NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A dramatic increase in vacant storefronts has prompted a demand for city action.
The de Blasio administration has admitted at a city council hearing that it has no idea about the scope of the problem.
When you stroll down Bleeker Street in the West Village, the thing that hits you is the number of vacant storefronts. Once prosperous businesses have gone belly-up.
There are 38 empty stores, a 20 percent vacancy rate in an area that was once a Mecca for shoppers and tourists. It now has padlocked gates and fore lease signs all over.
“As far as I know, the rent is so high they cannot afford it. They have to leave, they have to evacuate,” Emel Gunduck said.
Residents bemoan what has happened, saying some empty storefronts attract drug dealers and the homeless.
“Where there’s a vestibule, there’s a problem,” Jessica Berk, President of the Bleeker Street Block Association, said. “We can’t continue like we’re a desolate area. Greenwich Village used to be a great neighborhood, and now all we have are these empty storefronts.”
It’s not just Bleeker Street that’s a problem. It’s occurring all over the city.
“What we have seen in Manhattan and other parts of the city are vacancy numbers that are shockingly high,” Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) said.
Garodnick attempted to put the city’s feet to the fire to find out what it’s doing to fix the problem, but he discovered that they have no idea.
“One of the challenges that we have is really measuring the impact that this is having across the city. We don’t have a scalable way to collect data on storefront vacancy right now, and understanding the underlying causes,” Rachel Van Tosh, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Small Business Services said.
That infuriated Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer who has done numerous reports about the problem.
“I feel frustrated,” she said. “You need the data, and that’s what we’re missing today in their discussion from the city of New York.”
She said the city did not have any answers.
Councilman Garodnick said there could be a number of causes from the rent being too high to increases in online shopping, and taxes that are also too high.
He said the de Blasio administration has to get its act together and address the problem.