Volume 22, Number 26 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 6 - 12, 2009e
From our Archives
“No Way to Live”
By Glenn Thrush
November 7, 1990
Some of Downtown’s most treasured and venerable stores were facing extinction for “no good reason other than a landlord’s greed and unwillingness to accept lower rents than the market clearly warrants,” wrote reporter Glenn Thrush.
“It’s damn near a crisis,” said Dr. William Lawrence, director of Pace University’s Small Business Center. “Walk up Broadway and you’ll see that 30 percent of all the stores are vacant. We’re all concerned about Drexels, but the people who are really suffering are the small businesses.”
Lower Manhattan and the city were still reeling from the effects of the 1987 stock market crash.
Wrote Trush, “It’s supposed to be a good time for the little retailer to get cheaper rent. But the rents aren’t going down. Why?” The answer, he said, lies in the highly leveraged real estate purchases of the mid to late ‘80s, when it wasn’t unusual for a speculator to pay in as much as 25 percent more than a property’s assessed value in the hopes of turning a profit, according to realtors. “This crop of new landlords, faced with mind-numbing mortgages and tenants who can’t shell out the big increases necessary to keep properties in the black, simply decided to kick out their old tenants and wait for someone better to come along. Most are still waiting, and the empty stores are piling up at an alarming rate on such otherwise bustling strips as West Broadway, Prince St., Broadway, and Chambers St.”
“I don’t understand these landlords,” said Tony Dapolito, former Community Board 2 chairperson, whose vest-pocket Vesuvio Bakery on Prince St. was one of the last remaining old-time businesses. Like many other small businessmen throughout the city, Dapolito believed that the only way to give mom and pop stores a shot at survival was commercial rent stabilization.
Councilmember Stanley Michaels was sponsoring a bill that would force landlords to submit to binding arbitration when requesting hikes of 50 percent or more, and require that evicted tenants be allowed to occupy their stores until a new tenant was found.
The walk south on Greenwich St. from the World Trade Center was “not an excursion likely to chase away a blue funk,” according to Thrush. About half the shops that lined Greenwich St. from Liberty St. to Rector St. were boarded up, and business was down as much as 40 percent, according to the local merchants who were still surviving.
“Last year I ordered about 350 watches. You know how many I ordered this year? 75,” said Milly Gandia, who had bought Greenwich Jewelers 16 years prior. “ This is the quietest it’s been since we opened.”
“Layoffs, layoffs, and more layoffs. They keep saying, ‘Look out, the big one’s coming,’ so I keep asking, ‘How many more big ones can there be?” asked Gandia.
Prepared by Helaina N. Hovitz