Questions about What’s In Store for Local Retail Point to Glum Answer: Not Much
The Gap at Broadway and Maiden Lane closed at the start of the pandemic and stopped paying rent in March, which caused its landlord to default on their mortgage in August — part of a larger trend of chain retail stores in Lower Manhattan shutting their doors.
Small businesses aren’t the only ones hurting in Lower Manhattan. Large national retailers are also shuttering their local stores in record numbers, according to a new report from the Center for an Urban Future (CUF), a public policy think tank that uses data-driven research to bring attention to overlooked issues. The analysis documents that the number of chain stores in Lower Manhattan decreased dramatically during the past 12 months, with a total of 63 national retailers shutting their doors permanently.
The CUF report, “State of the Chains, 2020,” defines chain stores (or “national retailers”) as businesses that have, “at least two locations in New York City and at least one location outside the City limits.” This analysis documents that there were 351 such stores in Lower Manhattan at the end of 2019, a total that had dropped to 288 retailers by the end of 2020—a decline of 18 percent. This shrinkage is almost 50 percent larger than the contraction that was experienced by New York City as a whole, where the overall decrease was 13.3 percent.
This is the largest retrenchment ever recorded by CUF in its decade-plus history of tracking retail trends, and is likely a direct result of the economic downturn triggered by the pandemic coronavirus.
These troubles are leading to a cascading crisis among once-high flying Lower Manhattan real estate operators. For example, the Gap store at the corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane stopped paying rent to its landlord, Crown Acquisitions, shortly after closing in March. This caused Crown, in August, to default on the $70-million mortgage it used to buy the commercial condominium that houses the Gap. Now the mortgage lender is suing Crown, and Crown is suing Gap, Inc.
The next level up in this hierarchy of gloom is the market for commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), which are the tradable instruments into which mortgage lenders bundle many of their loans. These are usually structured as “non-recourse” loans, meaning that if the borrower stops paying, the lender’s only remedy is to seize the property—which is presumably by then worth significantly less than it was when the mortgage was issued.
Two large retail landlords in Lower Manhattan, both of whom carry many tens of millions of dollars in CMBS debt, have recently begun showing signs of acute distress. Brookfield, which operates the shopping center in Battery Park City’s Brookfield Place complex, and Westfield, which operates the retail offerings in the World Trade Center.
According to Trepp, a firm that analyzes data for the CMBS market, both Brookfield and Westfield have recently indicated a willingness to surrender multiple shopping malls they own around the nation—four operated by Brookfield and two by Westfield — rather than continue making mortgage payments.
Neither company has thus far defaulted on obligations for the properties they operate in Lower Manhattan, but such a process (if it were to begin) would be complicated by the fact that both firms are themselves tenants of government agencies—Brookfield leases the space it oversees from the Battery Park City Authority, while Westfield is a tenant of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The ongoing retail apocalypse unfolding in Lower Manhattan predates the pandemic, and was widely attributed, in part, to the ongoing struggle of brick-and-mortar stores to compete with online retailers, such as Amazon. But the current struggles of large, well-capitalized firms cast into sharp relief the graver challenges facing small businesses, a category in which Lower Manhattan has lost more than 100 additional stores in the past 12 months.
As community leaders decry the market pressures that force highly regarded small businesses to close down, some activists look for inspiration to San Francisco, where the municipal government has banned new chain stores—in this case, defined as those having 12 or more locations anywhere in the world—from opening in three fashionable districts (North Beach, Chinatown and Hayes Valley). These prohibitions were enacted in 2004, when locals grew alarmed at the influx of corporate brands into the retail zones of gentrifying neighborhoods that had formerly been dominated by mom-and-pop operators.
This raises the question of whether a similar initiative might be used to encourage and incubate local, small businesses in the hundreds of thousands of square feet of Lower Manhattan retail space now being abandoned by larger firms.
Confederate Battle Flag Found Tied to Front Door of Museum of Jewish Heritage
The “stars and bars” standard flown by the army of the Confederate States of America, as they battled to preserve slavery during the Civil War, was found tied to the front door of Battery Park City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage (MJH) on Friday morning.
While this connection between the Civil War and the Holocaust may not be obvious, the Anti-Defamation League, which has as its mission, “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” classifies the Confederate flag as, “a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy, which has caused it to be very popular among white supremacists in the 20th and 21st centuries.” Such groups (among them, factions as old the Ku Klux Klan and as new as the Proud Boys) are known to revile Jews with nearly as much venom as they reserve for African-Americans.
In accordance with Article Two of the U. S. Constitution, George Washington was unanimously elected by 69 presidential electors who cast their votes on February 4, 1789.
When Washington was inaugurated as First President at Federal Hall, the world was watching the birth of this new government, the first of its kind. The world will be watching again on January 20, 2021 after a period of historic electoral turbulence. While the Constitution asserts general principals, much is left to interpretation and practice in the powers of the presidency, the process of providing for voters to elect a new president, and the transition between administrations. The framers left the states’ responsibility for elections imprecise with scant direction about how they must exercise their mandate to organize elections. Multiple amendments over the centuries have protected certain populations from disenfranchisement, but these voting rights are framed in the negative, in that people cannot be barred from voting on the basis of race, gender, or age of at least 18.
Should federal legislation require more uniformity in voting procedures? Should the Constitution affirm a right to vote with ready access to the ballot? Is it sufficient to mandate the date for a transfer of power, but not a process? As one administration gives way to another, is the system of checks and balances working as the framer’s envisioned or should more constraints be considered?
Answers to urgent questions like these will shape American governance for decades to come. Federal Hall’s Sam Roberts will open the event with a historical video presentation and Brennan Center president Michael Waldman joins the panel discussion.
Can we train our brains to improve our mental and physical health? The concept of changing the body through mindfulness is not a new one. Meditative Yoga has been practiced in India for centuries with the aims of rejuvenating the body and increasing life-span. More recently, research into mindfulness, which uses meditation and other training to increase moment-to-moment awareness, suggests that it may be beneficial for a wide range of medical issues from depression and anxiety to PTSD and pain management related to acute and chronic illness. Moreover, mindful practice has been widely touted to improve productivity and reduce stress. Could mindfulness and meditation help us cope with elevated stress levels during these uncertain times? This panel will bring together neuroscientists, psychologists and mindfulness experts to discuss the science behind mindfulness and meditation, and the potential associated health benefits. $35
Tune in to hear Lin Tianmiao, perhaps China’s most famous woman artist, and art writer Barbara Pollock discuss Lin’s new post-feminist work and the rapid rise of large-scale public art projects in China. Lin, who is best known for thread-bound objects that evoke gender roles in contemporary society, is now exploring such themes as time, loss, and individualism in the face of modernization.
1) 17 Battery Place, application for renovation of existing entry and storefront including replacement of entrance infill and new louvers – Resolution
Appeals Court Upholds Order Delaying Move of Homeless Men to FiDi
On Tuesday, a five-judge panel of the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division affirmed an earlier ruling (issued on December 3), which has the effect of halting once again the planned transfer of more than 200 men from the Lucerne Hotel, on the Upper West Side, to the Radisson Wall Street Hotel, located at 52 William Street. This order amounts to a partial victory for both sides in the lawsuit, granting some of what opponents of the plan were seeking, while also allowing the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio limited latitude to begin implementing its proposal on a smaller scale than originally envisioned.
The dead menhaden fish that bobbed at the surface of the water off Lower Manhattan and throughout the Hudson-Raritan Estuary and Long Island Sound during the month of December are gone now. But the concern remains. What killed the fish?
Scientists in the region are putting forth theories. To read more…
Can Anybody Spare $100,000 Per Month?
CB1 Discussion Tonight Will Review Skyrocketing Costs of Home Ownership in Battery Park City
On Wednesday, January 6 the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1 hosted a discussion about affordability for condominium owners, for whom the cost of owning a home in the neighborhood is becoming increasingly prohibitive. .
The discussionl featured a presentation by a new grassroots organization, the Battery Alliance, which was recently founded by longtime residents Daniel Akkerman and John Dellaportas, both of whom serve on the boards of their condominiums (Hudson View West and Liberty House, respectively). Their organization can be found online at SaveBPC.org, and contacted via email at Info@savebpc.org. To read more…
Architects Propose to Reclaim Park Tribeca Lost Nearly a Century Ago
Community Board 1 (CB1) is supporting a plan to create a new park in Tribeca, within the Holland Tunnel Rotary, the six-acre asphalt gyre of exit ramps that connects traffic from New Jersey to Lower Manhattan’s street grid.
The husband-and-wife architecture team of Dasha Khapalova and Peter Ballman are proposing to create a constellation of small, street-level parks at the corners of the complex (bounded by Hudson, Laight, and Varick Street, as well as Ericson Place) which will double as entry points for a new, submerged central plaza. This plaza is anachronously known as St. John’s Park, although it has not been a publicly accessible space since the Holland Tunnel opened, 94 years ago.
A Leader Who Presided Over Transformational Times in Lower Manhattan Passes from the Scene
Anthony Notaro, a Lower Manhattan community leader for decades and chair of Community Board 1 (CB1) from 2016 to 2020, died on December 30, after a years-long battle with cancer. He was 69 years old. A resident of Battery Park City since the late 1990s, Mr. Notaro joined CB1 shortly after moving to Lower Manhattan. To read more…
Eyes to the Sky
January 4 – 17, 2021
Early nightfall and late sunup beckon to stargazers before days lengthen
The last of the longest nights of the year are bookended by planet Venus taking final bows in early morning twilight in the southeast and planets Jupiter and Saturn poised at the edge of the southwest skyline in afternoon dusk. The latest sunrises of the year – 7:20am through January 10 – and early sunsets, around 4:40pm, motivate this stargazer to greet starry skies, mostly in short jaunts or from a window or balcony, during morning darkness and half-light, 6am to 6:50am, and in the afternoon from just after 5pm – 5:40. To read more…
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
2004 – The world’s largest ocean liner, RMS Queen Mary 2, makes its maiden voyage.
1866 – The Royal Aeronautical Society is formed in London.
1908 – A long-distance radio message is sent from the Eiffel Tower for the first time.
1932 – Hattie Caraway becomes the first woman elected to the United States Senate.
1967 – Dr. James Bedford becomes the first person to be cryonically preserved with intent of future resuscitation.
1971 – The Harrisburg Seven: Rev. Philip Berrigan and five other activists are indicted on charges of conspiring to kidnap Henry Kissinger and of plotting to blow up the heating tunnels of federal buildings in Washington, D.C.
1998 – Nineteen European nations agree to forbid human cloning.
2004 – The world’s largest ocean liner, RMS Queen Mary 2, makes its maiden voyage.
2010 – An earthquake in Haiti occurs, killing over 100,000 people and destroying much of the capital Port-au-Prince.
1822 – Étienne Lenoir, Belgian engineer, designed the internal combustion engine (d. 1900)
1856 – John Singer Sargent, American painter and academic (d. 1925)
1944 – Joe Frazier, American boxer (d. 2011)
1519 – Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (b. 1459)
1665 – Pierre de Fermat, French mathematician and lawyer (b. 1601)