Some stores along Queens’ prominent shopping streets have been abandoned, sitting vacant for months. Several landlords have posted hopeful “for rent” signs. Others remain completely empty.
Officials from Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and Chambers of Commerce across Queens blame the nation’s foundering economy for the string of vacancies. Others insist that skyrocketing rents are causing businesses to pack up and leave.
Gregg Sullivan, executive director of the Bayside Village BID, alleges that the recent upswing of store vacancies is due to both the struggling economy and raised rents.
“There’s a need for an adjustment between landlords and rents to accommodate the downturn in the economy,” said Sullivan, adding that Bayside’s Bell Boulevard has six vacant storefronts.
On Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven, 25 stores sit empty. Maria A. Thomson, executive director of the Woodhaven Development Corporation, alleges that store vacancies are from the weak economy’s impact on business.
“With the economy being so sluggish, the patronage isn’t there to pay the bills, so that’s part of it,” said Thomson. “Part of it is the fact that they just can’t make it. They just can’t sustain the paying of the bills.”
Jim O’Kane is the head of O’Kane Realty, a company that manages several commercial properties along Maspeth’s Grand Avenue. The strip currently has nine vacancies.
“The cost of being in business is so high these days,” said O’Kane. “Rent and other expenses will eat you up unless you have a large reserve. It’s why a lot of ‘mom and pop’ stores are going out of business.”
Empty stores have begun to negatively affect Maspeth’s popular strip, according to O’Kane. “If the stores are vacant, it brings fewer people to the avenue, which compounds the situation for other store owners,” he said.
Michael Terry, president of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce, believes that the vacancies are caused by the normal ebb and flow of the business cycle. Nevertheless, according to Terry, they are bad for business.
“It never looks good,” said Terry. “The more vacancies there are, the more people wonder how businesses are doing. The more businesses there are, the more people will come to the street.”
Terry speculated that the removal of Off-Track Betting locations in late 2010 has something to do with vacancies, as many former OTB locations have ongoing leases.