RETAIL VACANCY CRISIS?

December 06, 2019 at 4:30 am

New York City’s empty storefronts have doubled in the last ten years. Is the demise of the mom and pop shops a full-blown crisis or a sign of the times?

To read City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s full report, click here. 

Aired on December 5, 2019. 

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>>> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO
"METROFOCUS."
I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.
EMPTY STORE FRONTS ARE BECOMING
A COMMON PART OF THE NEW YORK
LANDSCAPE.
BETWEEN 2007 AND 2017, THE
NUMBER OF RETAIL VACANCIES HAS
RISEN BY NEARLY 50%.
THE CITY CONTROLLERS OFFICE IS
NOW REFERRING TO THIS AS THE
AMAZON EFFECT OR MORE SIMPLY PUT
THE DEMISE OF RETAIL STORES AND
THE FLOURISHING OF
SERVICE-ORIENTED BUSINESSES LIKE
RESTAURANTS, BARBERS, AND
BOUTIQUE GYMS.
RETAIL VACANCY IS CHANGING THE
FACE OF NEW YORK, BUT IS IT FOR
THE BETTER.
CONTROLLER SCOTT STRINGER IS
HERE WITH HIS REPORT SHOWING THE
FULL SCALE OF THIS PRESSING
SITUATION.
WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM.
>> NICE TO BE WITH YOU AS
ALWAYS.
>> OH, THANK YOU.
YEAH, SO TALK TO ME ABOUT THIS
PROBLEM BECAUSE WE ALL SEE THE
INCREASED NUMBER OF VACANCIES
AND THIS USED TO BE A CITY THAT
WAS FULL OF MOM AND POPS AND
SMALL BUSINESSES AND THAT'S NOT
THE CASE ANYMORE.
>> THAT'S FOR SURE.
LOOK, I GREW UP IN WASHINGTON
HEIGHTS, AND I CAN TELL YOU AS A
KID I KNEW A LOT OF THE LOCAL
STORE OWNERS BY NAME.
THEY KNEW ME.
FAMILIES KNEW LOCAL STORE OWNER,
AND THAT WAS SORT OF A WAY OF
LIFE WALKING DOWN DIKEMAN STREET
AND OTHER PARTS OF THE
NEIGHBORHOOD.
TODAY YOU GO INTO YOUR LOCAL
STORES AND IT'S NOT ABOUT MOM
AND POP.
IT'S ABOUT WALKING INTO THE SAME
DWAYNE REED OR CHASE BANK.
THE ONLY OUTLETS THAT CAN
ACTUALLY AFFORD TO BE HERE.
SO, I DID THIS REPORT BECAUSE I
REALLY WANTED TO FULLY
UNDERSTAND THE VACANCY CRISIS
THAT WE HAVE.
AND YES, WE SHOW CASE VACANCIES
IN LOWER MANHATTAN, UPPER WEST
SIDE, SOHO, TRIBECA.
WE SEE THOSE EMPTY STORES.
THE UPPER EAST SIDE HAS SO MANY
BLOCKS WHERE THE STORE SPACE
DOESN'T EXIST.
BUT WE ALSO NOUND THE CRISIS
BEYOND MANHATTAN IN STATEN
ISLAND AND QUEENS.
THIS IS A CITY-WIDE CRISIS.
PART OF WHAT WE NOW KNOW IS
VACANCY HAS GROWN FROM
5.7 MILLION SQUARE FEET TO CLOSE
TO 12 MILLION SQUARE FEET IN
JUST THE LAST TEN YEARS OR FROM
2007 TO 2017, THIS IS THE DATA
WE LOOKED AT.
SO, THIS IS A CRISIS.
YOU KNOW, PEOPLE FORGET THAT ONE
OF THE REASONS WHY WE WANT
VIBRANT STORES OPEN IS BECAUSE
IT'S ACTUALLY A SAFETY ISSUE.
IT'S NOT JUST ECONOMIC.
IT GIVES THE STREETS THE
VITALITY AND EXCITEMENT SO THAT
YOU CAN WALK DOWN THE STREET
LATER IN THE EVENING OR EARLY IN
THE MORNING AND FEEL LIKE YOU'RE
ALIVE IN THE CENTER OF THE
WORLD, NEW YORK CITY.
>> WELL, SO A FEW THINGS.
ONE, LET'S GET INTO THE AMAZON
EFFECT FIRST BECAUSE THAT IS ONE
OF THE THINGS THAT YOU DO BLAME
SO MANY VACANCIES ON.
AND IS IT JUST AMAZON?
IS IT AMAZON AND A MIX OF RISING
RENT PRICES?
>> COUPLE OF THINGS.
THERE WAS LAND LORD RETAIL
GREED.
WE SAW RENTS SORE 22% IN THE
LAST TEN YEARS.
THAT WAS IN SOME CASE ORIS A LOT
OF CASES I'M GOING TO GET WHAT I
GET REGARDLESS OF THE IMPACT OF
COMMUNITIES.
BUT TODAY IT'S EVEN MORE
CHALLENGING.
THERE'S ANOTHER STORY TO BE
TOLD, AND THAT IS THE AMAZON
EFFECT.
PEOPLE ARE ORDERING ONLINE.
THEY'RE NOT GOING INTO RETAIL
SHOPS.
THEY'RE ACTUALLY JUST LOOKING
AND TAKING A CLICK AND THEN
GETTING THE DELIVERY.
SO, THERE'S IMPACT ON THAT.
STORES ARE CONSTRICTING.
DELIVERIES ARE CLOGGING OUR
STREETS.
THERE IS AN ONLINE SHOPPING
CHALLENGE TO OUR CITY.
SO, I LOOKED AT THE AMAZON
EFFECT.
WE ALSO LOOKED AT WHAT DOES THAT
MEAN.
SO, WE'RE GOING TO SEE, I
BELIEVE, LESS CLOTHING STORES
AND, YOU KNOW, STORES THAT COULD
ACTUALLY HAVE AN ONLINE
PRESENCE.
AND WHAT'S REPLACING THOSE
STORES ARE CAFES AND
RESTAURANTS, MORE
SERVICE-ORIENTED BUSINESSES, YOU
KNOW, CHILD CARE OR DOGGY
DAYCARE.
THERE'S A LOT OF NEW BUSINESSES.
BUT THE CITY IS NOT ALIGNING THE
BUREAUCRACY TO MEET THAT
CHALLENGE.
AND SO THE SMALL BUSINESS
ADMINISTRATION, WE HAVE TO MAKE
SURE THAT THOSE NEW BUSINESSES
THAT WILL PERHAPS REPLACE OTHER
BUSINES
BUSINESSES, THAT WE GIVE THEM
THE INFRASTRUCTURE THEY NEED TO
BE SUCCESSFUL.
>> OKAY.
BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE ONE OF THE
THINGS PEOPLE MIGHT PUSH BACK
AND SAY RESTAURANTS AND CAFES DO
KIND OF ADD -- IT'S A DIFFERENT
KIND OF VIBRANCY THAN RETAIL
STORES BUT A DO ADD THAT.
YOU HAVE PEOPLE SITTING ON THE
STREETS.
>> IT'S EXCITING TO SEE THAT.
BUT THE PERMIT PROCESS, FINES
AND FEES ON SMALL BUSINESSES,
ESPECIALLY RESTAURANTS, HAVE
JUST MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE TO KEEP
THOSE BUSINESSES FLOURISHING.
AND YES, ONE BUSINESS GOES OUT.
ANOTHER RESTAURANT WILL OPEN.
BUT REALLY NOT WHAT WE SHOULD BE
DOING.
WE HAVE TO HELP OUR SMALL
BUSINESSES.
IT'S THE LIFE BLOOD OF THE CITY.
WE ASK OUR SMALL BUSINESSES TO
DO MORE.
I SUPPORT A $15 MINIMUM WAGE.
THAT'S IMPORTANT.
WE WANT TO GIVE WORKERS MORE SO
THEY CAN TAKE CARE OF THEIR
FAMILIES.
THERE HAS TO BE WAYS THAT AS WE
ASK BUSINESSES TO STAND UP
ECONOMICALLY, WE HAVE TO ASK
THEM TO SURVIVE AS WELL.
SO, THE FINES, THE FEES, THE
BUREAUCRACY IS THE STRAW THAT
SNAPS THE BUSINESS.
WE SHOULD START LOOKING AT A
COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH.
AND ALSO DOING AN ANALYSIS OF
DOING WHERE IS THE NEXT
COMMERCIAL BUSINESSES IN OUR
CITY.
THE OTHER THING I WOULD SAY IS
THAT AS AN ADVOCATE AND ACTIVIST
WHEN YOU SEE A BIG SCALE
ENVIRONMENT, THIS DEVELOPMENT IS
SO BIG IT'S T OUT OF CONTEXT
WITH THE NEIGHBORHOOD.
SO, WE HAVE TO LOOK AT THAT.
AND THEN WE HAVE TO LOOK AT,
WAIT, WE WANT AFFORDABLE HOUSING
IN OUR COMMUNITY.
SO, THAT'S THE SECOND THING WE
ADVOCATE.
THERE ISN'T ENOUGH DISCUSSION OF
THE COMMERCIAL SPACE.
BECAUSE YOU'RE FIGHTING LIGHT
AIR AND DENSITY AND
AFFORDABILITY FROM THE HOUSING
PERSPECTIVE, WE'VE GOT TO COME
IN AND SAY WHAT'S GOING TO BE IN
THAT GROUND FLOOR SPACE?
AND WE HAVE TO HOLD DEVELOPERS
AND CITY PLANNING COMMISSION TO
A REAL PLAN.
WE CAN'T HAVE JUST A BANK OR A
BIG DRUGSTORE ON EVERY BLOCK.
>> THAT WAS GOING TO BE MY FINAL
QUESTION.
IS THIS GOING TO BE GEARED MORE
TOWARDS INDEPENDENTLY OWNED MOM
AND POPS, IF YOU WILL, VERSUS
CORPORATE STORES THAT CAN COME
IN AND OPEN AND CLOSE VERY
EASILY WITH VERY LITTLE PROBLEM.
>> WE MUST SUPPORT OUR SMALL
BUSINESSES, OUR MOM AND POP.
A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO COME HERE
FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD, A LOT
OF WHY THEIR FAMILY GROWS
ECONOMICALLY INTO THE MIDDLE
CLASS IS BECAUSE ENTREPRENEURS,
PEOPLE OF ALL DIFFERENT
BACKGROUNDS, COME HERE AND SET
UP SHOP.
THEY SAVE MONEY.
THEY TAKE THEIR ENTREPRENEURSHIP
SERIOUSLY AND A COMMUNITY
CREATES WEALTH.
WE CAN'T LOSE THAT IN A CITY.
WE GET FORGET THE PEOPLE WHO
HAVE MADE THIS MAGICAL CITY,
THIS INTEGRATED CITY FROM SO
MANY BACKGROUNDS THAT COME HERE
AND BECOME THE DESTINATION FOR
SOME 65 MILLION TOURISTS.
THEY JUST DON'T WANT TO SEE THE
STATUE OF LIBERTY OR THE EMPIRE
STATE BUILDING.
THEY LOVE COMING HERE SEEING OUR
DIVERSITY, HOW WE WALK, HOW WE
TALK, WHAT WE LOOK LIKE, WHETHER
IT'S GOING TO CHURCH ON SUNDAY
OR WALKING JACKSON HEIGHTS.
THIS IS THE POWER OF NEW YORK
CITY.
AND IT STARTS NOT WITH CHASE
BANK BUT WITH THE MOM AND POP.
AND MAYBE THAT'S ALWAYS BEEN THE
TIME TO THE VACANCIES ON
COLUMBUS AVENUE.
>> YOUR PASSION FOR THE CITY,
WHILE I BELIEVE IT, IT SOUNDS A
LITTLE BIT LIKE SOMEBODY THAT
MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN ANOTHER
OFFICE.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD WANT
TO ANNOUNCE WITH US?
>> I WOULD ONLY ANNOUNCE IT WITH
YOU AT THAT CERTAIN TIME.
>> OKAY.
>> I'LL TELL YOU THE REASON I
LOVE NEW YORK.
YOU KNOW, I WAS BORN AND RAISED
HERE AT A TIME WHEN THE CITY WAS
UNDER SOME REAL CHALLENGES, ON
THE EDGE OF BANKRUPTCY, BRONX
REALLY WAS BURNING.
THERE WERE REAL CHALLENGES.
BUT FOR SOME REASON THE CITY
JUST HELD TOGETHER.
AND NOW I HAVE REAL SKIN IN THE
GAME.
I HAVE A 7 1/2-YEAR-OLD, A
6-YEAR-OLD, MAX AND MILES, THEY
GO TO OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
AND A LOT OF MY WORK IS THINKING
ABOUT WHAT IS THE CITY GOING TO
BE FOR THEM AND ALL OF OUR
CHILDREN?
AND THAT IS SOMETHING THAT GETS
YOU UP IN THE MORNING AND KEEPS
YOU WORKING THROUGHOUT THE DAY.
SO, TO ME, THAT'S THE
MOTIVATION.
AND I'M FORTUNATE BECAUSE I HAVE
ONE OF THE OFFICES IN THE CITY
THAT CAN HAVE AN IMPACT.
AND TO THE EXTENT I'M IN
GOVERNMENT BEYOND CONTROL, IT'S
BECAUSE I WANT TO HAVE THAT
UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO HELP THIS
GENERATION.
>> ALL RIGHT.
WELL, NOT AN OFFICIAL STUMP
SPEECH BUT STILL VERY GOOD.
>> YOU'RE TOUGH.
>> THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING
US.

Funders

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