Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bleak City

For years, we've been watching the hyper-gentrified parts of town wither under the strain of what's become known as high-rent blight. The city is being hollowed out. Small businesses are vanishing--not because of random "market forces" or changing consumer trends, and not only because of online shopping, but because the rent is too damn high.

The issue is finally getting traction in higher places.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, a long-time advocate for small business, has published an in-depth report: "Bleaker on Bleecker: A Snapshot of High-Rent Blight in Greenwich Village and Chelsea."

Hoylman trying to save Cafe Edison, 2014. Photo: Peter Ajemian, twitter

In the report: "Senator Hoylman’s office found numerous examples of high rent blight, where independent businesses are forced out because of 'exorbitantly high rent…being raised astronomically.' In case after case, landlords push out local businesses in order to hold out for luxury retail or corporate chains capable of paying higher rents. The result is a glut of empty storefronts, chain stores, pharmacies, and high-end national brands that often lack local character and don't provide goods and services the community needs."

Hoylman isn't just reporting on the situation. He also proposes a multi-pronged approach to solving the problem, including the policy recommendations we've been advocating for at #SaveNYC. He plans to introduce legislation in the State Senate to:

- Create a New York City Legacy Business Registry
- Create Formula Retail Zoning Restrictions

He also recommends:

- Phasing out tax deductions for landlords with persistent vacancies
- Eliminating the commercial rent tax
- Collecting sales tax on online sales

In addition, he puts in a good word for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, an alternative to commercial rent control that would help small businesspeople negotiate fair lease renewals and stay in place.

You can help, too. #SaveNYC has made it easy for you to write to City Hall with our letter campaign. And here are more ideas for how to get involved.

Further reading:
Save New York
Unchain the City
Vacant New York


RMAN said...

I wonder who owns all these buildings?

I think it only matters because of the indifference applied to rent hikes at local stores and apartments - the owners don't care at all about the neighborhood or the people, even if you've been there for decades.

Another theory is that these landlords make money with vacant properties - after they kick a previous tenant out (because the rent magically doubled from $20,000 to $40,000), the landlords can now write the $40,000 loss off instead of claiming an income of $20,000. The law practically encourages this.

Either way, something needs to be done!

Brian said...

Mayor DB is against this. One reason, tax dollars that support his other programs like free pre K and homeless shelters and free tenant attorneys. Other reason, he just thinks commercial rent regs are unamerican.

John K said...

It's about time Hoylman and others truly and seriously got on the case. Bleecker basically looks like it did during those periods in the 1970s and early 1980s when the problem wasn't high rents but businesses unwilling to lease because of the slow economy. Thank you, Jeremiah, for being on this case non-stop. I really hope that Hoylman's report translates into action. Now, the question is how to get the Governor and Mayor to break free from the grip of their super-powerful, billionaire real estate pals, who don't care whether there are local businesses, global chains, or just empty storefronts they can sit and collect tax breaks on?

Also, as you probably saw today, The New York Times quotes you in its article on the "high-end blight" that is killing Bleecker Street. What's fascinating, and a little ironic, is that as I scrolled through the article, ads for luxury condos (!) in Brooklyn, Manhattan, kept popping up. Also, so many of the commenters focus only on Bleecker Street, but as usual fail to see the larger picture of how hyper-gentrification is killing whole swaths (neighborhoods, boroughs) of NYC, and now Jersey City, Hoboken, etc.

John C Monteiro said...

Gentrification is the killer of neighborhoods. Southend of Boston, same thing.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

It's all social engineering.
They're forcing all these changes on us (like the "coup d'etat" of online shopping as "the primary means of obtaining consumer products" for example) by means of numerous types of coercive fabricated artificial methods and procedures.