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Boomtown goes bust

Empty Storefronts in Greenwich Village
Another one bites the dust: Empty storefronts are multiplying in the neighborhood.

While pundits and economists quibble about whether the recession has actually gotten underway, yet, I was presented with stunning evidence of how it will look this morning as I walked through Greenwich Village. On the short walk up Bleeker Street from Christopher to Magnolia Bakery on 11th Street I counted 12 empty storefronts. Twelve. In what is perhaps the most sought-after residential area of Manhattan. I’ve never seen anything like that in the 24 years I’ve lived in the city.

It was obvious what has happened: during the go-go run up of the real estate boom greedy landlords ran out established neighborhood businesses by hiking leases to astronomical levels and now, with the boom over and credit locked up by a paralyzed financial system, they can’t fill the spaces. I have, of course, not a scintilla of sympathy for the landlords — they get what they deserve. But I regret that a neighborhood’s identity was gutted by their greed. Perhaps, if the recession is long enough and deep enough, it will create an opportunity for small businesses that are truly needed by residents to return. Less flash, more utility. We’re covered for designer dress shops, thank you — but a hardware store sure would be nice.

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