Many empty storefronts still dot the landscape along bustling borough thoroughfares such as Jamaica Avenue.
By Michael V. Cusenza
The City Council on Tuesday passed a bill aimed at combating the storefront-vacancy epidemic that has affected all five boroughs.
The new measure requires the City’s Department of Small Business Services to establish a public, online searchable database of all commercial storefronts in New York. Each storefront’s location, size, current use, availability, and monthly rent, as well as contact information for the property owner, will be included in the database. Owners will be required to submit this information to SBS every year, and every time the property becomes vacant.
The proposed law was jointly introduced earlier this year by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who all noted that NYC has been hit with an epidemic of empty storefronts, sprouting on city blocks from Astoria to Arverne, often remaining mysteriously vacant for years on end. It’s hard to ignore the eyesores, and prior to Tuesday, City law didn’t have a tool for measuring and tracking the stark spaces.
“Whether it’s our five Chinatowns, or the hundreds of Caribbean-owned businesses in Flatbush, or the South American restaurants and businesses of Elmhurst—successful small businesses are the backbone of the middle class, particularly for new immigrants. Unfortunately, we have witnessed the loss of far too many small businesses in the last several years, leaving only empty storefronts behind,” Rosenthal said this week. “This essential information will be the basis for solutions which help keep small businesses in our communities.”
In 2017, Rosenthal released a 20-page report examining storefront vacancies on the Upper West Side, and the myriad reasons why independently owned businesses close, including soaring rents, changing consumer habits, and specific family circumstances.