New York businesses are barely holding up
Almost a year after the Covid-19 pandemic In New York City, parts of the Big Apple are more like ghost towns, lined with shuttered storefronts, empty office buildings, and businesses on the verge of closure.
Today, industry leaders and distressed store owners call on the city and the state to turn the tide before it is too late.
“I’m not saying that there will be an exodus in the city or that the city is going to die” without help, said Gino Gigante, owner of the Waypoint Cafe on the Lower East Side – where sales went from $ 500,000 in 2019 at just $ 80,000 last year. .
“But you’re going to see a lot of disgruntled people and a lot of empty storefronts.”
As of this month, more than 47% of small businesses in the city remain closed, while the incomes of those that are open have fallen by almost 60%, according to TrackTheRecovery.org, a database maintained by Harvard University tracking the economic impact of the virus.
In Lower Manhattan, commercial office rentals fell nearly 70% in 2020, while 12% of businesses – ranging from hotels to department stores to restaurants – have closed for good, according to data from the Downtown Alliance shows.
“There are hours and hours when no one comes into the store at this point,” Alyssa Morrow, COO of SoHo’s clothing store The Vintage Twin, told The Post. “We are reduced to bare bones.”
Restaurants, bars and cafes have been among the businesses hardest hit by the pandemic.
“We started with 22 or 23 employees. Now we have about 10, ”said Andrew Chase, owner of Katja Café on Orchard Street in Lower Manhattan.
In a stark reminder of the double danger of the pandemic, these losses include a worker who succumbed to the virus at just 36, Chase said.
“It was so tragic,” he said. “So all that matters to me is that everyone is healthy.”
Nonetheless, falling profits have brought an uncertain future for Chase and his cafe, despite a GoFundMe fundraiser, a loan through the Federal Paycheck Protection Program, and a sympathetic landlord taking his lease on a quarterly basis.
According to data from Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis, the world’s largest real estate and investment firm, vacancy rates in residential, office and retail spaces have continued to soar, with up to 21% of empty buildings in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
“New York City experienced a crisis of vacant storefronts prior to the pandemic and it was exacerbated to unimaginable levels,” Andrew Rigie, director of the Hospitality Association, told The Post.
A series of government failures only accelerated the process.
It took 11 months to roll out an outdoor permit program for the city’s performing arts sectors, three of the five promised emergency bus lanes are still not built, hampering transportation, and it doesn’t There is still no help for tenants who collectively owe over $ 1 billion in rent.
The Open Dining and Open Streets programs, which brought the city back to life over the summer, only came after threats of legislation and pressure from lawmakers, while aid and loan programs for local people small businesses totaled less than $ 100 million.
New York also needs to address quality of life issues to convince tourists – and residents who have fled – to return, said Jerome Barth, president of the Fifth Avenue Association.
“New York has managed to become the world’s number one tourist destination by being the world’s safest big city and we have to own that label,” Barth said, referring to the homeless crisis, the high murder rates and increasing crime in the subways.
“Perception is what matters to the people who decide whether or not to come to New York.
While tackling quality of life issues, the city needs to be more lenient when it comes to slapping businesses with penalties and fines for minor infractions, Rigie said, urging a focus on things that make New York the greatest city in the world.
“The city needs to embrace the energy that makes New York so unique,” he said. “We have to continue with the outdoor meals, we need the outdoor shows.
“New York City needs to create reasons to bring people back. “
Rigie and other industry leaders in the five boroughs said government red tape, coupled with complicated and inadequate relief efforts, make it nearly impossible for businesses to rebound.
“It’s so much easier to operate in a lot of other places,” said Elizabeth Lusskin, executive director of Long Island City Business Improvement.
“The rules are easier, the applications are easier, there is a simpler bureaucracy around everything. “
Businesses that are not yet forced to close may voluntarily pack their bags if the grass looks greener in other states, Lusskin warned.
“If we are to maintain a strong business climate here, we have to improve our game and not take it for granted that everyone just wants to be here,” Lusskin said. “We are in a competition. And we’re New Yorkers, so we should win, but we’re not going to win by default. “
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