The subway station at 74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights is not only one of the busiest transportation hubs in the city, but also home to a scarce New York City commodity - space.
Owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), this space consists of six small retail shops located at what is considered to be the gateway to New York City’s Little India. Although these new shops are situated at a prime location that attracts much foot traffic, they have been sitting vacant for two years.
Councilmember Helen Sears, who represents the area, explained that two years ago, many merchants in Jackson Heights expressed an interest to rent these newly-created stores, located inside the subway station, which provides access to seven train lines.
“I think they need to look at areas where they can generate revenue after revenue,” Sears said about the MTA. Besides, having these stores up and running will be a good way to help stimulate the ailing economy, Sears added.
The MTA is currently facing a budget gap of $1.2 billion, which it is proposing to close with fare increases and bridge tolls.
The revenue the Authority would generate from leasing the six shops in the Jackson Heights subway station would amount to about $200,000 a year, said Kevin Ortiz, spokesperson for the Authority.
Out of the six spaces, only one is ready to be filled now. The tenant is Bank of America and the branch will open before the end of the year, said Ortiz.
The other locations will be record, flower and clothing stores, but it is still unclear when exactly they will open, Ortiz explained.
“It seems to me two years is a very lengthy time,” Sears said about the period the stores have been vacant.
“It’s a process and it doesn’t happen overnight,” responded Ortiz. During those two years, the MTA has had to go through numerous steps such as reviewing all the applications from the businesses, making selections and approving the contractors of the successful candidates, he explained.
The MTA has unoccupied retail space at other subway stations too, Ortiz said, but information about the exact locations and the revenue they would bring was not immediately available.