Above: Fully one quarter of all Downtown retail storefronts are now vacant.
Below: An informal metric of lattes sold at Pret a Manger locations in Lower Manhattan (such as this one, as Broadway and Thomas Street) indicates that Lower Manhattan’s business landscape may be approaching a recovery.
Three indicators paint an equivocal portrait of the economic outlook for Lower Manhattan. The most upbeat of these is the so-called Pret Index, a metric created by Bloomberg News, which tracks the sales of lattes at various outposts of Pret A Manger, a chain of sandwich shops that largely serves office workers in urban business districts.
Data released by Bloomberg on Tuesday indicates that, among Pret A Manger locations in the Financial District and Tribeca, sales of cappuccino drinks, “set a new pandemic high last week,” recovering to 45 percent of sales levels from January, 2020—just before the advent of COVID-19. This slightly lagged Midtown, where sales rebounded to 49 percent of pre-pandemic benchmarks. (For context, other cities tracked by Bloomberg’s Pret Index include London and Paris, where sales have recovered to better than 70 percent, and Hong Kong, which is approaching 90 percent.)
More sobering is data from Cushman & Wakefield, a global commercial real estate services firm, whose Marketview report for Manhattan retail in the second quarter of this year finds that fully 25 percent of ground-floor storefront spaces in Lower Manhattan are now vacant, and awaiting tenants.
And a separate analysis from the Downtown Alliance indicates that a combined total of 224 Lower Manhattan small businesses shut their doors in 2020 and 2021 (to date), while approximately 100 new ones started up.
Among the storefront establishments that have been disappearing from Lower Manhattan are grocery stores, such as Gristede’s, which closed two Downtown locations in recent years—one in Battery Park City, and another in the Financial District.
In a related development, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Margaret Chin are leading a push to help grocery stores remain viable. Together, they have introduced legislation in the City Council to exempt affordable grocery stores from the commercial rent tax (CRT), which imposes an annual 3.9 percent surcharge on the rent paid by a store. Enacted in 1963, the CRT is currently levied on businesses below 96th Street, but nowhere else in the five boroughs.
In this context, “affordable” is defined as any supermarket that accepts food vouchers from public-assistance plans like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), while also setting aside at least 500 square feet of store space for moderately priced fresh produce.
Under these terms, many Lower Manhattan supermarkets would likely quality for the tax break. This will strike some local residents, long accustomed to paying a galling premium at the checkout counter, as deeply counterintuitive. But it is a feature, rather than a bug in the program’s design. Even with high prices (which are more often a reflection of the staggering cost of renting space and doing business in Manhattan, rather than of windfall profits), many supermarkets operate on a razor-thin margin. They also face increased pressure from landlords, who hanker for the higher rents that might be obtained from banks or drugstore chains, or by splitting the large floor area of a typical supermarket into multiple, smaller storefronts.
These conditions are vouchsafed by the fact that more than a few local groceries have vanished from Lower Manhattan in recent years, such as Tribeca’s Food Emporium (and its successor at the same location on Greenwich Street, Best Market) and Bazzini, along with Met Foods in Little Italy, and Pathmark in Two Bridges. Throughout the five boroughs, the City lost roughly 300 greengrocers between 2005 and 2015, with one-third of these causalities occurring in Manhattan. In the majority of cases, these closures occurred in low-income communities, which already lack access to fresh food.
“Affordable supermarkets are the lifeblood of our communities, and New York City is losing them at a rapid pace,” observed Ms. Brewer.
“Every time a grocery store closes its doors, the community suffers,” added Ms. Chin. “While our grocery stores fuel the vitality of neighborhoods across the City, too many of them have been forced to pay the antiquated commercial rent tax on top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they already pay in rent. Two years ago, the Council passed a landmark bill to exempt more businesses from having to pay this tax. The legislation we are introducing builds on that effort by providing desperately needed relief for the grocery stores and workers on the frontlines of combatting food insecurity in our neighborhoods.”
Dear Broadsheet Editor,
Being one of the few people to notice or say anything about all the subtle racism and classism cloaked in Progressive values can be quite exhaustive. Yet, here I am again, this time about the bike lane on the Brooklyn Bridge.
I come from an upbringing and household of both bike and car owner and ridership. So, I want both to be able to harmoniously exist. I’m about plans that make the most sense, serve the most good and are inclusive of the most marginalized communities. “Can’t we all just get along.”
A full bike lane area should’ve been built above the cars. Period. Full stop. And they all lived happily ever after. If determined not to be structurally possible, the lanes should’ve been built as they are but on the Brooklyn-bound side.
Taking out a lane, specifically of Manhattan-bound traffic, adversely affects working class people, largely of color, travelling to Manhattan for work (And before anyone fixes their mouth to say poor people don’t have cars, go to your nearest NYCHA housing project and check out the onsite parking lot). Reduction of the BQE leading up to the bridge further compounds the issue and perhaps that’s truly the plan.
Having nothing at all to do with bikes vs cars vs pedestrians, the traffic to the GWB is also backed up for miles. Hear again, working class, Black and brown people trying to get to other parts of Harlem, the Heights and the Bronx via the FDR/Harlem River Dr are forced to sit in hours of NJ-bound suburban commuter filled traffic to do what should only take minutes, exit at places like Dyckman.
A Place of Quiet Reflection
Governor Dedicates Hurricane Maria Memorial in Battery Park City
Governor Kathy Hochul came to Battery Park City on Monday afternoon, for the belated dedication of the Hurricane Maria Memorial (located at the corner of River Terrace and Chambers Street), which commemorates suffering on the island of Puerto Rico during the 2017 storm that claimed some 3,000 lives there.
The Memorial—which opened in March, but was never formally dedicated—features an ascending glass spiral, meant to evoke both a hurricane and a nautilus shell (symbolic of protection against a hostile environment).
Silverstein Envisions Breaking Ground Within Months on New Skyscraper at Two World Trade Center
After two decades years of rebuilding, there remains one significant missing piece in the World Trade Center complex. It is marked by the placeholder “podium” of a building at the west side of Church Street, between Vesey and Fulton Streets, which houses entry points for the underground shopping and transit facilities beneath the plaza, along with some ventilation equipment.
Formally designated at 200 Greenwich Street, this site is slated to someday be the home of Two World Trade Center. But 20 years of false starts may soon give way to actual construction. In a development first reported by the Commercial Observer, builder Larry Silverstein says that his firm is close to securing a deal with a corporate anchor tenant, and may start construction soon, even if such a rent does not commit to the building.
Lottery Opens for New Affordable Apartments in Financial District Building
Lower Manhattan’s meager inventory of affordable rental apartments will soon swell by 63 units, thanks to a new development nearing completion at 185 Broadway, at the corner of Dey Street. The building, which will be known by its branding address of 7 Dey, will contain a total of 206 apartments (the remaining 143 units will be market-rate rentals), along with several floors of retail and office space. In exchange for committing to affordability protections on the 63 units, developer S.L. Green received tax incentives worth many millions of dollars, which helped to build the $300 million project. To read more…
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
Providing Companion and Home Health Aide Care to clients with dementia.Help with grooming, dressing and wheelchair assistance. Able to escort client to parks and engage in conversations of desired topics and interests of client. Reliable & Honest
Reliable, trustworthy and caring Nanny looking for full time position preferably with newborns, infants and toddlers. I have experience in the Battery Park City area for 8 years. I will provide a loving, safe and nurturing environment for your child. Refs available upon request. Beverly 347 882 6612
HOUSEKEEPING/ NANNY/ BABYSITTER
Available for PT/FT. Wonderful person, who is a great worker.
Worked in BPC. Call Tenzin
SEEKING LIVE-IN ELDER CARE
12 years experience, refs avail. I am a loving caring hardworking certified home health aide
With its amazing gardens and views of the Hudson River and New York Bay, Wagner Park is the perfect setting to practice your art. Participants are expected to bring their own drawing and painting supplies, including drawing boards and containers of water if they are planning to paint. BPCA will supply drawing paper and watercolor paper only. Masks required. Participants must maintain six feet of physical distance between households. All programs will be held in accordance with New York State reopening guidance.
Namaste! Unwind from the day with outdoor yoga. Immerse yourself in this meditative practice- surrounded by the Hudson’s peaceful aura. Strengthen the body and cultivate awareness in a relaxed environment as your instructor guides you through alignments and poses. All levels are welcome. Participants are expected to bring their own equipment: yoga mat, yoga blocks, water, etc. Masks required. Participants must maintain six feet of physical distance between households. All programs will be held in accordance with New York State reopening guidance.
China Institute is honored to welcome Chen Kaige, one of China’s greatest directors, in conversation with filmmaker Janet Yang and film expert Richard Pena, to discuss Yellow Earth, which revolutionized the way films were watched and created in China, and its enduring legacy nearly 40 years after its release. Free
Will China achieve its tech dreams? It all depends on whether it can produce advanced semiconductor chips, the tiny piece of metal that are crucial to the functionality of smartphones, modern cars, and even hearing aids. It’s the access to those tiny chips that Beijing’s tech ambitions ultimately will pivot on. Join us as two tech policy experts share insights into the global chip competition. Until now, China lacks the ability to produce advanced chips; the US, Europe, and Taiwan control the supply. Barred from buying cutting edge European equipment needed to fabricate high-end chips, China relies on importing chip imports. Last year, China imported $350 billion worth of chips, one third of them coming from Taiwan. Now, Xi Jinping is driving a self-reliance campaign, investing heavily in chip manufacturing across the country. Will he succeed? Free
The tall ship Wavertree, the schooner Pioneer, and the tug W.O. Decker are open to the public. Explore Wavertree while she is docked; cruise New York Harbor on W.O. Decker and Pioneer. Wavertree visits are free; Pioneer and Decker prices vary. Check website for times, prices and other details.
Art leaders Kamau Ware and Risë Wilson will discuss public art as an avenue for discovering and revealing untold histories. Multidimensional artist and historian Kamau Ware is Founder of Black Gotham Experience (BGX), an immersive multimedia project that reimagines the spaces directly impacted by the African Diaspora as human stories, Ware has become a voice to fill the visual abyss of Black New York history with research and illuminating creativity. Risë Wilson founded The Laundromat Project in 1999, an award-winning organization that connects artists and communities of color to their capacity to envision the world in which we all want to live, and the skills sets to make it so. Her twenty-year tenure in arts and culture has spanned philanthropic practice, strategic planning, artist development, and public engagement. Risë’s work in all its forms is preoccupied with dislodging herself from the bear-traps of oppression to help her kinfolk do the same.
9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Report
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.
New Governor Plans to Get BPC Opinions Regarding Essential Workers Monument
While many residents and community activists may have hoped that plans for an Essential Workers Monument in Battery Park City had perished in tandem with the political demise of former Governor Andrew Cuomo (who resigned in disgrace, in August), his successor may have other ideas.
Wondering Whether You Have Been Worth the Windfall
You recall the frenetic chaos—people wandering blithely into traffic, while cars with flashing lights and bleating sirens tried to make lurching progress by driving on sidewalks. And everyone staring upward, transfixed.
Even amid the bedlam, one anomalously serene (even festive) detail stood out. Confetti—a jumble of office paperwork and shredded aluminum—drifting lazily toward the ground. Reminiscent of nothing so much as a ticker tape parade, but in reverse. The honorees didn’t know the parade was for them, because they had not yet become heroes and martyrs. Although in just a few moments, they would.
A few minutes later, you stood at the foot of a tower, looking up at an airplane-shaped hole in its side and thinking, “there is no way that building is going to fall down.” To read more…
Greenmarkets are open
Greenwich Street & Chambers Street
Every Wednesday & Saturday, 8am-3pm
Food Scrap Collection: Saturdays, 8am-1pm
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Broadway & Whitehall Street
Every Tuesday & Thursday, 8am-5pm
Food Scrap Collection: Tuesdays only, 8am-11am
Greenmarket at Oculus Plaza
Church & Fulton Streets
Tuesdays starting August 31st, from 8 am to 5pm
Samascott Orchard Orchard fruit, strawberries from Columbia County, New York
Francesa’s Bakery Breads and baked goods from Middlesex County, New Jersey
Meredith’s Bakery Baked goods from Ulster County, New York
Riverine Ranch Water Buffalo meat and cheeses from Warren County, New Jersey
1857 Spirits Handcrafted potato vodka from Schoharie County, New York
SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, Debit/Credit, and Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks accepted
TODAY IN HISTORY
1925 – 2015 Yogi Berra, American baseball player, coach, and manager
“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
1499 – The Treaty of Basel concludes the Swabian War.
1692 – The last hanging of those convicted of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials; others are all eventually released.
1711 – The Tuscarora War begins in present-day North Carolina.
1776 – Nathan Hale is hanged for spying during the American Revolution.
1823 – Joseph Smith claims to have found the golden plates after being directed by God through the Angel Moroni to the place where they were buried.
1896 – Queen Victoria surpasses her grandfather King George III as the longest reigning monarch in British history.
1914 – A German submarine sinks three British cruisers over a seventy-minute period, killing almost 1500 sailors.
1919 – The steel strike of 1919, led by the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, begins in Pennsylvania before spreading across the United States.
1975 – Sara Jane Moore tries to assassinate President Gerald Ford, but is foiled by the Secret Service.
1980 – Iraq invades Iran.
1991 – The Dead Sea Scrolls are made available to the public for the first time.
1547 – Philipp Nicodemus Frischlin, German philologist, mathematician, astronomer, and poet (d. 1590)
1593 – Mattheus Merian, Swiss-German engraver and cartographer (d. 1650)
1791 – Michael Faraday, English physicist and chemist (d. 1867)
1920 – Eric Baker, English activist, co-founded Amnesty International (d. 1976)
1927 – Tommy Lasorda, American baseball player, coach, and manager
1928 – Eric Broadley, English engineer and businessman, founded Lola Cars (d. 2017)
1777 – John Bartram, American botanist and explorer (b. 1699)
1828 – Shaka Zulu, Zulu chieftain and monarch of the Zulu Kingdom (b. 1787)
1989 – Irving Berlin, Russian-born American composer and songwriter (b. 1888)
2001 – Isaac Stern, Polish-Ukrainian violinist and conductor (b. 1920)
2007 – Marcel Marceau, French mime and actor (b. 1923)
2015 – Yogi Berra, American baseball player, coach, and manager (b. 1925)