By Carol Tannenhauser
Small businesses have shuttered at an alarming rate on the Upper West Side and throughout the city, inspiring proposed solutions ranging from commercial rent control to a vacancy tax.
But City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson think it’s necessary to measure and map the problem first, so city officials can understand if and where it’s getting worse.
So, the three crafted a bill they call the “storefront tracking bill,” which the City Council passed last week. It requires building owners throughout the five boroughs to register commercial spaces with the New York City Department of Finance (DOF), creating what Brewer calls “the first-in-the-nation public database of retail spaces and their vacancy status.”
“In addition to being able to look up the occupancy status of every commercial space, the public will have access to…other essential information,” Rosenthal explained. “Small businesses will also have a new, annually updated source of information about available space.”
Here’s how the legislation works, according to Rosenthal’s office:
* [It] requires owners of ground level and 2nd floor commercial spaces to register those spaces with the NYC Dept of Finance at the beginning of each calendar year
* Commercial spaces in residential (class one) buildings must also be registered
* Registration will be part of the annual income and expense filings already required by the DOF
* Building owners who do not register, or provide inaccurate information, will face the same fines they currently do under income and expense statement regulations.
* Information required as part of registration will include each space’s:
-occupancy status and current use
-monthly rent and lease beginning and end dates
-contact information for the property owner
* If occupancy status or property ownership changes during the first six months of the calendar year, owners are required to file a supplemental registration
* Information about the occupancy status of each commercial space will be posted online
* The rest of the data will be aggregated and also provided online. Data will be available by census tract or Council district, and will include:
# of leased and vacant spaces, along with median and average time vacant spaces have remained empty
Median and average size of commercial spaces
Median & average rent, length of lease, and time remaining until lease expires
# of leases set to expire within the next two years
# of spaces with construction documents on file