NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Empty storefronts line New York streets, and demand for city action to save hundreds of thousands of jobs continues to mount.
CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer says the problem is getting worse.
There are many empty storefronts in the main shopping district in Forest Hills, Queens. They stand out like the empty space left when a tooth has been pulled, and business owners say it hurts just as much.
“It’s very sad, because I love to be on this street. It’s like my second home,” said Frank Lepore, owner of Dominick’s Hairstyling on Austin Street.
While there’s no ‘for rent’ sign in the window of his second story salon right now, there will be in just two weeks.
The landlord raised the rent $800 a month, forcing him to shut his doors after 27 years at the same spot and 49 in the neighborhood.
“I couldn’t pay the bills,” he told Kramer. “The rent goes up, and it’s impossible to stay in business.”
A staggering increase in the number of vacant storefronts is the city’s latest economic crisis, with many wondering why nothing has been done. According to a new report by the City Council, 600,000 people are employed by small retail businesses and restaurants in the city.
This made a City Council hearing on vacant storefronts all the more disheartening, Kramer reported. Members of the De Blasio administration were unable to tell Councilman Dan Garodnick and others what’s going on and what they’re doing about it.
“Help us identify when this problem really started picking up,” said Garodnick.
“I don’t think at this time we have a perfect way… to measure the baseline of vacancy rates,” Rachel Van Tosh, of the NYC Department of Small Business Services, said.
“Tell us about the vacancy numbers that you accept,” said Garodnick.
“We don’t have that just yet,” another staffer answered.
“So the city today has no way of measuring, itself, the number of vacant storefronts,” said Garodnick.
“We’re actively looking for ways to understand not just vacancy rates but the underlying causes,” Van Tosh said.
Councilwoman Karen Kozlowitz, who represents Forest Hills, says the city has to do something.
“We have to look at each neighborhood to see what is going on, and why is this happening, and also have conversations with the landlords,” she said.
Meanwhile, two state lawmakers are taking action, introducing legislation to create a property tax exemption for landlords who offer mom and pop stores a long-term lease with fair increase to help them stay in business.