New York City small businesses are barely hanging on. More than 2,800 have closed permanently since March 1, the New York Times reported. And when the pandemic eventually subsides, as many as one-third of the city’s 230,000 small businesses may not reopen, according to a report from the Partnership for New York City. Despite the city reaching the final and fourth phase of reopening, the distribution of millions of dollars in aid, and creative measures to help shops survive, thousands of businesses remain at risk.
Small businesses in New York City are struggling to stay afloat, especially those still unable to reopen because of the coronavirus pandemic. A survey from the Hospitality Alliance found that only 19 percent of city businesses paid June rent and only 26 percent of landlords waived rent. Council Member Keith Powers on Monday released a report detailing ways to save small businesses and prepare for a post-COVID-19 world by providing emergency rent relief using federal funds, waiving the commercial rent tax, making outdoor dining permanent, and other measures.
Owners of six small businesses in Coney Island, Lola Star Boutique, Nathan’s Famous, Ruby’s Bar & Grill, Paul’s Daughter, Tom’s Restaurant, and the Coney Island Beach Shop, are currently negotiating new 10-year lease agreements with amusement park operator Zamperla. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the boardwalk businesses are facing rent increases of between 50 and 400 percent each. “We care about Coney Island and its future, and we are dedicated to making it as strong a community as possible,” Alessandro Zamperla, the president of the company, told the Times. “This is why we’ve been working with our tenants to ensure their success and preserve the character of Coney Island.” Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has not come forward with a plan to mediate; according to the newspaper, the rent increases do not violate the agreement between Zamperla and the city.
This past October, Neir’s Tavern in Woodhaven, Queens celebrated its 190th anniversary. But last week, the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society reported on Twitter that the beloved and historic establishment would close its doors for good on Sunday. Originally opened in 1829 as a saloon called the “Old Blue Pump House,” Neir’s considers itself NYC’s oldest bar. When the tavern was in danger of closing in 2009, a local FDNY member and a group of friends bought and restored it, but in December of 2018, the building was sold unbeknownst to them. According to a Facebook post by Neir’s, they were unable to negotiate a new “affordable long-term lease” with the new owners. But when Mayor de Blasio heard the news, he and the city stepped in and saved the bar from closing.
With rents on the rise and the e-commerce industry showing no signs of slowing, the livelihood of small businesses in New York City remains under threat. Council Member Stephen Levin, who represents parts of Brooklyn, hopes to address the high rate of retail vacancies across the city with legislation to regulate commercial rents, as Gothamist first reported. “It’s a complex problem,” Levin, who will introduce a bill to the City Council next week, told the website. “We think it’s time to introduce this into the conversation.”
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.
6sqft has been closely following the progress of photographers James and Karla Murray‘s Seward Park art installation “Mom-and-Pops of the LES,” featuring four nearly life-size images of Lower East Side business that have mostly disappeared. The pair, who have spent the last decade chronicling the place of small neighborhood businesses in 21st century New York City, was chosen for the public art project by Art in the Parks UNIQLO Park Expressions Grant Program and ran a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the wood-frame structure’s build out. James and Karla will be having a free public exhibition of their photography for “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York” at The Storefront Project (@thestorefrontproject) at 70 Orchard Street from July 25-August 12, 2018, with an opening reception on Wednesday, July 25th from 6-9 PM.