Ask any New Yorker and they will tell you how neighborhood streets that once bustled with small, mom-and-pop businesses now have a Duane Reade on one corner and a large bank on the other, with a row of empty stores in between. When I was growing up in Washington Heights, like a lot of New Yorkers, I could walk down the street to the local corner store where they knew my name and could even guess what I wanted before I started talking. That’s what made growing up in the city so special – the local institutions embedded in the fabric of our neighborhoods. But nowadays, that reality is disappearing.
This is a moment of tremendous challenge for the thousands of local small businesses that have been a source of vibrancy, character, and diversity for our neighborhoods for generations. Tragically, these vital establishments are closing at an alarming rate from one end of the city to the other. Every New Yorker sees it — and feels it, too.
Last week, my office released the most comprehensive analysis to date in a first-of-its-kind report, reviewing data from the Department of Finance over a decade that puts numbers behind the phenomenon of retail vacancies playing out across the city.
What we found was that the amount of vacant storefront space across the city has doubled since 2007 — from around 6 million square feet to more than 11 million square feet. The city’s vacancy rate citywide rose by 45 percent from 2007 to 2017, to nearly 6 percent. The report offers a startling picture of new economic trends in communities across the five boroughs.