Gale Brewer Explains Her Strategies to Tackle Street Homelessness and Store Vacancies

Hereas promised, is the second part of WSR’s interview with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. You can read part one here.


Gale Brewer speaking at a recent rally opposing the construction at 200 Amsterdam Avenue.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Gale Brewer sees no quick fixes for two of the Upper West Side’s most pressing problems: street homelessness and retail vacancies.

“There are ways of solving these problems, but it takes time,” she said, in an interview with West Side Rag. “It can be frustrating and sometimes I get angry, but, no, I don’t get discouraged. I do what I can.”

Brewer, 67, has been living on the Upper West Side and working in city government for more than four decades. She served as the Upper West Side’s City Council member from 2002 through 2013, before becoming Manhattan’s 27th borough president in 2014. There is a thoughtfulness and long-term perspective to her views and actions.

“I must admit, I don’t give money to people on the street, because I think it adds to people being out there,” she explained. “Homelessness is visible on the Upper West Side, partly, because people are generous. I try to be generous in other ways. I’m a little unique, because I know all the great programs, like Women in Need and WSFSSH, and I give to them. That’s how I do it.”

From a policy perspective, Brewer links homelessness to a lack of affordable housing, an issue she has been grappling with for decades and, frankly, doesn’t think this mayor is “doing much about.”

“He thinks if he just builds some housing and has a [target] number on a bulletin board…” She paused. “That’s not how neighborhoods or people work.”

Brewer contends that mental illness, another major cause of homelessness, is also not being adequately addressed by the city.

“Despite all the talk about mental illness, I don’t know how much is really happening,” she said. “I’ve been begging, advocating, for 12 years for social workers to go into the schools. Every single school needs a social worker. Social workers in the schools would be homelessness prevention.”

Does that help with the homeless on the street?

“Not immediately,” she answered, “but it helps with families who could be evicted. Social workers not only talk to children, they talk to parents. If you’re a social worker, you know exactly who to call at Legal Aid to get a lawyer. Get a lawyer and you don’t usually get evicted.”

The nonprofit Children’s Health Fund sends social workers into some NYC public schools.

Like other Upper West Siders, Brewer agonizes over the loss of beloved local businesses. It was the demise of one that led her to pass a zoning law in 2012, limiting the size of banks and storefronts in much of the neighborhood.

“That all happened because, if you go between 86th and 87th Streets, behind The Belnord, there’s that awful CVS,” she said. “There were eight stores there, including my favorite little card shop, and now it’s one big drugstore. All they put in their windows is red paper and cartons.”

Why does that matter?

“The streetscape,” Brewer answered, referring to the visual elements of a street that create its character. “I believe we’re pedestrians, and when we walk along the street, we don’t want to see huge storefronts—except grocery stores. We need grocery stores.”

As Manhattan Borough President, she wrote a letter to a local landlord encouraging him to select a grocery store or supermarket as his commercial tenant.

“We write hundreds of letters,” she said.


Brewer’s office is in this building at One Centre Street.

In October, 2018, Brewer testified at a hearing about the controversial Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), which has been pending in the City Council for over 30 years. Intended to shore up small businesses and reduce the number of closings by regulating the commercial lease-renewal process, the SBJSA pits small-business advocates against some of the city’s most powerful real estate interests. It is a position Brewer is familiar with (she recently sued the mayor over a NYCHA development deal on the Upper East Side.) Still, she urged caution in the crafting of the SBJSA.

“The Act must not be so cumbersome to implement, for both landlords and tenants, that unintended consequences arise,” she said.  “While I agree fully with the goals of the SBJSA, I have concerns about how effective the current version of the bill will actually be. As it is written, the SBJSA applies to all commercial leases, including thousands of white shoe law firms, hedge funds, and other financial institutions that do not need support. The scope of the legislation would first need to be significantly narrowed. Whether it should be narrowed to small businesses, small retail businesses, storefronters, or legacy businesses (long-term neighborhood businesses) needs to be studied, as does how those terms might be strictly defined in order to withstand a legal challenge.”

In the wake of the hearing, Brewer formed a task force to analyze the problems facing small businesses and find solutions. She spoke at another Council hearing this March.

“We are looking at every possible solution to help small businesses in New York City,” she said, “including legacy business rent regulation (a form of rent regulation for businesses that have been around for more than 20 years); a provision requiring that small business leases specify the percentage of annual rent increases and other mechanisms by which property owners can impose large increases; some form of required mediation to cover proposed increases; and zoning regulations to create Special Enhanced Commercial Districts similar to the one I helped put in place in the Upper West Side that has successfully curtailed the spread of formula retail by limiting the size of storefronts.”

Brewer believes another good step is in the works with regard to retail vacancies.

“We are going to get a law that says, if you have a commercial vacancy, then the city wants to know about it. We’re going to have a database. We have no database in this town.”

She testified in support of the bill, which requires owners to report the vacancy status of their storefront properties, and establishes an open database for vacancies.

“I know the value of data,” Brewer said. In fact, she was the primary sponsor of New York City’s landmark open-data legislation of 2012, signed by Mayor Bloomberg.

”Data allows us to track and identify issues, and to measure results,” she said. “This new database will identify vacancy trends throughout the city, spot areas where vacancies are rapidly increasing, and identify specific property owners and managers who demonstrate a pattern of forcing out small business. It will also be a resource for small business owners looking for new space.”

Brewer doesn’t like term limits, but they are a fact of political life and, in 2021, she will be term-limited out of her present position. Word is, she might run for her old City Council seat, which is currently held by Helen Rosenthal, who is also term limited and running for comptroller, the current job of Scott Stringer, who is running for mayor. Brewer will not comment on this Upper West Side version of musical chairs, except to say, “We’ll see what happens.”

She believes that local government is especially important these days.

“People don’t like the president, they don’t trust the governor and they don’t trust the mayor. So, who’s left?” she asked.

NEWS | 60 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:

      “From a policy perspective, Brewer links homelessness to a lack of affordable housing”

      Agree. Only on The New Upper West Side do residents displace their neighbors and turn around and blame them for their homelessness.

      • AC57 says:

        Developers in this neighborhood are either gonna play it safe, and deliver a small project with no affordable housing or they’re gonna go to the legal periphery, and, still offer nothing. I blame the developers only partly because I say part of the blame also falls on local leaders and our community as well.

        We’ve created a climate where developers aren’t incentivized to negotiate because the community doesn’t want to. We fret at every single development that goes up, and then we turn around and cry about how expensive the neighborhood is, and shame the developers even further.

        I’m not gonna sit here and defend developers, but that way of thinking is actually very messed up. If we want more affordable housing, we’re gonna actually have to work with developers, instead of creating enemies out of them. Because us creating enemies out of them makes them less willing to work with us, and that hurts us even more.

        The only two projects that offered affordable housing were fought and stifled, because they were too large. And people ask why developers go to the limits to build something as of right without community engagement. Hawthorne Park and Riverside Center are your answer. Both delayed, both fought, both offered community benefits in exchange for more height (and both of their market rate starting points were rather low.)

        I’ve said this before, supertalls don’t work here. They’re amazing feats of engineering, and wonderful to look at, but they don’t work in this neighborhood (and there isn’t a single building, built, being built, or proposed, that falls anywhere close to that classification of 984 feet. No building is within 200 feet of that margin.) However, we still need to grow up, build closer to 35-45 stories instead of 20. Create a community that welcomes development; and encourages builders to work with us, to acquire special permits. Developers aren’t all perfect beings, but pushing them away and telling them to build elsewhere is not the answer. We need more housing in this neighborhood, but these tiny little projects are only worsening the problem. We need to build upwards. Slowly, but surely. When developers are encouraged to work with the community, and our leaders extend their hands across the aisle, only then is when progress is made.

    2. dannyboy says:

      “Like other Upper West Siders, Brewer agonizes over the loss of beloved local businesses…

      “she said: ‘There were eight stores there, including my favorite little card shop, and now it’s one big drugstore.'”

      Agree.

      People must have noticed that the increase in chain stores has led to a DECREASE in variety and selection.

      • AC57 says:

        I like myself a good mom and pop shop, and delis and newsstands are among my favorite places, next to construction sites. The food is always great at delis, and the people are wonderful. I miss going to Saheed’s place on 83rd and Columbus everyday during Middle School. And I miss the Sunflower deli on 67th and Amsterdam (yes, I’m old enough to remember that place, even though I’m only 16)

        • dannyboy says:

          You are a very likeable 16-year-old! Keep the Good Attitude, it will serve you well.

    3. GreedyLandlord says:

      We know we have some commercial spaces that have been empty for at least five years, if not more! This should be illegal in a city like NYC where even a wealthy neighborhood like ours has homeless people sleeping on the streets. Makes you wonder as to the relationship between such wealth and such precarity! Why not convert these spaces into temporary community centers that can help people in need to getting their act together (whether shelter, soup kitchen, or a job training center?) There are many people that would be willing to volunteer doing these, but they are LACKING SPACE! We have these greedy landlords that rather have a space empty for almost a decade, rather than lend such spaces for the greater good of the neighborhood and the city. This greediness is why there is fewer and fewer affordable housing options in the city, and why homelessness continue to be a problem in our city! Why not make it illegal to have an empty commercial space for over a year?

      • Steve Friedman says:

        One has to assume it’s kept empty for a tax benefit. I would like to see a limit to the period you can leave the commercial space fallow and still get the mercy of the write-off. If they’re waiting for the best rental price, it shouldn’t be subsidized. Trump did that in a Chicago entity a decade plus ago in a property that’s been bleeding money with only one rental but it was combined it with a moneymaking entity and put it together and what do you get – Bibbidi Bobbidy Write-Off.

        • Npk says:

          I agree with you Steve 100%!

        • Sherman says:

          @ Steve Friedman

          Your assumption is wrong.

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

          There is not a landlord in the country who somehow comes out financially ahead by deliberately keeping his space empty.

          I’m a CPA and I worked with real estate clients early in my career and I assure you that any CPA or tax attorney who advises a landlord client to deliberately keep his space empty for some “write off” benefit will likely get sued for malpractice.

          You should stop spewing ignorant nonsense.

          • JC says:

            But you would agree, that by closing a store, you don’t have to pay the employees, all of their benefits and can move inventory to a different location. That is saving money for the company.

            • Frank Richards says:

              But that would not benefit the landlord. The landlord does not operate the business (at least not typically). Your example would benefit…i’m not sure whom. I guess the business owner who shut the operation down? But why would a business owner do that? Oh, because they were not making money.

          • Leah R says:

            Steve Friedman, I 100% agree with you. The above comments come from ignorant Upper West Side Fascists who rather than praise landlords for the risk they take in owning property in a City with extremely high real estate taxes and endless regulatory red tape, they call them greedy. Landlords take a huge risk owning property in this City and everyone thinks they are making boatloads of money. Most landlords are small mom and pop operators who operate on extremely slim margins. This City vilifies them and try to screw them every which way. These UWS fascists have the audacity to think they have the right to tell landlords what he or she can do with their private property or try to Jail or fine them for having a vacancy. It’s representative of the ever increasing progressivism that is insinuating itself into our society. We need to reward the risk takers, not punish them.

            • LivesonUWS says:

              If it is such a risk then why do so many people do it? Purchase NYC Real Estate? The answer… Because it is profitable.

              Do you mean progressives in the sense of people thinking about the good of society or a neighborhood like the UWS over the individual interests?

          • LiveonUWS says:

            Landlords collect buildings. Empty storefronts in 1 or 2 buildings when you own 25 is just a drop in the bucket. Furthermore, if the building owner values the empty storefront (on paper) at the rental market rate of a conglomerate (bank, drug store, etc.) instead of a mom and pop rent they increase the value of the portfolio. The landlord can borrow more with higher paper equity. That is the basics of property ownership, buying more, upgrading, increasing the value and selling high.

        • BK says:

          UWS Save Our Stores, a fairly new community activist group, has been investigating the “whys” behind vacant storefronts and what we might do to incentivize our legislators to make this a priority while, at the same time, rethinking how our storefronts might be used in innovative ways (community spaces was one). Despite our research, we have NOT been able to prove that owners get tax benefits for keeping spaces empty; we have heard plenty to the contrary. But we are currently looking for a CPA who specializes in Real Estate tax/law to answer that question and others. Would love to hear from someone who has expertise in this area! Email uwssos@gmail.com, and FOLLOW US on Facebook @UWSSaveOurStores

          • Leah R says:

            These politicians need to understand a few things. It is extremely risky to start a business in NYC due to very strict / business unfriendly regulations imposted by the City. There is endless red tape to open a business. Endless inspections/filing/permit expenses/delays, etc. In addition to this it is extremely expensive to operate a business with the minimum wages imposed by the City/unemployment insurance/disability insurance and countless other expenses. In the meantime, the owner must command a high rent in order to pay his/her ever increasing real estate taxes, water and sewer, etc. It’s a wonder any store front gets rented in the first place.

            • sg says:

              Right on Leah R…but trying logic on people with limited economic knowledge or experience in the private sector (academics, public sector workers and people who don’t work) is impossible. Without business there is no economy yet these folks vilify business owners.

    4. GrumpyOldMan says:

      From the story: “In October, 2018, Brewer testified at a hearing about the controversial Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), which has been pending in the City Council for over 30 years. Intended to shore up small businesses and reduce the number of closings by regulating the commercial lease-renewal process, the SBJSA pits small-business advocates against some of the city’s most powerful real estate interests. It is a position Brewer is familiar with (she recently sued the mayor over a NYCHA development deal on the Upper East Side.) Still, she urged caution in the crafting of the SBJSA.”

      30 years!!!! If that is not an indictment of New York City politicians, past and present, what is?

    5. Scott says:

      The woman who closed the low-cost tourist hotels on the UWS which turned into homeless shelters is baffled on how to solve the homeless problem.

      I know one possible solution, vote Gale Brewer out of office.

      • B.B. says:

        To be fair most if those low cost “tourists” hotels were already residential/SRO hotels ( like the Alexander).

        The machinations of Ms. Brewer and others simply forced these places to stop accepting short stay guests. Once deprived of that market all were ripe to become homeless shelters as that was the only viable profit making option remaining.

    6. Jen says:

      I have to disagree with the reasons of homelessness. Or their priotizarion to be more exact. I think the main reason is not the lack of affordable housing. Yes, this problem contributes a lot to the issue of homelessness. But the main one by far is not only affordable and comprehensive mental healthcare but affordable healthcare in general. Even if you have cheap or free health insurance similar to Medicaid or Fidelity plans, you can’t easily find good mental healthcare. You can’t find a good allergist, pulmonologist, etc. either. You can be treated for trauma in ER but something that requires constant specialized care is not covered and hard to find a provider. Mental illness requires constant supervision and highly trained doctors and there’s no way insurances will cover that. Good psychiatrists costs a fortune. So having social workers at schools address almost nothing. It helps with minor issues but once it is clear, a child needs to be under constant psychiatric care what do you do? Not to mention their parents. Besides, some if not all schools do have social workers.

      Additionally, mental health laws need updating. People with serious mental issues run around hurting themselves and others and all that can be done is committing them for a few nights AFTER the harm was already done. Then they are back on the streets. No affordable housing in the world can fix that. But it would help of course in conjunction with mental healthcare.

      • Karen says:

        I’d like to add some information about homelessness here in NYC that will help this conversation. I am the co-founder of an organization that has provided health care to homeless children and families for over 30 years.

        Currently there are over 63,000 individuals living in the NYC shelter system. Nearly 75% of those individuals are families. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, the primary cause of family homelessness is lack of affordable housing for families living with the challenges of job loss, eviction, doubled up housing, domestic violence or hazardous housing conditions.

        If there are social workers in schools helping families address the above issues, some homelessness can be prevented – and the related trauma that impacts children can be avoided.

        There is a need for social workers and other counselors in schools to help provide support for the significant percentage of students who have experienced traumas like homelessness and violence that impact their ability to learn and attend school. The presence of social workers, counselors and a “trauma sensitive” school environment goes a long way to preventing the need for mental health services later in life.

        On the other hand, a large majority of homeless single adults experience serious mental illness and addiction and are in need of specialized housing with mental health and social supports built into their environment.

      • B.B. says:

        We went through this in another thread several weeks ago.

        Since the 1960’s and the wave of deinstitutionalization began, and certainly by the 1970’s the mentally ill now have rights. More to the point they aren’t deprived of the same basic rights as you or I merely by virtue of their illness. As such you simply cannot put people away against their will anymore just because they are acting in ways that bother society.

        Only time a judge or doctor will hold someone today is yes, if they commit a crime and or are clearly a serious threat to themselves and or others. Said threat must be clear, and well documented enough to support any decision of confinement to withstand any possible legal action by said mentally ill person, and or someone acting on their behalf.

        LE deals with crime; mental illness is no such thing. If you call NYPD to respond to a mentally ill person unless they are committing a crime usually an ambulance arrives to “request” if person wants to go into hospital. If person says “no” and “get lost”; that is an end to things.

        Even if or when mentally ill are taken into hospital ER physicians are often very reluctant to sign off on a 5150 order (involuntary commitment). Even when such an order is signed/granted it is only good for 72 hours. It must then be renewed and that is often an even more uphill battle.

        What you have then is a revolving door which by the way costs hospitals/governments millions each year. Mentally ill are brought to ERs, treated until stable (or not), released in 72 hours (or less). Lather, rinse and repeat.

        Few if any state or local government in USA seriously followed through with the other parts of deinstitutionalization; a vast and well funded system of supportive housing and other services for mentally ill.

      • Elizabeth M. says:

        Jen you are right about Medicaid. It is extremely difficult to find any specialist(orthopedist, dermatologist etc) Regarding mental health there is a clinic at 160 West 86th Street,Metropolitan Center for Mental Health. They offer therapy and also psychiatrists to prescribe medication. They accept Medicaid and all insurance.
        You can walk in and register and they will schedule an intake interview. They also have an office on CPW at 94th street, and uptown 168th Street. Hope this helps.

    7. Rachel Dahill-fuchel says:

      As ever, I agree with MBP Gale Brewer, who I have personally seen in action working tirelessly for real
      New Yorkers. Yes, the oversized stores like our own CVS are sterile and their windows leave much to be desired. They also have some lovely people working there, and they provide resources around the clock. Maybe we could encourage them to partner with local arts organizations, design programs and schools to use their sidewalk windows to good effect? I’d be happy to take on this task.

      • UWSSurfer says:

        This is a fantastic idea! CVS and other storefronts lend themselves to this idea. Their windows could display a small art gallery or shop that sells handmade crafts. Surely, there is room for at least one shelf inside the store to display items for sale.

        When Fishs Eddy lost their UWS lease, Gracious Home let their friends display their
        wares in the front window. Fishs Eddy also was given shelf space down with Gracious Home’s dinnerware.

        Alas, now Gracious Home had to shut down their UWS location.Goodbye, beautiful Christmas ornaments and the best silk flowers…

    8. Frank Irizarry says:

      Just like Obama everything needs to be studied and nothing gets done.

    9. janice foa says:

      She’s disenchanted with DeBlasio? Who isn’t?
      I could never figure out why or how this guy who was, basically, a Dinkins go-fer, got the job in the first place.
      People were enchanted by his family story. His wife’s conversion, his daughter’s drug addiction from which she rehabilitated herself, his son’s Afro, which was certainly splendid. All well and good and nice it all happened but that doesn’t mean he would make a good mayor.

    10. Sherman says:

      So Brewer has been “grappling” with “the lack of affordable housing” for “decades”?

      I wonder if it ever occurred to her that the reason we have a never ending housing affordability crisis is because of the policies that Brewer supports, ie rent regulation?

      Virtually every economist on the planet knows that rent regulation hurts far more people than it helps and is the primary reason housing is “unaffordable” in the first place.

      However, to be fair there are some greedy and selfish people in this neighborhood who have recognized financial windfalls from rent regulation while everyone else suffers.

      Now she wants to replicate this disaster for commercial businesses. Pathetic.

      Furthermore, in regards to that “awful CVS” she despises so much this store is thriving, paying taxes and rent and providing jobs because it is providing products and services people want and need.

      The world changes and her “favorite little card shop” is no longer commercially viable and weak businesses like this should not be propped up with bureaucracies and government micromanaging. Everybody suffers when this happens.

      Besides, if Brewer needs to by a greeting card she can just go to that “awful CVS”. They have a large selection of reasonably priced cards there.

      • Jen says:

        “However, to be fair there are some greedy and selfish people in this neighborhood who have recognized financial windfalls from rent regulation while everyone else suffers.”

        Sorry to hear about your suffering. Must be really tough.

        • Sherman says:

          How do you know I’m “suffering”?

          Maybe I’m one of those greedy people in a rent-controlled apartment I’m referring to.

      • Leah R says:

        Sherman, I completely agree with you. Thank you for your well articulated comments.

      • Stuart says:

        That “awful CVS” – I like CVS in general, but the layout of this particular CVS is awful.

        For a while, this was the only place in the neighborhood with a 24 hour working pharmacy in case you needed an emergency prescription filled in the middle of the night. I give them kudos for that.

    11. Lis Anderson says:

      I probably should have contacted her years ago, when our home was taken. I will write to her. Scott is sweet, but useless.

    12. Doug says:

      How about laws that will make sitting or standing on the street corners and asking for money illegal?

      Or sleeping on the street or in subway stations? Defecating on the streets or on the platforms?

      Laws against that will prevent homelessness!

      People that found themselves without a home should register and live in a shelter which should provide the right support for them and help them to get back on track. Including monitoring for mental or drug issues.

      And I don’t know where she lives but the most disgusting, ugly and dirty storefronts on my block in UWS is the small “mom and pop” shops. No character but a messy and dirty window with just a couple of grumpy (and probably lack of benefits) employees inside.

    13. Jean Mensing says:

      Perhaps there could be a “law” that all big chain stores would have to turn over a predetermined amount of interior space to a small business that would be noticeable from the street. I realize this goes against the grain of some sort of Capitalism but given the convoluted building and occupancy laws already in effect destroying neighborhoods, new or amended laws could be created. I’m sure there’s further approaches to commercial properties that others have ideas about also.

      • B.B. says:

        As noted in another thread the large chain stores (along with banks and Starbucks) are pulling back and closing locations. So now some of you get your wishes granted; but still aren’t happy because those closings only add to the number of vacant retail space.

      • dannyboy says:

        Ah, the Mythology of Capitalism.

        Where the powerful rip off everyone in the name of Capitalism.

        They wouldn’t recognize Capitalism if it suddenly appeared like The Messiah.

    14. Rob G. says:

      On the subject of “street homelessness,” want to see Gale’s legacy? Take a walk north of 86th Street. On almost every block, you’ll have to navigate mentally ill people, addled drug addicts, and panhandlers. Most were moved from other neighborhoods and placed into the many shelters that the city dropped upon the neighborhood while she was CM and continued under her watch as BP. She and her champions may point fingers elsewhere, but the facts show that the neighborhood has greatly declined under her tenure. Unfortunately we can expect more of this if she returns to her CM position.

    15. Ann bluestein says:

      Thanks to Gale Brewer for advocating for social workers to be placed in every school. I was fortunate enough to be part of a school district on Long Island that was one of the first to have social workers in the schools. I have to say it was a fantastic way to commit to students and their families on an ongoing basis. I do believe that our efforts in the community were helpful to families with mental health, domestic, job and housing issues. One thing is for sure we never lost track of our families and despite distrust in initial contact, by and large the families and students came to see the social worker, teachers and district as advocates, not adversaries.

    16. B.B. says:

      “Brewer doesn’t like term limits, but they are a fact of political life and, in 2021, she will be term-limited out of her present position. Word is, she might run for her old City Council seat, which is currently held by Helen Rosenthal, who is also term limited and running for comptroller, the current job of Scott Stringer, who is running for mayor. Brewer will not comment on this Upper West Side version of musical chairs, except to say, “We’ll see what happens.””

      Term limits was supposed to open up NYC government instead of things being controlled by party bosses. Instead we have a game of political musical chairs.

    17. B.B. says:

      Have said this before, and am doing so again. The issue isn’t necessarily one of “greedy” landlords or whatever alone. Physical retail of all sizes is having their lunch eaten by the phenomenal (and rising) growth of online. That genie is out of the bottle and isn’t going back in, period.

      You’d have to lower rents on most of these small/mom & pop stores to pennies on dollar compared to current rents, and they *still* likely couldn’t survive. Unless Ms. Brewer and city council can also force persons to shop in these stores in many instances they are merely prolonging a slow and painful business death.

      As the alte kakers moaning and wailing about a vanished UWS/NYC die off it is the younger generation that will be affected, and have to deal with decisions made today.

      Whatever good intentions or virtues that lead to RS and RS being created those laws largely only are relevant to the one million or so who live in such units. As we’ve discussed in another thread not nearly all such units are “affordable” by any measure.

      If you force commercial landlords to operate under same sort of rules/laws as RS you’ll get the exact same market response as to regulation of residential. In particular commercial landlords may not be as forgiving if a business fails and owners need to shut down. Instead you’ll get “hey, city forced me to give you a ten year lease, so give me my money….”. That is a LL will seek to recoup the entire rent legally obligated by terms and length of lease.

      On the other side of things (and as also have stated repeatedly), there is simple fact demand for physical retail isn’t what it once was. Quite simply many realize they can do far better businesswise by not having physical retail space and strictly sticking with online. This and or simply having a small footprint retail but largely doing business online.

      If high end stores like Ralph Lauren, Crate and Barrel among others are closing retail and moving to concentrate more on internet sales, that should tell you something.

      Finally city council and other elected officials moan and wail about empty retail, but yet remain quiet about a large part of why; that would be the insane costs of doing business in NYC. High taxes, fees, surcharges, labor costs, utility costs, insane over regulation and so forth simply make NYC an unattractive place to do business.

    18. Juan says:

      I think Brewer has done a lot of good things but she lost me with her line about the “awful CVS.” At this point, with so many empty storefronts, it should not be big vs. little. I will take anything.

      Some might argue that big businesses like CVS have forced out smaller businesses. That is capitalism – CVS has found a way to provide a service in a better way, so customers go there. All things being equal, I will give my business to a small local business, but all things are not equal.

      Regarding empty storefronts, making a database will only get us so far. Empty storefronts are a blight on the neighborhood. But landlords should have additional incentive to avoid this.

      Using the proposed database, if a storefront is empty for more than a certain amount of time (say a year), there should be an additional tax on the landlord. That way, when negotiating with an existing tenant and facing the risk of an empty storefront if they don’t reach an agreement, the landlord will really have to think twice about risking having the space be empty.

    19. Leah R says:

      I for one love the President. What I don’t love are clueless politicians who are in office for decades. Thank G_d Brewer is getting term limited out. She should not be allowed to hold another office. Enough is enough. Has she ever held a private sector job? She is clueless as are the other political elites who try and rule over us.

    20. Leah R says:

      “We are looking at every possible solution to help small businesses in New York City,” she said, “including legacy business rent regulation (a form of rent regulation for businesses that have been around for more than 20 years) — UNBELIEVABLE – You think that you can now impose rent stabilization for commercial space??? What’s next? You do that and you will not have people wanting to invest in building ownership – problems will only increase – UWS fascist progressives have no clue as to what they are doing or the enormous amount of work that goes into making a buck owning one of these buildings. Many small landlords are operating in the red or very slim margins. It is clear that progressives don’t believe in private property!

      Work on de-regulation to make it easier to open a business and for landlords to own their buildings. It’s hard enough to make it without government breathing down your neck and involving themselves in every nook and cranny of people’s business.

      • dannyboy says:

        Disinformation Alert:

        “UNBELIEVABLE – You think that you can now impose rent stabilization for commercial space??? What’s next?… – UWS fascist progressives have no clue as to what they are doing… It is clear that progressives don’t believe in private property!

        Work on de-regulation to make it easier to open a business and for landlords to own their buildings. It’s hard enough to make it without government breathing down your neck and involving themselves in every nook and cranny of people’s business.”

        This legislation has NOTHING to do with Rent Control.

        Funny how you label Brewer a Fascist. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. By the way, how many children have you fostered in your home?

    21. Lis Anderson says:

      I should have written her when our home was being taken. Still will write.

    22. Hambone says:

      1. Instead of perpetuating the famed ‘write off’ being the cause of vacancies, some please show me an actual example of a vacant storefront being better for the bottom line than a fully leased space. Change my mind.

      2. Like healthcare it’s silly to talk about reform for rent until you address the major underlying cost – property tax.

      3. Shame on you Gail…you can’t send an intern on a bike up and down the UWS streets to map empty commercial space? Have you heard of Excel? If each rep did that I think you’d have the data you need. I’ll do it for you on the UWS for a few grand. It’d take me an afternoon

    23. Sean says:

      Lamenting the loss of small businesses and retail in America is a fool’s game. The automobile and now the Internet is what changed the game. Mom isn’t at home like in the 1940s. It happened first when the suburbs were built and now it’s happening in the cities. We have more retail space per citizen than anywhere in the world and we don’t need it. All these malls built over 30 years ago are obsolete too just like a great many other things. The middle class has shrunk. Mom doesn’t need a soup tureen these days. Millennials do not shop and they don’t have the space for a lot of stuff. They are portable. Basically an economy built on the acquisition of stuff is over.

    24. MTS says:

      There’s nothing like the subject of real estate to bring out the vitriol in New Yorkers. Personally, I enjoy a heated philosophical scrap now and then. It helps me gain new perspective.

      Along those lines, the comments in West Side Rag are always a good source of enlightenment– whether they reflect factual data or simply demonstrate how emotionally reactionary folks can be.

      And sometimes there’s even the bonus of learning a new word or phrase. Today it was “alte kaker”. Thanks “B.B.”! You’ve just expanded my vocabulary!

      Seems like a bit of an ageist term– and perhaps not one that should be used in polite company (considering its literal translation), but… hey… we’re all friends here. No??

      Alte kaker! Alte kaker! Alte kaker!

      • dannyboy says:

        “Seems like a bit of an ageist term”
        You think?

        “As the alter kakers moaning and wailing about a vanished UWS/NYC die off…” – B.B.

      • UWSSurfer says:

        When I first moved to NYC in 1998, I was told to always remember that the City operates on the alte kaker system.

        If you wanted to get anything done, you had
        to act as if you were a Jewish or Italian grandmother. It certainly worked when I dealt with the phone company and cable installation guys.

        I believe that there are already people/organizations who have plotted out maps of the empty storefronts.

        Pop-up stores and collectives could be part of a solution but it’s the liability insurance that stops many building owners from doing it.

        We need commercial rent stabilization, small business loans, grants, and laws limiting scaffolding and stores sitting empty.

    25. savenycjobs says:

      Brewer strategy is REBNY’s strategy. Say and sound like your doing something but give no rights to small business owners to survive.
      All a charade to keep the status quo. Shame

    26. I’m a social worker with years of experience and was once, a long time ago, a NYC school teacher. If you are interested in providing the kids with this type of vital service I might just be available.

    27. Ruth Maribel says:

      I been a Certified School Social Worker since March 2018 and I have submitted my resume. However, I have not received any possible interview. Please guide me if I need to do anything else! I have a passion working with children, adolescents and families,
      Thank you so much in advance for your assistance.

    28. B.B. says:

      With this constant PR or whatever blitz it does seem as if Ms. Brewer is laying ground work to run for another public office.

      That mortgage still needs to be paid off and jobs that pay $150k per year (with full bennies including pension) are hard to find. Especially for older persons.