VIDEOS: Jeremiah Moss’ Shuttered Storefronts and Alicia Glen’s Opposition to Retail Rent Control
Courtesy of James and Karla Murray authors/photographers of “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York“
“The evidence of disease is everywhere,” claims Jeremiah Moss. No, he’s not talking about New Yorkers’ health; this is something he believes is even more merciless: hyper-gentrification. Moss, the pseudonymic chief editor behind the “bitterly nostalgic” blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York and the founder of the anti-gentrification movement #SaveNYC, and James and Karla Murray, authors and photographers of “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York” submitted a short film to last month’s Municipal Arts Society Summit 2015. The ten-minute clip opens with a sinister assertion that “the soul of New York is dying,” and plays as a visual obituary of the small businesses we have lost over the past two decades.
Shortly after Jeremiah’s melancholic melodrama, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen was asked whether New York should adopt commercial rent control policies. Unconvinced this is an applicable solution, she instead emphasized that a “healthy and vibrant mix of businesses” is important and “bad” businesses must be allowed to fail. Nor is Glen convinced of the plight of the mom and pop, calling it a Manhattan-centric argument. While she acknowledges certain neighborhoods are changing rapidly, she says independent businesses are thriving in other boroughs.
Displaying images of New York’s changing storefronts taken by the Murray duo, Moss argues that mom and pops aren’t closing because of changing times or bad sales (though an image of a shuttered record store offsets his claim), he says they’re closing as a result of government policies. He discusses proposals from the #SaveNYC campaign that seek to limit the number of chain business, aim to fine landlords who leave commercial space vacant, and also by passing the Small Business Job Survival Act which would implement a tenant-landlord bargaining process during commercial lease renewal.
Small business protections aren’t limited to grassroots movements; they’re also supported by a handful of city leaders, such as Gale Brewer. But as we know, not all are on board. Understanding commercial rent asking prices is not transparent, Glen admits, citing the information disparity between small businesses and larger chains. She states, “Mom and pops don’t have the access to the databases that Starbucks has when they’re running around trying to negotiate a lease or understand where rents really are.” The city is addressing these imbalances through a series of initiatives, she notes, such as by creating a platform to provide a holistic view of neighborhood rent prices, through grants to legacy businesses for an opportunity to complete, and by offering pro bono legal services during lease negotiation.
While the city already offers a host of programs to support small businesses, Glen mentions some constituents welcome chain stores, especially those that provide critical and often taken-for-granted services rarely found in mom and pops, like 24-hour pharmacies. So, while Moss warns that the “the South Bronx is bracing itself” from impending chain stores, Glen offers the response above.
What are your thoughts on the issue? Let us know in the comments.
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