Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Empty corner storefronts on Avenue A



Someone spray painted this message — "Tax Commercial Vacancies" — over the weekend on the side of the former Benny's Burritos space on Sixth Street and Avenue A.

In late March, Mayor de Blasio told the following to WNYC:

"I am very interested in fighting for a vacancy fee or a vacancy tax that would penalize landlords who leave their storefronts vacant for long periods of time in neighborhoods because they are looking for some top-dollar rent but they blight neighborhoods by doing it."

Anyway, by my count, there are currently six corner storefronts sitting vacant on Avenue A between Houston and 14th Street. (This doesn't count the new retail space for lease in Steiner East Village at 11th Street ... or the incoming Target at 14th Street.)

• Southeast corner of A and Second Street. The Chase branch closed here in November 2015. The space has had six or seven brokers since then. Last October, EastVille Comedy Club looked at taking part of the storefront. However, CB3 denied the application, citing, among other reasons, that this address was never licensed before and that it exists in a saturated zone.

• Northwest corner of A and Third Street. Landmark Bicycles closed here back in October.

• Northwest corner of A and Fourth Street. The Santander bank branch closed here on Friday.

• Southeast corner of A and Fifth Street. This space shouldn't be empty for too much longer: Mast Books is relocating here from a few storefronts away.

• Southwest corner of A and Sixth Street. Benny's shut down in November 2014. The owners of the bar the Black Rose were going to apply for a liquor license for this corner, but those plans never materialized.



• Southeast corner of A and 13th Street. I don't know exactly when Percy's Tavern closed. Back in August they started opening later in the day, foregoing weekend afternoons. In September, a reader told me they were done. I walked by to see — and they were open. My guess is they closed for good at the end of September, about the time applicants for the the Honey Fitz made an unsuccessful attempt for a new liquor license here.

20 comments:

afbp said...

i believe---this is a plausible first step---greedy/opportunistic/selfish landlords abhor being taxed:/

Anonymous said...

Landlords were always greedy, asking for the highest rent possible. That is nothing new. What has changed is everyone is buying online from Amazon or Blue Apron, etc. Look at at all the parcels in your lobby. That's whats killing malls in America and causing empty storefronts in NYC.

Gojira said...

The new urban blight.

Anonymous said...

You should not be looking at this issue as a greed/rent/landlord/neighborhood issue. This is about the freedom to have the right to keep your property the way you want to. No, I am not a landlord and never have been. I am a rent stabilized apartment tenant in the EV for the last four decades and have watched the EV transition from...well let's not reminisce for good old days. But this is about an individual's freedom. The freedom to rent or not to rent as they might choose, whatever their reasons. Are we going to impose more government regulations on landlords? Who needs more government regulations. We need less actually. So how about a nice compromise...landlords who keep their spaces empty while waiting for the right tenant or higher paying tenant must beautify their spaces by creating art spaces in their windows? Hopefully some artists in the EV and their associations can figure this out and work with the landlords and the CB3.

Anonymous said...

You realize landlords being taxed means higher residential rents?

Anonymous said...

Some vacancy taxes ain't gonna bring back Mom & Pop, IMO.

Kirsten Theodos said...

Vacancy tax means in needs Albany to enact it which means it's DOA and de Blasio knows it. Next! #SBJSA

cmarrtyy said...

Unless the fine is bigger than the tax write off, it will do nothing to help. What has to be done is to remove the tax deduction for real estate loss based on a loss for revenue producing property.

Sarah said...

Wow, 9:59 am, how about we let your landlord do what he wants with his property? I mean, do you not understand that would mean you'd be out on the street?

Anonymous said...

You can deduct expenses maintaining the property but you cannot deduct the loss of the projected commercial rent. So exactly what is "the real estate loss based on a loss for revenue producing property"?

Anonymous said...

@8:59 Amazon or Blue Apron did not destroy benny's

@9:59 Your "thoughts and prayers" aren't actually helping fix a struggling community being strangled by an undeserving and indifferent landlord

Anonymous said...

Greedy landlords do not exist in isolation unto themselves, so griping about greedy landlords ain't worth a thing.

Also, why are we complaining about the death of malls in America and empty storefronts in NYC? We're already saturated with worthless commodities we don't need; are we really not going to be satisfied until every square inch of space is used for buying and selling something?

Anonymous said...

@9:59 AM
So ironic a person (good for you) which complains about "too much" government regulations has benefitted from such regulations for 40 years.

There is a big difference from landlords of the past decades and landlord or today's NYC. Building's were often owned by families which at best maybe owned 2 buildings. Today LLC's and corporate landlords have portfolios with dozens of buildings. These landlord's won't listen patiently when you tell them the rent will be late that month due to:....... no you will get served an eviction notice. These landlords don't care about or see their properties as part of a neighborhood just part of their investment holdings. Yes these are greed landlords at their worst.

Anonymous said...

ccmarty hit the nose on the head, that is the tax loophole that causes blight. That and "improvements and maintenance" to a vacant space can also be deducted, which seems like a seemingly impossible thing to audit. And I am sure tons of shady things are buried or offset in this practice.

~bring lawyers guns and money

Anonymous said...

Why does everyone assume that the landlord will just throw you out if you let them do what they want? First of all, when I say do what they want, I still expect that the landlord would have to follow the rule of law. Don't be obtuse people. Opinions expressed are always, or should be, about advocating for the right of freedom as granted to us by the laws of the US, the State and the City. Nobody is advocating breaking any laws...at least I'm not. Having said that, there are so many regulations on the books already that give both landlords and tenants rights. If you don't believe me...go look it up. By living in a rent stabilized apartment for so many years I have obeyed the laws of the land on all levels. The apartment is legal and so is my tenancy. Don't be jealous of my position if yours is untenable. Plus the fact that it is residents like myself and so many others that keep buildings from being torn down or converted and helps keep the neighborhood stable, retaining not only its authenticity but its unique qualities as well. It is amazing to me that those were the only things commented upon when reading my earlier comment. Not one of you thought of a single nice thing to say about anyone or any type of compromise like the one I suggested of having landlords beautify their empty spaces for the public with art or some other type of community oriented message. NO. All of you just went to the dark side criticizing, complaining, and whining. If you are representative of they type of people that are moving into the EV now, then perhaps it is time for you to move elsewhere...sure as hell I am staying and will be here to wave good bye to you. Bye bye.

Anonymous said...

Yes!

Anonymous said...

CB3 says over saturation? What the heck does that mean? So they want that space to stay vacant and blight up the block/neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

What annoys me is why don't they put more effort in enforcing laws already on the books? Like what about the one that says no solid gates covering storefront windows? What about graffiti? or inadequate night lighting in front of these vacant places?
What about when a side-street/residential street place is empty ... it should be reverted to a residence and not a commercial place, as my understanding of the zoning laws says it's supposed to be. URGH.

Anonymous said...

Do what you want for your building, 9:59am, but you should not get a tax break for an artificial storefront vacancy because you more than make up for the loss of rent income from the storefront from the rest of the building. That's why these landlords leave storefronts vacant. They make what they want/need with the rest of the property, more money with it, and have less property to maintain.

Anonymous said...

There are a load of variations to the larger idea that make sense and don't have to be chokingly punitive to gain traction. All property owners need a fair amount of time to try and rent their commercial properties once they are vacant at whatever price they want to strive for. The question becomes how long is reasonable? For argument's sake, let's say it's two years without penalty. Then, if the asking price is stepped down by some significant percentage they can get another 18 months. After that the space gets an additional tax on a sq ft basis as long it remains vacant. But then let's say the owner can get additional relief if they rent the space to a not for profit at a discounted basis for relatively short term leases, or if they commitment to a substantial pop up program that keeps the store front open and vital at least 2/3 of a calendar year. You can build a piece of legislation that eminently fair and begins to put at least some pressure on folks who are warehousing ground floor space.