The New York City Council on Tuesday passed legislation that requires the city to establish a public database of commercial properties and vacancy rates across the five boroughs. Introduced by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, the “Storefront Tracker” bill aims to provide information on current vacancies and those small city businesses most at risk. The database, the first of its kind in the country, will list the occupancy status of retail spaces online.
Rosenthal said the livelihood of small businesses, many owned by immigrants and middle-class New Yorkers, remains under threat, especially as rents rise and the popularity of e-commerce companies grows. A report released by her office in 2017 examined empty storefronts on the Upper West Side and called on the city to assess vacancy rates across NYC.
“We have witnessed the loss of far too many small businesses in the last several years, leaving only empty storefronts behind,” Rosenthal said in a statement on Tuesday. “Losing this economic ladder limits opportunity, and contributes to New York City’s growing economic inequality.”
The legislation requires commercial storefront and second-floor spaces to register with the city, with the occupancy rates available online through the Department of Small Business Services. Landlords must submit information on their properties, including its vacancy, its monthly rent, and any construction projects undertaken in the last year, as part of its annual expense statement to the city.
“You can’t fix a problem when you can’t even begin to measure it,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who has pushed for the legislation, said in a statement. “This database will be a boost for business owners looking for possible places to rent, those facing lease negotiations, and countless other possible services, which is why I’m proud the Council voted to pass this bill today.”
Reports released last year confirmed that once-booming shopping districts, including Bleecker Street in the West Village and Soho, are now suffering from double-digit vacancy rates. In 2017, the City Council found that vacancy rates jumped from 2.1 percent to 4.2 percent in 2012 and 2017 due to astronomical rents and online competitors.
[Via Curbed NY]
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