06 February 2010

A Cruel Winter

So far, 2010 has been very bruising on the small, historic businesses that make up the best park of New York.  Gone within a few short weeks have been Skyline Books in the Flatiron District, Cavalier Restaurant in Jackson Heights, Collegiate Food Shop in Harlem, Pink Tea Cup Cafe (which may reopen) and Biography Bookshop (which will reopen as something called bookbook), not to mention the constant threats to the life of Ray's Candy Shop in the East Village and Gino Restaurant on the Upper East Side.

One could blame this all on the recession, but the truth is the trouble in almost all cases is greedy landlords who don't seem to realize there's a recession and crank up the rent 100% or more. Hey, when you're a leach by profession, and generate no cash on your own, you don't have to worry about how others generate their life's blood. You just suck it dry and then ask for more.

And yet, there's more crying to do.

Pearl Paint, long the mercantile anchor of Canal Street, has announced that it will close one of its three Manhattan stores—the one at 58 Lispenard Street. Thank God the landmark, cast-iron outlet on Canal, with its easily recognizable red-and-white paint job, is safe for the time being. The Pearl store in Chicago also closed this week.

Pearl has been around since the Great Depression. Art students all over the City would lapse into a coma if it ever closed up shop. There's no place like it for art supplies.


Isabella Golightly said...

Just wondering what that painting on the road was?

Lisanne said...

a shame about Lispernard Street but that store stock was pretty sparce so i am not surprised..I love Pearl Paint and remember the first time i went there to buy supplies for my art classes in the early 80's. But I have to say they have gone down hill as far as competive pricing and even stocking their shelves. It also seems like less people are shopping there as a result.

but it is classic old school nyc shopping experience, creaky old stairs, real artistic people behind the cash register-that has me going back for small shopping runs...but unfortunately in as current times show this does not sustain a business in new york city anymore-they need to keep their atmosphere and stock the shelves once again!

chris flash said...

It could be argued that rent increases are caused by the city increasing real estate assessments and then taxes, based on an artificially-inflated real estate market, resulting in landlords having to cover the additional overhead by jacking up commercial rents.

But, rent increases are more commonly due to landlord GREED -- even when their real estate taxes do not increase, landlords play the city's game by using the same inflated rental market to seek higher commercial rents, even at the cost of ending up with empty storefronts for years at a time.

As I've said before, not only do these landlords lose (who gives a fuck?), but the local businesses that can't relocate for a comparable rent and which are gone for good lose. And WE all lose as well....

Ed said...

Chris Flash has a good point that hadn't occurred to me before. The scam might be that a landlord has multiple properties. High rents on one property, which is unrented (because the rent is much higher than the market will justify), are used to justify high rents on the other properties, some of which are actually rented at the inflated prices. The prices are inflated enough so the landlord comes out ahead even with the unrented properties.

I'm wondering if this played a role historically in spreading urban blight.