Retail vacancy up in NYC, report finds - Queens Chronicle: Queenswide

Retail vacancy up in NYC, report finds

by Ryan Brady, Editor | Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2019 10:30 am

In the Douglaston-Little Neck ZIP code of 11362, the retail vacancy rate in 2017 was 25.8 percent — or 176,681 square feet.

In the Jackson Heights ZIP code of 11370, the same statistic was 16 percent — 53,722 square feet.

And in the Cambria Heights ZIP code of 11411, it was found to be 14.9 percent — 29,006 square feet.

The alarming statistics, published last week in Comptroller Scott Stringer’s report on the city’s retail vacancy crisis, are part of a broader trend. The financial watchdog’s analysis found the vacancy rate almost doubled between 2007 and 2017, going to 5.8 percent, or 11 million square feet of space.

“Change is the one constant in New York City — and sometimes, change can be overwhelming,” Stringer said in a prepared statement. “Even as our economy has grown, many mom-and-pop stores have been left behind, transforming spaces once owned by local small businesses into barren storefronts. This isn’t just about empty buildings and neighborhood blight, it’s about the affordability crisis in our city.”

Queens had the two ZIP codes with the highest vacancy rates in 2017: 11362 and 11363, which both cover the Douglaston-Little Neck area.

Stringer’s report identified the ZIP code with the most vacant square footage as 10134 in Staten Island, with 439,870 vacant square feet. But fourth place went to 11432 in Jamaica, which was found to have 334,787 vacant square feet.

The comptroller’s report identifies several forces as the primary ones behind the sharp increase in retail vacancy: retail rents, which went up from 22 percent in the city between 2007 and 2017; the increasing dominance of online shopping; and regulatory burdens. As examples of the third issue, Stringer brought up alteration permit applications that the city Department of Buildings hasn’t approved even after 30 days, and the length of a liquor license approval — which increased by around 50 percent last year to 75 days.

The alteration permit issue is especially acute in Woodhaven. According to a graph in the report, about 15 percent of the alteration permits for the area were not approved after 30 days.

The report notes that retail space in the city is increasingly being used by service-oriented businesses, like bars and restaurants.

Stringer urged the city to adapt some policy changes in response to the retail vacancy crisis. He suggested that officials evaluate an area’s retail demand when planning any rezoning or development, create a single point-of-contact service for retail businesses and give out tax credits for independent retailers in high-vacancy areas.

“We need to use every tool in the box to tackle affordability, support small businesses and ensure New Yorkers are equipped to succeed in the new economic reality,” the city comptroller said.

The report also disputed the correlation between retail vacancy and landmarked buildings, saying there was little evidence that such a connection exists.