other chains can afford the dues to be a member.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:05a: that's exactly the issue with seeking a regulatory solution to this problem.

Like NYC & Co and all other "progressive" governmental interventions, they ultimately will benefit the national chains & corporation - who see NYC as a loss leading showroom and thus throw insane money at it, money that the city taxes to prop up its grossly inflated bureacracy, and the vicious circle continues until the music stops and there's a bust.

Ultimately, we've reached this hypergentro phase as a result of government intervention, and the only way back is to remove the govenrmental supports that facilitate corporate & chain occupation of our city.

As others have noted, however, this is highly unlikely to happen, as "governmental supports" are also unionized service employees, and their ranks are not likely to reduce.

So: we are creating a city of unionized, subsidized (did someone say mitchell lama?) drones living directly off the largess of the corporate overlords they claim to hate, while the possibility for a real middle class, and real small business, vaporizes with every tax hike, additional regulatory burden, and crazy real estate values.

The only hope at this point is that the balloon pops, which is very cold comfort indeed...

Anonymous said...

Once again you dont blame the right person. Do you want an $80 billion dollar budget? Want all those 'programs' and ' services'? Well property taxes are over $20 billion a year. Its simple. Cut the budget by 25%. But the city wants to spend more not cut. There is the problem. The mayor wants more spending and taxes. And you all agree right? More spending? As long as someone else pays? Typical. Its going to cost tens of billions to upgrade gas lines. Where is that money coming from? Underemployed 'artists? Wake up to reality.

Anonymous said...

lol, get a grip dude! things change, c'est la vie. NYC used to belong to the Native Americans, see how that panned out?

Anonymous said...

I had a friend that used to live in Naples, Florida (not to be confused with Naples, Italy). She left about 10 years ago after living there for almost 23 years. That city is beautiful but it has become a hell in disguise. A "beautiful hell" as she put it.

What happened was that it became so expensive that a lot of the service people (ie. grocery store clerks, waiters, etc.) all started leaving because there was virtually no affordable housing. They were pushed further and further out of town over the years to a point where they were commuting 3 or 4 hours on a bus just to get to work. A lot of them just said the heck with this city and moved on to other parts of the country where cost of living was more affordable and their commutes were better.

The result ? Well, as an example, her local supermarket was only able to afford two cashier clerks instead of the usual eight. The manager had to pay a shitload of money just to keep those two because that was the only way those clerks could even afford to live near that area. If they wanted to staff 8, it would either cut deeply into their profits or they would need to raise the prices ... so staffing only two was their solution. As you'd imagine, the long lines made grocery shopping "an event". She witnessed a number of times shoppers throwing a hissy fit over having their perishables spoiling while waiting in line for an hour & longer (she's not exaggerating). They'd simply toss the stuff and continue waiting or even worse, they'd just abandon their carts and walk out the door.

Other businesses like local restaurants took a nose-dive because of the dwindling supply of suckers willing to commute several hours just to get to work. What used to be considered an excellent place to dine became a "dirty shithole" because they no longer staffed any busboys and decreased the # of waiters on staff. You can imagine the outcome.

Go to this link and read what some of the residents (and former residents) have said:

Now those comments are from like 5+ years ago and I don't know how the city is doing nowadays. Who knows maybe it got better since then.

But does what those people describe sound similar to what NYC is becoming ?

NMI said...

I'm a new visitor. And I'll be a regular. I seriously share your lament for the loss of the New York that was (especially during the 50s, 60s and 70s).

I haven't read many of your posts so far, and I'm wondering if you've covered the loss of the feeling that was so much integral to the city in those times. The grit, the tension, the smells (the blend of pot and street food on the corners surrounding Washington Sq), the feeling of belonging...that's what I miss the most.

DaveA said...

Can a cultural value system be legislated?

Anonymous said...

I live in a coop built by L&M Development. Talk about a company that is a disservice to the small business community. As they just kicked out Ess-a Bagel out of their retail space for a bank. The city promotes first time home buyers via the lottery system and if you are lucky you get an apt. What they don't tell you is the retail space in the building is then condo by the developer - L&M and the rendering they rep is not what actually happens - so you end up with a chain store aka phone we need one since there are 5 with in a 3 block radius. L&M gets tax breaks, creates their own affordable housing school at NYU, yet fails to help the small business community.

Anonymous said...

This cycle will end the minute interest rates start to move up again and governments around the world stop backstopping asset values with the balance sheets of their central banks.
Banks like TD protected by the Canadian government can use its protected status at home combined with zero borrowing costs to eat away at Manhattan retail space like a cancer.

Anonymous said...

Something is up in Little Brazil. The corner where the cigar shop on 46th and 5th closed a few years back but never re-occupied. All the little building including an Irish Bar have been shuttered for years too. I was told that the buildings were bought by the same company. I wonder if it will all be knocked down to forma giant new building?

Awe-Inspiring Earth: People, Places and Things! said...