Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Taking of Bleecker: 1, 2, 3

The western end of Bleecker Street has gone through three major upheavals since the 2000s began.

1. Skyrocketing rents and non-renewal of leases on mom-and-pop shops created the luxury chain takeover, starting in 2001 with Marc Jacobs. Those blocks went from quaint and local to high-end suburban mall in just five years.

2. It took another five to die, as those big chains departed, emptying the storefronts and leaving the street in a state of high-rent blight.

3. Recently we heard that mega-developer Brookfield Properties would take over, spending approximately $31.5 million for several retail condos to convert them into a concept, a curated consumer experience, “with Brookfield orchestrating…rather than allowing each individual shop to pursue its own agenda,” reported New York magazine. “Let’s look at this as if it’s a mall,” said Brookfield’s head of retail leasing, “even though it’s not.”

Now we know what that looks like.

WWD reports on the program to curate the street. It's called "Love, Bleecker" and it has a creative director, fashion designer Prabal Gurung. There will be a leather "concept store" called Slightly Alabama, a florist/plant-based food shop, and a gallery space with prisms, among other "disruptive" and "innovative" and "creative" businesses.

Writes WWD, "Brookfield considers Bleecker to be a new kind of retail activation and platform for growing online digital native brands that may eventually populate its other properties." (And here I thought it was a neighborhood.) "We'll incubate them here and see them thrive and grow," says Sara Fay, VP of Marketing at Brookfield.

Brookfield, according to WWD, "plumbed Bleecker Street's history as a magnet for jazz and folk music and stomping ground for Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac."

Incubation, artwashing, and the co-opting of the neighborhood's counter-cultural history? Sounds like more invasion of the body snatchers.

The project kicked off yesterday. Do not miss the website.


dstol said...

Great-turn what was at one time a vital business and residential area into a zombie district. Must be some kind of karmic punishment.

Michael Goldsman said...


Unknown said...

this is insane !!! wtf is happening to NY ? so depressing !!!

Steven Stark said...

I guess with the John Varvatos store's consumption of CBGGs, the Target storefront emulating the East Village stores it displaced, and now this wholesale revisionist takeover of an entire block, this is officially a thing.

Unknown said...

Matt Umanov left. At least John's and Rocco's are still there. More NYC Disneyfication. Ehh.

Johnny Pergolizzi
originally gotta Brooklyn

Timothy said...

I can't help but recall the lyric from Simon and Garfunkel's Bleecker Street:

"$30.00 pays your rent on Bleecker Street."

Won't even get you lunch today.


e-RICHIE said...

This is beyond sad. I cherish my time in the Village, all of it, in the early 1970s when I was coming of age and the streets were there for inspiration and experience. And now it's come down to this; some corporation looking at the district as a footprint to exploit. to manage, to micromanage, to the point where the entire strip is a diorama that's designed by committee and dropped into place by the contractors with the lowest bids.

Downtowner said...

Dear God - I'd almost rather them sit empty...

schwenko said...

perhaps this explains all the hand drawn hearts on the sidewalks?

Larvik said...

You know what? Could be a lot worse. These as far as I can make out, are small independent businesses. Selling goods at a high price point? Probably. But I will take a vibrant street of fancy indie shops over either the current blighted wasteland or the bland corporate "luxury" version that preceded it. I have taken several long walks around lower Manhattan on recent weekends and see encouraging signs. New book shops opening. Aeon in Chinatown, for example.

John K said...

In other words, after hypergentrification has cleared out legitimate small businesses and the mega-chains, Brookfield swoops into create a uber-hipster/yunnie "curated" Potemkin village? Got it. No thanks, Brookfield.

I'll take the old(er) Bleecker, with its mix of businesses and people, any day over this fakery.

Jeremiah Moss said...

From Gabrielle Ophals: As the co-owner of Eve Salon, formerly Dyanna Personal Care at 400 Bleecker Street, and actually ... now formerly Eve Salon at 55 West 8th Street, I find this "concept" repugnant. We were unable to renew our lease in 2008 when Kate Spade approached our landlord and offered him 5 TIMES what we had been paying at the time. We moved to 8th Street, paying much more than we had been paying but still less than what Bleecker wanted. Here we are 10 years later with an untenable rent at renewal. My business of 35 YEARS is now ostensibly dead.

My business partner and I are extremely fortunate in that we are able to salvage the jobs of our wonderful staff (some of whom have been working with us for almost 20 years) because we have a second similar business.

The greed of the real estate industry in this city is unfathomable. Our government is corrupted by them and I do not see how mom and pops will survive much longer. The character of Bleecker Street was assassinated in the 2000's when the ridiculous couture stores took over, and it's not too different all over this city where quaintness still exists - or does it exist at all anymore?

As long as landlords continue to get a tax write-off for empty storefronts there is zero incentive for them to lower the rents.

Without that in place here are two tickets to helping small businesses survive:
#1 - SHOP AT THEM. I cannot tell you how many people have walked into my salon in these last few weeks to commiserate with us and yet when I asked them if they had been a client they said no. For small businesses to survive you must GIVE THEM YOUR BUSINESS.

Which leads me to #2
STOP SHOPPING AT THESE CONCEPT PLACES - again, if you want mom and pops then you must support them. And sometimes, that means intentionally NOT shopping at the chains.

I've been in business as a mom and pop in this city for a very long time. I recognize that things change; it's just hard to swallow when the deck is stacked against you.

Brian said...

Jeremiah - This Bleecker story is so sad. One would think that prosperity and wealth would benefit a neighborhood. The clear end for me to the far West Bleecker was the very innocuous cupcake shop that became famous on a rather innocuous cable TV show. The "end" in that I knew and felt the pressure that I was being priced out.

Unknown said...

Bleeker as a Brand? The very notion of this exemplifies virtually all that is so wrong with New York and the world right now.

JQ LLC said...

"But I will take a vibrant street of fancy indie shops over either the current blighted wasteland or the bland corporate "luxury" version that preceded it."

Have you even seen what the streets look like lately? It's STILL a blighted wasteland. So one of these lame ass pop-ups manifests there are still shuttered stores for blocks. And remember, there are 60,000 homeless people and a huge percentage of them are sitting on street corners and in front of these shuttered tax shelters. In fact, the homeless have practically become more like mascots for the city as you would see the plush costume characters in Disneyland or any other amusement park.

As for the topic at hand here with this pretentious collective, it is obscene what they are doing to the city with help from our willfully oblivious and fauxgressive neoliberal electeds.


meesalikeu said...

This Brookfield branding is the strangest thing ever in the history of Bleecker Street. Pardon me if I don’t get it or see any benefit of it. It would seemingly just add another middleman level of fees to the rents if Brookfield is presumably reaping some PR benefit or whatever from doing it, no? The street remains sadly blighted.

Reamonnt said...

Looks like if you were in the scaffolding business Bleecker Street is a Goldmine. Looking on from Ireland and unfortunately having never been in NY its still got character well from looking at Google maps reminds me of parts of Berlin. The vultures always descend on areas to gentrify them look at parts of Dublin with the same bland shops everywhere.

Reading about the bookstore its great that lady owns the building which seems to be the key to mom and pop survival. The tech hoards are all here HQ in Dublin Amazon.ebay.Facebook.Google.Microsoft etc etc and they are buying up big campuses and the rents are now massive in those areas and we have a big housing crisis. No links says the Government whos mantra is to "grow the economy" what does that even mean and is it really wanted long-term.

Facebook just bought former AIB bank HQ in Ballsbridge (fancy area of Dublin) and are going to house 7000 staff there. They pay very little tax look it up but so many are employed by them we cant rock the boat.

Anyway great website Its good to see people fighting for their citys future as most people dont want these changes but they slip through unless the people are vigilant.

Unknown said...

Just what I need on my street instead of a grocery store (mine across the street long ago replaced by luxury fashion giant REISS), a beautiful antiques shop (too many to name), or groovy record store (Rebel Rebel forever): a fucking fashion boutique called "Slightly Alabama" ??! for fuck's sake, I (almost) give up.