It seems that every other day the local press has a story about Manhattan landlords evicting small businesses to make space available for a major bank or the flagship of corporate franchise, which can and do pay substantially higher rents. Vast stretches where beloved mom-and-pops once prevailed have disappeared from our borough. Empty storefronts persist for weeks, months, and even years, and more and more street corners serve as “billboards” for banks and global chains.
When I was a City Council member on the Upper West Side, I worked closely with the Department of City Planning to build a special zoning district for our commercial streets that retains the vitality of each block. We did that by amending the Zoning Resolution to keep banks and chain drugstores from combining retail spaces and pushing out the little guys. Now store frontages are limited to maintain the hustle and bustle of Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue, and Columbus Avenue.
This success has inspired me as Borough President to have my staff reach out to small business stakeholders borough-wide—from large real estate interests all the way down to street vendors—to hear what they had to say. The result is our Small Business, Big Impact, a report that recommends ways to help Manhattan’s street-level retail stores and restaurants—what we call “storefronters.”
Now we’ve undertaken a Storefronter Campaign to help more Manhattan storefronters survive and potential entrepreneurs avoid the pitfalls that can doom their efforts—and we’re acting with city partners to implement our report’s recommendations.
As part of the process, we’re holding roundtables throughout the borough to help deepen our understanding of storefronter problems and develop the tools for tackling them—and to bring entrepreneurs together with the city agencies with which they regularly interact.
Whether you operate a business or have a great idea for starting one, we hope you’ll join our Storefronter Campaign to empower your business and strengthen local commerce in your community. Sign on today to share ideas, benefit from what others have learned, and connect with the fellow entrepreneurs, Business Improvement Districts, and city agencies that can help you make it Manhattan.
Gale A. Brewer
Manhattan Borough President