When word got out that a Starbucks was slated to open for the nearly 10,000 sq. ft. space at 125 St. Mark’s Place at Avenue A, it was seen as yet another corporate chain store encroachment in the neighborhood. Coming at the same time that a Target is proposed just a few blocks north on 14th Street, it reminded people of the attention and advocacy that the opening of a 7-11 store opened on Avenue A inspired a few years ago. There are already 16 Starbucks stores between 14th Street and Houston Street, river to river.
In response, today we will hold a rally at 125 St. Mark’s Place at 5:30PM. But it is not just about this Starbucks, or the 317 others in NYC, so there’s good reason to come whether you live in the immediate vicinity or not. And as further incentive, there will be coffee provided by MUD!
We are under no illusion that this protest will definitively stop this particular Starbucks from opening. We previously wrote about a Starbucks opening in a building owned by NYU. Instead, we want to draw attention to a number of sensible and much-needed local and citywide initiatives that can promote and support small retail shops.
Together with East Village Independent Merchants Association, East Village Community Coalition, other local businesses and residents we will hold a rally and press conference calling attention to the proliferation of chain stores in the East Village, an area known for small, independently-owned and unique businesses. According to State of the Chains 2016, the Center for an Urban Future’s ninth annual ranking of national retailers in New York City, it shows that the number of chain store locations across the city increased for the eighth year in a row, and in zip code 10009 it rose to 28 such retailers. The numbers climb to over 161 in zip code 10003 , but that includes Union Square.
Chains promote homogeneity, take money out of neighborhoods and lead to vacancies as landlords wait for a national chain to pay exorbitant rents and that further contribute to putting local independent stores out of business.
But the loss of independent businesses does not have to be a fait accompli. Community Board # 3, like many other communities, is working to make diverse and unique homegrown businesses a priority. Recently, over 100 local residents and business owners attended a public forum to support the need to foster diverse and independent businesses in the neighborhood. The idea is to reverse the “dramatic loss of small ‘mom & pop’ businesses in the past 10+ years”. A special district is an overlay used as a tool to supplement and modify the underlying zoning in order to respond to distinctive neighborhoods with particular issues and goals. Examples of various types of special districts can be seen across the city, including on the Upper West Side, Battery Park, Harlem, Hudson Yards, and Little Italy. More on that Special Zoning District proposal here.
At the rally participants will call for the approval of a Special Retail District in the East Village as soon as possible. The proposal is based to a large degree on a comprehensive report from 2015 by the East Village Community Coalition that GVSHP assisted with, which you can read here.
Another proposal to level the playing field between commercial tenants and landlords is the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA). Last year GVSHP joined other citywide advocates at a rally at City Hall in support of SBJSA. In our testimony layer that day before a City Council committee considering actions to help small businesses, we emphasized two approaches: 1) exploring zoning measures that would limit or prohibit chain stores in certain parts of the city or on certain streets to allow independent businesses more opportunity to flourish, and 2) finally scheduling a vote on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, a bill which would help small businesses negotiate fair lease renewals with landlords and remain in their spaces if they are able. In spite of having support from a majority of City Councilmembers, a vote on the bill has never been allowed, and Mayor de Blasio has refused to say if he supports the legislation. You can visit an esay link to send an email to the Mayor and City Council supporting SBJSA by clicking here.
Another way we work to support local shops is with our “Business of the Month” program. Each month, a local, independent business is featured on GVSHP’s website and blog Off the Grid, and shared via our electronic newsletter, showcasing one of the Village, East Village, or NoHo’s great and unique retail or commercial treasures. You can nominate a special small business by clicking here. And see a handy map of all of them here.
Local businesses are the backbone of our neighborhoods, and many find themselves in an increasingly tough, competitive environment of rising rents and proliferating chain stores. But GVSHP is committed to highlighting and celebrating those businesses that help keep our neighborhoods unique and special, and provide a service, atmosphere, or specialty that can’t be found anywhere else. And we’re asking you, the public, to nominate your favorite businesses for consideration for our “Business of the Month.” Each selected business is profiled, and its story shared via social and electronic media. To nominate a business just fill in a very brief form here.
East Village Community Coalition annually publishes a Get Local! map and guide of all the shops in the area and will be giving them out at the rally. And see you at the “Not Another Starbucks Rally” today July 13 at 125 Saint Mark’s Place at Avenue A, at 5:30 p.m.