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REBNY Report Falsely Blames Landmarking for Empty Storefront Syndrome

A recent “report” by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) was released that (incredibly, but predictably for REBNY) blamed the retail vacancy crisis impacting our city on landmarking and historic districts. Although it was uncritically parroted by some media outlets, some simple digging found multiple misrepresentations and inaccuracies.  Here’s just one:

Days to receive a storefront permit from the Landmarks Preservation Commission Section

Without pointing to any data or research or factual basis of any kind, the REBNY “report” claims that it takes 169 days to receive a storefront permit from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.   It is unclear how this number was arrived at.

Fortunately, in May of this year, the LPC launched an interactive web map for permit applications. This new map for the first time allows the public to see geographically where LPC permits for work have been filed and issued. LPC also enhanced its Permit Application Search tool, which now gives users the ability to search by community district and work type.  So I took a look.

Screenshot from LPC permit search map.

Search parameters on LPC permit page allowed us to search by work type, with the keyword “storefront”.  We identified all of the storefront work permits for three representative streets in the West Village — Hudson Street, Sixth Avenue, and Bleecker Street.

Permits identified for Bleecker Street on LPC permit map keyword “storefront”.


The numbers in the chart below are 40% to 60% lower than the number of days claimed in the REBNY “report”.  Of course, there are many variables in evaluating how long an application takes.  For example, the application may have been incomplete for a long period of time while the staff waited for the applicant to submit materials.

REBNY’s “report” sought to create a storyline that the permit process in historic districts creates an undue burden upon merchants and property owners, thus leading to the blight of vacancy in our neighborhood.  The 169 days figure by REBNY does not hold up under scrutiny.

Stay tuned as we explore and expose other inaccuracies and misrepresentations found in the REBNY report.

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