By now, it is well-known that New York City has a big vacancy problem.
A study released in May by the city’s own Department of Small Business Services (SBS) found that the average rate of empty storefronts citywide is 8.9 percent; other numbers indicate that at least 20 percent of spaces in Manhattan are vacant or about to be, with higher figures on particular avenues. In some parts of town, such as Greenwich Village or the Upper East Side, the hollowing-out of the retail landscape seems far more severe. Longtime institutions are being gobbled up by condos or chain outlets like Starbucks and Duane Reade drugstores. (One recent loss: Moishe’s Bake Shop on 2nd Avenue.) Vacancy now seems like a part of the cityscape itself, a fixture of New York’s curious existence as a booming “rich ghost town”: Walk down practically any traffic- and pedestrian-jammed commercial corridor and a “For Rent” sign awaits.