Raymond Vasquez speaking to the press about the recent closing of Caesar’s Palace Pizza. Photo by Adam Mueller-Martin. 

By Hannah Reale

“It used to be a community. Now it’s just a neighborhood…. It’s not about the politics, it’s about the people, the residents, the families that get affected from the landlords doing what they’re doing.”

Last week, Upper West Side community members gathered in front of Caesar’s Palace Pizza, which just closed after 36 years due to a rent hike. The event, organized by City Council candidate Mel Wymore, was formed to rally around Caesar’s owner Dimitri Vezyrakis, who’s known as Jimmy by his customers. Raymond Vasquez, Jimmy’s longtime friend, ended the press conference with that line, and the same sentiment dominated the event.

Crowds began to gather around Caesar’s. Photo by Hannah Reale. 

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, City Council candidate Mel Wymore, and City Council candidate Cary Goodman stood with Jimmy and his son, Michael.

“Thank you very much to the community, to my customers, and I’ve seen children have children have children,” Jimmy said. “I’m heartbroken the way it happened…. The contract was outrageous and it wasn’t fair the way they treated me. They just gave me two weeks to make the decision, which was impossible. Again, I want to say to everybody, I love you for the support, for being with me, and with the help of my customers, I lived the beautiful, great American dream. I have three beautiful children…”

At this point, Jimmy got too choked up to speak, so his youngest son, Michael stepped in. “He’s made a great life for all three children. He was able to pay for college, he was able to have a beautiful home, a beautiful life…. He grew up with nothing. He came here from Greece when he was 14 years old and he built something at 21 years of age. He was able to turn that into a 36-year establishment that was loved by so many children who are here today. Like Evelyn”—he gestured towards one of the women in the crowd—“she was here since she was 7 years old with her family…. This neighborhood is beginning to lose its character, and it’s going to lose the soul that it has, and pretty soon it’s going to be unrecognizable. So please try to vote for someone who can help you and change these laws, so landlords and management companies can help us out. And thankfully we had someone reach out to us. His name is Mel Wymore. He’s here to support us. He was the first one that came to us and I just want to say thank you for coming, and thank you for organizing this.”

“This is not a political movement,” Jimmy added. “All together, we have to come together… and do the right thing…. Help the small people to stay in business because this is what America’s all about. We started from nothing and we made something…. This is the place where I met my wife, Maria. She was my customer. I wanted to say that.”

Jimmy and his son, Michael, standing by the door of the now-empty storefront. Photo by Adam Mueller-Martin. 

Many members of the community stepped up to share their stories about Caesar’s and their personal experiences with Jimmy over the years. Evelyn and her 16-year-old daughter Kayla Rodriguez both spoke to the crowd. “Jimmy’s like another father to me,” Kayla said.

Another woman from the neighborhood, Cynthia, said that, when she was 8 months pregnant, she came to Caesar’s in a storm because she had a craving for pizza and, after seeing how heavily pregnant she was, Jimmy drove her home in his truck with her pizza. “You tell me where you’re going to find a Starbucks, or any other pizza store around here that’s gonna do that for you.”

“I’ve lived in this neighborhood 43 years,” Goodman added. “I had one of the first slices coming out of this oven…. There are a lot of people who used to work here. Delivery people, pizza makers. 60 people.”—“60 families,” Jimmy interjected—“And we need to think about them, too, because Jimmy has done a fabulous job of bringing this neighborhood together…. It’s a lot more than just about Jimmy, it’s about the people who work for Jimmy, it’s about the people who were his customers, and we do need to come together.”

“This is a gentleman who is the definition of what it means to be a neighborhood institution, in terms of a Mom-and-Pop, owner-operated store,” Brewer said of Jimmy. “I do think that two weeks’ notice is beyond outrageous. It’s almost a crime…. It’s very hard to regulate the rents by law, but it isn’t hard to regulate how much time they have in order to discuss the rent.”

Owner Jimmy (right) speaking to Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council candidate Mel Wymore. Photo by Adam Mueller-Martin. 

While the event was mainly about supporting Caesar’s there was also a clear political undertone. Wymore began to criticize the City Council’s inaction with regard to the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which Rosenthal supports, although no progress has been made since it was officially proposed in 2014. (The act is designed to protect commercial tenants from their landlords, preventing rent gouging and “exorbitant lease demands,” according to Take Back NYC.)

Rosenthal said to the crowd, clearly in reference to Wymore’s remarks, “Don’t let anyone fool you that something simple can be done.” Rosenthal and Wymore have publicly fought in the past, as we most recently reported on at a rally against the new development at 200 Amsterdam. When one woman from the crowd attempted to continue escalating the situation by yelling at City Council Member Rosenthal about her work for the neighborhood, a chant of “Jimmy! Jimmy! Jimmy!” rose up to drown everyone else out, and the crowd refocused on the issue at hand.

Daniel Gleick, Wymore’s campaign spokesperson, later emailed Wymore’s subscribers, “Helen Rosenthal has hardly mentioned this issue for four years. Upper West Siders recognize that showing up just before an election is too little, too late. If Helen plans to keep following Mel’s lead on community issues, they should trade jobs.”

Rosenthal released the following statement in response:

“Supporting our vital small business community has been a top priority for me since taking office. I was one of the first New York City Council members to take advantage of the ‘Chamber on the Go Initiative’ started by the City Council, which conducts aggressive outreach to small businesses. My team and I carry out regular neighborhood walk-thru’s with NYC Small Business Services and the Department of Consumer Affairs to speak with individual store owners about their concerns. In response to what we’ve learned during these walk-thru’s, my office launched a series of clinics for small businesses, offering pro bono attorneys available to work with business owners on real estate, regulatory, and other issues. I am a lead sponsor of legislation which would provide financial relief to thousands of small businesses by excluding them from having to pay the Commercial Rent Tax. I am also a co-sponsor of the Small Business Survival Act, which would give commercial lease holders an affirmative right to renew their leases. That means it would establish an arbitration process for setting the rent of a renewal lease. I and my colleagues have spent the last three and a half years tackling the plight of small businesses on multiple fronts — the loss of our local establishments is a long-term crisis in New York City, and clearly one of the toughest challenges facing the City Council.”

One of the signs at the rally, which read, “No more pushing the little guy out.” Photo by Hannah Reale. 

When asked about what can be done to protect small businesses, Wymore said, “Vacancy fines. Many cities do it. If you keep your storefront vacant for a designated number of years, you get fines…. It incentivizes landlords to rent their space, to drop the price…. [The] red tape that businesses have to go through is enormous. Just to be certified, to get inspections, especially food-oriented businesses. We can streamline that red tape significantly. [Finally,] the Small Business Administration and the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise. Those two organization are just completely dysfunctional, and they should be reorganized—with small business advisors, and not real estate landlords—to really support small businesses.”

“Outside of legislative issues, we could also start a merchants’ organization,” Wymore added, “because small businesses don’t really have the time to spend [on these things], so you really do need outside support.”

“What would really be great is if we can get the word out to small business owners to come to our office and come to small business services to get immediate cash loans, which they can get, to get lawyers to help them negotiate their leases,” Rosenthal said at the event when asked what action Upper West Siders could take to prevent these types of closings around the neighborhood. “We’re always looking for people to come to those small business clinics so they can get the help they need. But the truth of the matter is that, in this situation, the business owner did the best he could and, in this situation, the building owner said, ‘No, I’m doubling the rent, and that’s it….’”

We attempted to contact the landlord for a response and to confirm the facts but did not hear back.

    1. nycityny says:

      Sorry to say this but this is just a means for politicians to grandstand. They can’t actually do anything about the situation but they do events like this to make it appear that they can. Mel Wymore is running for office (his folks were handing out literature yesterday as I walked by) and so this is what he does for campaigning. And other politicians latch on.

      • steve says:

        You are pretty much correct. I’m sure mosty of these people have never even eaten there. This place served disgusting slop. The pizza was at best mediocre and the other food was basically inedible unless you had been on a hunger strike for the last 2 weeks. Mr. Vezyrakis should look in the mirror, or the kitchen, to understand why he can’t sustain a business.

        In the last 10 years there has been a transformation on columbus avenue just one block away where countless succeswful new eateries have opened and doing quite well.

        • Mark Moore says:

          I ate there once and never went back, but it’s still a loss for the community. Another vacant storefront.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if the landlord held it below market rent for a long time, and now he’s being blamed.

      • B.B. says:

        For the record both in Albany and NYC elected officials are taking up the “cause” of commercial rents/vacancy rates:

        Problem for all these efforts is it is déjà vu all over again. That is any effort at commercial rent control is viewed through the prism of residential, and we know how landlords feel about that set of laws.

        Again commercial rent control was enacted once before by NYC at same time as residential (1940’s) and was universally despised by property owners. They dragged the thing through the courts and otherwise fought against it with such ferocity that the laws were allowed to expire in the 1960’s.

        Every single economist past and present both liberal and conservative agrees that government enacted rent control laws are bad for the market.

        For all the supposed good RC and RS have done for NYC housing the laws also have created endless issues and distortions in the residential housing market. Rent control laws essentially pick winners (those who have controlled units), versus losers (those who do not).

        Where some politicians and members of community see a modest “control” of commercial property, owners see any sort of RC as an anathema. On one hand you cannot blame them.

        Residential rent control in NY was based on the premise of an housing “emergency”, and that it would be temporary. Some sixty years or so later the scheme is still in place and the parameters expanded by whatever phase of the moon is in when a judge makes a ruling. Residential RC/RS is now an “affordable housing” scheme (words you do not see mentioned anywhere in the original laws); and the goal posts keep getting moved about.

    2. David Collins says:

      If I buy a building for $10 million dollars I should have a right to charge whatever I want to rent the apartments and store fronts in the building.

      If you have laws around what a landlord can do then why not have laws limiting the price of real estate? Most likely the $10 million paid for the building would buy you an entire city block somewhere else (just about anywhere else). The prices being paid to buy or to rent, be it residential or commercial, in NYC are some of the highest in the world.

      If NYC residents and business owners are paying local, state and federal taxes on rental income then why are there no laws that prohibit this. Residents and business owners across Florida, Texas and many other states are not paying local or state taxes.

      NYC real estate taxes are some of the highest in the country – why not have laws limiting how much NYC can raise it’s real estate taxes? And by the way, what do you get as a land owner for those real estate taxes?!

      If the landlord now has to pay the financing on the $10 million building, has to pay triple tax on the rental income and is getting hit with sky-high real estate taxes, then is it not realistic to expect that he will have to ask for rents that will allow him to be able to make those payments – and make a profit?

      People call landlords greedy. How about restaurant owners who charges $30 for a plate of pasta – is that fair market value? Or the bar owner who charges $18 for a glass of wine poured from a $7 bottle of wine – is that not greedy?

      Everyone is charging as much as they can get away with – the business owner, the landlord, New York City, NY State…

      To focus on the landlords as the only problem here is to be naive and/or biased at best.

      While Caesar’s Palace is closing, a number of similar business within walking distance (non-chain casual food establishments) have opened recently or will be opening soon:

      1 – Bee Cafe
      2 – My Pie Pizzeria
      3 – Farinella Pizzeria
      4 – Jack’s Stir Brew
      5 – Tap NYC
      6 – Donohue’s Steakhouse
      7 – The Fat Monk
      8 – Izakaya Ida
      9 – Joe & the Juice
      10 – Levain Bakery
      11 – Super Tacos
      12 – JG Melon
      13 – Gina La Fornarina
      14 – Amelie Wine Bar

      • ScooterStan says:

        Thank You Mr. Collins for not only having the guts to speak out against the oh-so-trendy faux-populism but also for doing so with logic and reason.

        Of course the crypto-Marxists and über-liberals will ignore your logic…mainly because it doesn’t gibe with their particular brand of bias, which is reinforced by the slew of opportunistic political candidates (incumbents AND challengers) desperate to:
        1) latch onto the zeitgeist, at least until the election is over, and;
        2) get as much FREE media exposure as possible.

        • Dave Ulster says:

          Jimmy’s is one of 37 small business locations that have closed on Broadway, Columbus and Amsterdam in the last three years, under Helen Rosenthal’s watch – Not Counting the Gracious Home, the Starbucks and other chain locations also shuttered. Get your math right gents!

      • Mark says:

        “Everyone is charging as much as they can get away with” – David Collins

        like the man said, “It USED to be a neighborhood”.

        • Cato says:

          And of course those here who naively see themselves as laissez-faire capitalists are conveniently ignoring the circular reasoning on which they are relying.

          “If I buy a building for $10 million dollars I should have a right to charge whatever I want to rent the apartments and store fronts in the building.”

          The very reason that a building in NYC costs that $10 million, while a similar structure in another city costs less, is that the NYC owner has the unrestricted right to charge “whatever [he or she] wants”, knowing that some sterile mall-quality chain can come in and pay that king’s ransom. The small-business owner gets forced out (and all too often the storefront remains vacant while the owner waits for the chain to come in).

          If owners couldn’t charge the-sky’s-the-limit rents, or couldn’t keep their vacancies indefinitely, waiting for that pot o’gold to appear, they wouldn’t be so willing to spend that $10 million to buy the building. Sellers would lower their prices, buyers would pay less and would therefore have less need to force out small-business owners in order to make way for ridiculous rents.

          If we as a society want this escalation to stop, want to keep our local businesses to stay in operation, want to end the growing wasteland of empty storefronts, and want to return this neighborhood to being the community it was not so long ago, we have to break that cycle somewhere. Preventing the wanton destruction of local businesses, whether through commercial rent control, vacancy taxes or fines, or some other way, is one pretty effective way to do it.

          But don’t try to rationalize the astronomical rents on the astronomical cost of purchasing the building. They are exactly the same thing, and they are both getting out of control. It’s the citizens who suffer as the result.

          • Fred says:

            Yes, and if we did what you propose we would have a centrally planned economy. Just like Cuba. And Venezuela.

            I am sorry to see Caesar’ Palace close, but it’s conditions.

            • Jay says:

              Fred is right. Look at the wondrous things that have happened when the government controls the price of your property. Pretty sure you won’t want the government to control the price of what you sell your property for.

          • David Collins says:

            There is no breaking this cycle.

            NYC is a safe, prosperous and highly populated city. It also happens to be a city with a lot of very well off people walking around.

            That makes it a very desirable place to own real estate, since that combination of factors brings a high degree of safety to your investment, provides good liquidity for your investment in case you want to sell it, and, likely allows you to charge high residential/commercial rents if you choose to rent our that property.

            NYC property owners already pay plenty of taxes. Not only do taxes from income keep going up, but they also get hit with local and state taxes, something that is not the case in many other states. And real estate taxes are through the roof and keep climbing. That is before we get to all the building code and inspections that NYC demands on property owners. Hint – scaffolding!

            If you want to hold off from renting your apartment or storefront that is your decision. Might be a good one or a bad one, but it should be your right.

            Many businesses are opening on the UWS as you can see from reading the Open/Closed section on this site, and many of them are “family businesses”.

      • Sophia says:

        David Collins: those $30 plates of pasta and $17 glasses of wine from $7 bottles of wine help pay for the outrageously high rents restaurants have signed up to pay if their only other option is to shut up shop. There will come a time when customers will no longer pay these prices, and then these business WILL close and we all will suffer.

      • francis says:

        I always wonder how many of these “I should be able to charge what I want people” have no problem with salary caps in the NBA.

        Probably none.

    3. Sherman says:

      This is one of the stupidest things I’ve read in a long time.

      I’m sorry Caesar’s is gone but I’ve eaten there a few times and I’ve found the pizza to be very subpar. There are better pizza places in the area.

      Perhaps there are reasons other than “greedy landlords” to explain why Caesar’s closed.

      Furthermore, the “Small Business Survival Act” is – contrary to its supporters’ assertions – nothing more than commercial rent control.

      All these windbag politicians – and wannabe windbag politicians – who support this act are shamelessly pandering to ignorant constituents.

      Residential rent regulation has been a disaster for NYC. Commercial rent regulation will also be a disaster.

      The city should not be propping up weak businesses that offer crummy products and services.

    4. Molly says:

      Vacancy fines after 6 months!! City council has to stop the BS and get to work! This has to be an election issue and fast action needs to happen!

    5. Dr. Petra says:

      High Rents and Empty stores – sounds like telltale signs of monopolistic / collusive behavior in the real-estate market among suppliers

    6. Jeff says:

      Wow Helen Rosenthal is kind of terrible at politics. Her opponent vows to protect small businesses, and her response is, “Don’t let anyone fool you that something simple can be done.”

      So inspiring!

      • GG says:

        Yeah, well that is just the difference between wanting the job and having the job. Big big difference.

        Mel will be finding that out next year. And then someone will come along to challenge him and the dance begins again. I think the first comment on this thread by nycityny said it all.

    7. AC says:

      Man this brings back memories , , , I remember Jimmy being the new Pizza guy in the hood. He was about 23-24 years old and courting a young Maria, who worked around the corner.

      Sorry to see him leave. He’s a shrewd business man and he knows its all about the bottom line. You own a business for the same reason you own a store front , , , to turn a profit.

    8. Juan says:

      I love Caesar’s Pizza and I am very sad that it is gone.

      I like the idea of a vacancy tax. I generally don’t love government intervention in situations like this, but I am tired of seeing empty storefronts through the neighborhood, particularly ones that are now turning into homeless shelters. Give building owners 6 months or a year and then start imposing growing fines. This will change their analysis when they are deciding whether to risk having an empty storefront vs. trying to make a few extra $ per square feet.

      However, business owners need to be aware – don’t want until two weeks before your lease is up to start having conversations about renewals. And make sure you are as well protected as possible in your current lease.

    9. Jason says:

      Do not forget, Landlords are business people too. They have families that need taken care of, bills that need to be paid, mortgages that need to be satisfied, they too want to make a living and should be entitled to do so without the constant whining that they should not be able to get the most out of the market that they can. Indeed, that is how business works. To “regulate” them is to once again insert the government where it does not belong. Let the free market be the free market. If indeed, people do not want empty storefronts, or chain or big box stores, they will either leave the area, or, not patronize the stores. However, the fact that the population of the UWS is increasing and these businesses and banks and drug stores are expanding is because that is what the market is bearing. That’s a free market folks, a good thing.

      • Rafaela says:

        Everything you just wrote points exactly to the opposite conclusion you offer. The “free market”is actually a horrible thing. It is driven by greed and that just sucks.

      • Stephen says:

        Drug prices and pharmacies result in a greater income psf than food and beverage.
        Banks consider store fronts part of the marketing budget so can pay some outsize rent.
        The rest of the landlords wait hoping for a bank or drugstore.
        Costs of running F and B in old buildings is tough, rats, hvac, prep kitchens.

    10. ron shapley says:

      The Diner on my corner in Hamilton Heights was forced out by a greedy landlord. The diner had been in operation 88 years. That’s right, 88 years. Is there no shame ??

    11. saul says:


    12. As a local business owner a block away from Caesar’s (I own the Pet Health Store @ 473 Amsterdam), I’m following this issue very closely. We were forced out of our longtime location at 440 Amsterdam several years ago by a sizeable rent increase after 20 years.

      Fortunately, we were able to find a reasonable space nearby and over the past few years, the Sofia Brothers organization has been a very understanding and considerate landlord. Unfortunately, they seem to be the exception, rather than the rule.

      Myself and several members of my staff will greatly miss Caesar’s. It has been our “go-to” pizza place for some time.

    13. Jz says:

      Theres not that many places to eat for ten dollars or under.
      Thats the real outrage.

    14. Scott B says:

      None of the comments defending landlords mention that the government actually subsidizes them and helps keep the market artificially high by allowing them to fully deduct empty stores as a loss. This is why you see empty storefronts everywhere and that hurts the quality OF life in the city.
      I don’t understand why people have no problem giving landlords tax breaks but are all outraged at fining them for keeping stores empty. Its not normal in a city with a thriving economy to have so many empty stores. How about instead of fines just end the tax deduction? See how fast those stores get rented.

      • nycityny says:

        Writing off a loss is a normal tax business practice. It isn’t a “subsidy.” And the key word is “loss.” The landlords are losing money because vacant properties still cost money to maintain (property tax, mortgage, utilities, etc.). Those expenses offset the rental income. When there is no rental income the expenses still exist as a tax deduction. It’s nothing special that the government is doing for landlords. And they still lose money even with the tax write-off. They’re not getting rich by losing money.

      • Stephen says:

        Yes this.

        You don’t need a vacancy tax, just to restrict the deduction of property tax to occupied spaces only.

        Would also help open up the Unlet apartment above some storefronts where the landlord is also happy with the return the frontage provides.

      • Jay says:

        Absolutely not true, Scott.

        This same comment shows up in every posting on a store closes and is almost always corrected, yet people still post the false comment every single time. Why lie about this?

      • Bob Lamm says:

        Thanks, Scott. Totally with you.

      • Sherman says:

        Your statements make absolutely no sense.

        A landlord does not get a deduction for empty space.

        A landlord can, of course, deduct expenses related to this empty space, i.e. Insurance, utilities etc.

        However, there is no special tax break for empty space.

        This is why landlords have an incentive not to keep their space empty. They have expenses but no rental income to cover these expenses.

      • your neighbor says:

        What are you talking about? You don’t deduct the loss of rent of the space as a loss. You just declare less income for the building because you have less income for the building.

        Some landlords have deep enough pockets that they can eat the loss of income themselves for whatever time period it takes to get an acceptable tenant.

        Sorry to have to drag you out of fantasy-land.

        • BafflefdBob says:

          Are you ‘subsidy’ defenders confusing tax deduction with tax loss? I am confused.

          • Jay says:

            You are confused. As repeatedly mentioned, there is no subsidy. There is no tax deduction for keeping a commercial space empty. None.

            Repeating this lie won’t make it true.

        • Mark says:

          I agree with you your neighbor.

    15. D-rex says:

      In any case…
      Remember to frequent your locally owned establishments, support your neighbor’s.

      Help keep NYC retail landscape unique! Much of the country (much of the world) is looking very much the same. What would NY be without the famous diners, pizza shops, and bodegas, etc.?

    16. MarkM says:

      Here is one local person/business owner’s suggestions to prevent this from continuing
      1.) Name the landlord and decision-maker for the landlord? In every one of these stories the landlord often goes unnamed by The West Side Rag. Who is this nameless faceless entity? What else do they own? What is their presence in the community?
      2.) Hit them where they live. Boycott boycott boycott. Let it be clear that the community will boycott the next merchant. I don’t care who it is. After Big Nick’s was forced out, we promised ourselves a.) that we would never go in to the Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe and we haven’t and never will. b.) We have had friends come into the city and we have insisted that they never stay at the Hotel Belleclaire. We have referred people to any other hotel in the neighborhood. The owner of Hotel Belleclaire owns other hotels in the city and we have never once referred out of towns to those hotels.
      If the landlord knows that the neighborhood will revolt against a new tenant then maybe they won’t be so anxious to kick them out.
      If the new tenant might face a boycott maybe they won’t pay enough.
      The politicians can’t do anything. The only thing that real estate people listen to is money.
      I wish the West Side Rag was a little more activist in this cause. They could help a lot.

      • Name Names says:

        Agreed. I fail to see why the landlords remain anonymous, shielded by the press. Name names. Not sure I would support a boycott, but at least the public should know who the players are.

        Also, a more detailed discussion of the terms of the lease would be informative. Was the tenant completing a 10-year lease, negotiated 10 years ago under different market conditions? How much have commercial rents increased in the area over the past 10, 15, 20 years?

        Finally, it would be extremely helpful if someone with an insider’s perspective could shed some light on the economics of having commercial real estate sit vacant for years. No, of course, landlords don’t get to “write off” lost rental income as a deduction, but how deep do a landlord’s pockets have to be to feel no pain from the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions)? I can think of two locations that I pass on a regular basis, one on Columbus and one on Amsterdam, that have been vacant for going on 3 and 4 years, respectively; both previously housed restaurants.

        Are the landlords waiting for new deep-pocketed tenants to pay high rents on a new lease? Are they waiting for an opportunity to sell at a greatly appreciated value? At what point does the lost rental revenue begin to exceed what a new lease or a sale would bring? 3 years? 5 years? 7 years? 10 years? How long? I generally don’t see a ‘vacancy tax’ being a justly imposed externality, but I would like to better understand the economics of the situation before making a final conclusion on that point.

      • Mark says:

        You’re so brave MarkM.

      • Rafaela says:

        Bravo, MarkM!

        Great idea for a blog: Boycott This!

        Public records have all the names needed, just need a “digger” or two…

      • Mark Moore says:

        Except in this case I would bet a paycheck that the reason they were able to hang on for 36 years is that they were paying below market rent.

    17. UWSider Man says:

      Helen Rosenthal is not interested in the UWS. She is prepping herself fro a run at Comptroller or Public Advocate. She is notorious for taking credit for the work of Gale Brewer and Linda Rosenthal. To say “Don’t let anyone fool you that something simple can be done.” is typical of her “empty chair”, “empty head” style of leadership. Dozens of businesses have closed down in our community since she took office and she did not lift one finger or answer one phone call. Only at the rally did she get the owners contact information. Don’t make the same mistake twice people. If we do, we deserve what happens or doesn’t happen here. #SayHellNo2Helen #NoMoreHelen

      • UWS87 says:

        Your comment makes no sense. These businesses went under during Linda Rosenthal and Gail Brewers’ terms as well, since they are also both currently elected officials, that offer constituent services.

        Caesars Pizza is only a few blocks away from Linda Rosenthal’s Office.

        The truth is that the proprieter is taking no responsibility, for improving his business to be competitive.

        Why blame Helen? And if you still believe that Helen is to blame, then why not also credit her for dozens of the restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries, that have opened here in the last 4 years??

        • UWSider Man says:

          Talk about a contradiction. Saying a statement makes no sense to then write nonsense to defend it.

          You ask the owner to be competive in an environment where his rent costs DOUBLE? You’ve never run a serious business clearly.

          Rosenthal is the most powerful elected official in the local and city process. She writes CITY law. You say she should get credit for the business that survived her term?? That’s like giving a bomb credit for the people who didn’t get blasted.

          Yeah that makes “sense”!

          • UWS87 says:

            We don’t know what the new owners new rent is, but we do know that the owner made little or no effort to update his pizza shop.
            It looked as if no improvements were made in 36 years. Within the last two years, two Little Italy Pizza shops have opened on the UWS, and they are a growing local business, that is thriving during the same time that Caesers’ business was stagnant or declining.

            Why should the Landlord charge any less rent then what these other local pizza shops Landlords are charging, when these places can succeed in in a similar environment without a special break in the rent (I presume).

            So Helen is ‘the most powerful elected official in the local and city process’? Really, I didn’t know that she is the monarch of the UWS, instead of a single delegate out of 51 in an elective body.

            With all due respect, please share with us whatever you are smoking, so we can partake in your fantasy.

    18. UWS Craig says:

      There is indeed a simple solution to this problem – rent regulation for commercial properties. If landlords are not permitted to raise rents beyond a permitted increase, cherished local businesses will not be forced to shutter due to rent hikes.
      The only thing preventing this is gutless politicians like Helen Rosenthal.
      I really have no sympathy for the landlords in this instance – after all, most of Manhattan was essentially stolen from Native Americans back in the day.

    19. Juan says:

      I think we should broaden our perspective here a bit: I love all of the small businesses in our neighborhood and think that we should support them as much as possible. I strongly oppose rent control but think that a mechanism like a vacancy tax would help solve this problem as government policy is meant to incentivize behavior that is for the common good and storefronts that are empty for years are very bad for the community.

      All that being said, I think that it would be helpful to recognize that it is not just mom and pop shops that would benefit from this. Within a few blocks of where I live, on Broadway in the low 80s, there are former locations of McDonalds and Duane Reade that have been vacant for years. And others have mentioned the Starbucks further down. So although it is particularly upsetting that small business owners are losing their livelihoods due to huge rent increases, these money grabs by landlords are also influencing the decisions of large corporations, who are pulling out and leaving us with empty stores.

    20. Rodger Lodger says:

      I left the UWS in 1981 to raise my family elsewhere. One of the stories at the time was attempts to impose commercial rent control. I’m back in the UWS since 2013, and glad to see things have changed in that regard.

    21. UWCider says:

      Should have done this when Big Nick`s was closing down.

    22. Smithe says:

      Ebb and flow people, ebb and flow. It’s the natural progression of economies throughout time and around the world. How many small businesses from 50-75 years ago are still around? They are gone for a multitude of reasons, only one of which is growing operating expenses. All good things come to an end so quit griping and looking to the government to fix what you deem as a problem. Our local governments can barely run themselves and you think letting them regulate private commerce is the answer?

      • MarkM says:

        Agreed. If we want local businesses, we should shop at local businesses and boycott the chains, and punish the landlords who force the local businesses out by not patronizing their next tenant. There is plenty of choice in our neighborhood and we have a ton of buying power. Landlords are not sentimental people. They like money. New Yorkers like to boast about having a can-do spirit and all I read is a lot of hoping that the government will solve our problems.

    23. Pedestrian says:

      The truth is that the city incentivizes exorbitant rents and vacant store fronts. It incentivizes super tall buildings and uncontrolled development of luxury condominiums but it does nothing for small business. It is completely controlled by big real estate interests.

      If the city can provide millions and millions to support billionaire investors why not help small business. It’s time.

    24. Will D says:

      Love the people in this thread who automatically empathize with a conglomerate who can afford to buy a $10M building over a long-time small business trying to make it on razor-thin margins. This capitalist/laissez-faire BS ignores the consolidation that’s happened in nearly every industry, to the point where you don’t have any semblance of competition or a “free market”. If you have real estate developers who can afford to wait 24 months for a chain to pay an exorbitant rent at the expense of vacant space, think of the cascading effect that has on a community. People have to go far and wide to get what they need, which gives undue commercial power to the operating businesses in the area, leaving them free to gouge customers freely. I’m by no means an economist, but there’s a long history of greedy men and bad actors that have shown us the danger of allowing developers to operate with impunity.

      • Tom Lee says:

        Where do people get the idea that large companies do not care about making a profit?

        Where do people get the idea that only large companies pay large rents?

        Where do people get the idea that large companies do not employee people – that people can only make a living working at a family business?

        Where does the idea come from that as an owner of a building – or an item listed on Ebay – that you can’t decide the sale/rental price and when to rent/sell it?

        • Mark says:

          You lost me at: “Where do people get the idea that large companies do not care about making a profit?”

      • Smithe says:

        Far and wide? Are you kidding me? I live on the UWS and there is plenty of choice for me to purchase everything I need from groceries to hardware. I get to make the decision of where I spend my hard earned money which is certainly greater than the power you claim these businesses have over me. We as consumers play a greater role in this issue than anyone is willing to admit!

    25. thomas says:

      36 years ago,those buildings were selling on the cheap. With the money he was making selling slices, Jimmy should have purchased this building. Jimmy never saw the writing on the wall which said gentrification. However, with the rents so low during those times , due to rent regulation, and very high building expenses, Jimmy could not have been able to maintain the building.
      The real problem is not greedy Landlords, but greedy politicians who jack up our taxes to fund their agenda, ie our Mayor: legal fees and trips

    26. Sean says:

      Where were these people when the Bagel Nosh closed?

    27. Happy Ex-UWSer says:

      Commercial Rent is only part of the equation for a small business operator. Taxes and regulatory costs are considerable in NYC (RE taxes are included in the quoted rent and can be quite substantial). Add in the higher salaries, $15/hr minimum wage and other mandated benefits it becomes very hard to justify opening a new business that does not cater to high end customers. Simply put, the numbers don’t add up. And for food and beverage, the numbers are even worse – hence the ridiculously high failure rate for these type businesses.

      Small and large businesses on the UWS and everywhere for that matter are facing very strong headwinds from online retailers (Amazon). Anyone looking to open a store will certainly have to keep this in mind. THIS is why there are vacant stores everywhere, not just because of high rent.

      Now if you want to roll back rents to some 1990’s level, you are effectively taking away the value of the building from the owner – value is determined by the income of the property. I’m not a Constitutional Lawyer, but my sense is this would violate the takings clause unless the owner was compensated fairly. Who would pay that?

      Also by decreasing the value of the building, NYC would suffer as the subsequent RE taxes would be lower. Who would make up that difference? RE taxes are one of the largest sources of income for NYC.

      As Margaret Thatcher said: “The problem with Socialism is, eventually you run out of other people’s money”. But at least it sounds good and gets votes, which is all these politicians care about – oh and a nice six-figure salary for what is effectively a part time job.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        fyi, the vast majority of neighborhoods in NYC have thriving commercial districts without catering to “high end” (rich) customers. they face the same minimum wage requirements and regulatory environment. But the rent is less exorbitant.

        try walking around Flushing, or Elmhurst, or Jackson Heights some time.

        but even in the outer boroughs, commercial and residential rent is getting out of control.

    28. Karen Bruno says:

      How about publishing the names and addresses of these landlords!

      • Smithe says:

        I am not sure that would accomplish anything except encourage harassment of such people. Do you really think for a second that these types of landlords would yield to such childish behavior and lower the market rents because of name calling? Let the spaces remain empty long enough and the MARKET rents will begin to come down. Granted it doesn’t happen over night, but it will happen on its own and not from government intervention.

      • Greg Lemond says:

        This is not Mother Russia

      • B.B. says:

        You do realize much commercial and now even residential properties are owed by LLCs. Thus finding out who the owner or owners truly are might prove difficult.

    29. Frank says:

      A vote for Mel Wymore is a wasted vote. Rosenthal isn’t perfect but in my opinion she is professional and communicates what she has done and why, very well.

      Wymore will simply achieve nothing and has an unrealistic mental model of how things actually work. Why does Wymore have issues like healthcare, Donald Trump and gender equality as issues for a city council role? That’s right, need to tick those identity boxes. Everyone is a victim according to Wymore.

      Wymore is a worse NIMBY than Rosenthal, which is saying a lot, and seeks to destroy prosperity on the UWS.

    30. Linda Kahn says:

      Excellent article!

    31. Sean says:

      The difficulty here is that these folks want small businesses that operate to deliver local services many that provide an immediate need. That’s an old concept. It’s not possible in the current retail environment. People now connect to goods and services online. And a true businessman is able to sell you something you don’t even know that you need yet. All ground floor commercial spaces will soon be residential town houses. You may see ground floor concierges to provide access.

      • Mark says:

        People interact in local markets. You figure online is a suitable substitute?

        Unless…It’s all about MONEY!

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        good lord!!! there are so many types of businesses that cannot function “on line”, or don’t function as well.

        here are a few that i go to regularly:

        1) West Side Stationers (much better than shopping through Staples)

        2) my local shoe repair shop

        3) dry cleaners

        4) a good pizzeria

        5) local diners

        6) supermarkets

        7) fruit stands

        8) bagel shop

        9) lots of inexpensive restaurants

        10) Duane Reade

        11) jewelry story

        12) shoe store

        13) discount (99 cent) shops

        14) plant shed

        15) cycling store

        and on and on…

        i just don’t “get” some people.

    32. Howard Freeman says:

      We recently moved from 84th between Riverside and WEA to West End and 101st. My youngest son says he misses the GameStop and AMC Theater but notes that “there are a lot more little stores to go to” now. “I think I like our new neighborhood more,” he said.

      For how long?