Get Smart, Get Involved! Local Town Halls on Vacant Storefronts, School Segregation, and State Politics


Liquidations are all too common on the Upper West Side. An upcoming meeting will examine the issue.

There are lots of meetings and forums coming up where you can learn more about city and community issues, and participate in local politics. Check out details below.

On Tuesday March 26 from 6:30 to 8:30, several Community Education Councils will hold a special event on desegregating public schools, an issue that the parent groups has been working on for years. “The Epic Theatre Ensemble, Teens Take Charge and IntegrateNYC will take the stage to help us understand, how it feels to attend segregated schools in New York City.” The meeting will take place at Martin Luther King Jr. HS, 122 Amsterdam Avenue (65th-66th). RSVP here.

On Wednesday March 27 from 3 to 6 p.m. at St Agnes Library at 444 Amsterdam Avenue (81st-82nd), State Senator Jose Serrano will host local constituent hours.

On Thursday March 28 at 7:30 p.m., the Community Free Democrats will be hosting a meeting focused on the problem of vacant storefronts on the Upper West Side with the Upper West Side Save Our Stores group. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will be the featured speaker. The meeting is at Goddard Riverside, 593 Columbus Avenue (88th Street).

On Thursday April 4 from 6:30 to 8, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and Comptroller Scott Stringer are holding a town hall at John Jay College. “To RSVP or for more information about this event of any other, or if you need language translation services or other special accommodations, please contact Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal’s district office at (212) 873-6368 or via email at rosenthall@nyassembly.gov.”

On Thursday April 18 from 6:30 to 8:30, State Senator Brian Benjamin will be holding a “listening forum” at Goddard Riverside, 593 Columbus Avenue (88th). It’s a hot session in Albany, so bring him your questions and concerns about rent laws, congestion pricing and more. To RSVP, you call his office at 212-222-7315.

NEWS | 14 comments | permalink
    1. UWSleftover says:

      How about making long-term vacant retail space into affordable housing or community centers? If that was required after a year or so of vacancy I’d bet the landlords would suddenly get a lot more flexible.

    2. Finally we can talk about these empty storefronts! Ever since Dumblasio came in and personally murederd all the mom and pop shops, the UWS has been nothing but closed down Starbucks storefronts! Let’s bring the Starbucks back and get rid of those awful Citi bikes blocking my parking spots!

      • B.B. says:

        Starbucks long ago announced it was shuttering under performing retail locations and other measures. Has nothing to do with the mayor or even city for that matter.

        Where SB feels it can make money, they will find a new location near or close to one that closes.

        Case in point; half block of Lexington from 78th to 77th was emptied out and torn down for redevelopment. SB on corner of 78th and Lex is a *very* high performing store thanks in large part to Lenox Hill hospital right down the street.

        So SB moved into a *VERY* long empty retail space in co-op building on corner of 77th and Lexington, right across from hospital. Am sure that co-op board is happy to finally have leased out that space.

        Assuming you are mourning loss of recently closed SB near the Natural History museum, as noted at time there are several other SB locations within blocks of that former place.

        It is safe to say SB’s original MO of having locations within several feet of each other is over. It barely made sense back in the day; and less so now as sales/coffee consumption decline. Even less as many SB locations have become de facto senior, after school, work from home, homeless and other centers; everything *but* buying more than one drink (if that)but lounging around for hours on end using free WiFi and space.

      • Christine E says:

        Are you being sarcastic? “Your” parking spots??

      • B.B. says:

        Aside from perhaps ground floor and or even basement retail located in brownstones/townhouses and other such buildings you cannot convert easily into housing.

        First there is the matter of zoning, then comes various health, fire, building and other requirements. Things like windows, means of egress, ventilation, and so forth.

        You also have fact much commercial retail space is to large and cannot be sub-divided into workable apartments easily if at all.

    3. Juan says:

      I hate to say it but the $15 minimum wage is not going to help any of these small stores. I have noticed recent price bumps at some local stores and I think part of it is because many of them now have to pay their employees significantly more.

      • B.B. says:

        Isn’t just SB, but businesses of all shapes and sizes are having to adjust to increased minimum wage and costs.

        Restaurants, food service, hospitality, convenience stores, grocery stores, etc… you’re seeing increased prices, and less staffing as places cut hours.

        Banks are cutting staff and reducing staffing as well.

        Once famous as the “city that never sleeps”, walk around Manhattan and some other parts of the city late or overnight. Nearly everything starts closing by 10PM or 11PM, and certainly by 1AM or so.

        Aside from some 24 hr. convenience stores such as Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens and DR, you are hard pressed to find anything else besides bars or night clubs open late/over night.

    4. Wendy says:

      The reason these storefronts remain empty is that due to a Supreme Court ruling some time ago, a city cannot interfere with private commerce. Hence the city cannot fine the (greedy) landlords for keeping their storefronts empty and unrented, or compel them to rent to a particular entity. They cannot force them to do anything with them! That’s the first thing to understand. The city does, however, have the right to remove the tax write-offs a landlord can claim for having a storefront empty. Many council members are trying to come up with other ways to penalize landlords but avoid the Supreme Court mandate. They came up with a law that prevented a company from taking over the storefront of an entire block, which I believe is still in force, i.e. they limited the exposed storefront for any one store.. I learned all this from attending a meeting with Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who is well aware of the issue and is just as frustrated as you and I about it. This is not an UWS-exclusive phenomen – it’s city-wide and has been happening since before DeBlasio became Mayor.

      • Sherman says:

        There is no “tax write off” when a landlord has empty space.

        There is not a landlord in NYC who is deliberately keeping his space empty so he can get a financial windfall from a “tax write off”.

        There are numerous reasons why there are so many empty storefronts and there’s very little Helen Rosenthal – or any other politician – can do about it.

        If you’re so concerned about “greedy” landlords having empty space maybe you should stop ordering from Amazon or shopping at big box stores.

        In the meantime people like you are not helping matters by spreading ignorant garbage.

        • Erica says:

          Instead of being nasty, what are those “numerous reasons” and where are the citations? I too have been to many meetings, and spoken with lawyer friends about this issue. And they all cite special tax codes and benefits to keeping a storefront empty.

    5. BeBest says:

      The problem is greedy landlords… And people who think storefronts can double as homes.

      • B.B. says:

        In some cases commercial/retail spaces can be used as residential.

        Leaving aside purposely built such spaces you do have apartments in brownstones/townhouses and older tenements/apartment buildings that were turned into commercial spaces.

        In fact if anything that trend is on an upswing. All over UWS, UES, and some other parts of Manhattan apartments in older walk-up buildings or row houses have been turned into small gyms, nail salons/health beauty, Pilates studios and so forth.

        Many medical offices in residential buildings are in fact just that; apartments.

        Am guessing many of those units were RS and the LL saw a way to get higher rent.