The twelfth annual ranking of national retailers in New York City by the Center for an Urban Future (CUF) just came out, and it reveals a 3.7 percent decrease in chain stores citywide over the past year, marking the largest year-over-year drop in national retail locations since they began their annual analysis of the city’s chain retailers more than a decade ago. You can see the full report here.
The report breaks out chain stores by zip codes, which is useful but also has its limitations, given the lack of correspondence between zip code and neighborhood boundaries. Even so, there is mostly good news for the zip codes that overlap with Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo. Four of our five zip codes saw a decrease in chain stores, and only one saw an increase.
So first the bad news. The 10009 zip code, which covers the East Village east of 1st Avenue, as well as Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, saw a 15% increase in chain stores. This sounds like a lot, and is certainly not a good development. But to give context, this zip code starts with a very low number of chain stores in the first place, so the 15 % increase is accounted for by an addition of just four stores. Regardless, this increase does point to the need to move ahead finally with the restrictions on chain stores in the East Village — but more on that later.
Now for the good news.
The 10003 zip code saw a 6% decrease in chain stores; this covers much of NoHo and the East and Central Village from 1st to 5th Avenues, 14th to Houston Street, though it also includes the chain-heavy Union Square and East Flatiron areas between 14th and 20th Streets, 1st and 5th Avenues. From 2018 to 2019 this zip code shed ten chain stores.
The 10011 zip code, which includes much of the central and west Village between 5th and Greenwich Avenues, saw a decrease in chain stores of 6%, which was the result of eight such locations being shed. Much of this zip code lies north of 14th Street, and includes the chain-heavy 6th Avenue and 23rd Street corridors.
The 10012 zip code, which includes much of the Village south of Washington Square, northern SoHo, and NoLIta, also saw a 4% decrease in the number of chain stores.
And the West Village 10014 zip code saw an 11% dip in such chain stores, falling from 55 to 49 in total.
Despite the sharp increase in chain stores in the 10009 zip code, it continues to have one of the lowest concentrations of chain stores in Manhattan, with most of the Manhattan zip codes with fewer chains covering a much smaller area and/or having many fewer stores than the retail-heavy East Village (the report counts and ranks the number of chain stores, not their concentration, i.e. how many chain stores are in an area as a percentage of the overall number of stores; thus a zip code may actually have a very high number of chains but a relatively low percentage, and vice-versa, depending upon how much area it covers and how many shops there are in the area).
We’d like to think that the broad efforts in our neighborhoods to combat chain store proliferation and the support residents show for local, independent, home-grown businesses is part of the reason our neighborhoods have contributed to this generally positive trend of chain store decreases.
Chains promote homogeneity, take money out of neighborhoods, and can lead to vacancies as landlords wait for a national chain to pay exorbitant rents that further contribute to putting local independent stores out of business.
But the loss of independent businesses does not have to be a foregone conclusion. Community Board #3 (East Village/Lower East Side), like many other communities, has been working to find ways to maintain and support diverse and unique homegrown businesses. Hundreds of local residents and business owners have signed a petition and attended hearings to support our proposal to restrict chain store proliferation in the area.
We are seeking to do that through the designation of a special district, which is a zoning overlay used 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. Village Preservation supports a proposal for a special zoning district in the East Village that would limit the proliferation of chain stores. Thanks to the advocacy of local residents and the work of the Economic Development Committee of Community Board #3, the proposal is being shaped into a resolution, it is hoped that the board will soon formally approve this measure in response to the widespread support for a Special District very soon. We hope that once implemented in the East Village, it can serve as a model for similar measures in Greenwich Village and elsewhere.
Working to preserve small, independent businesses is a top priority for GVSHP in 2020. Want to help? We’ve got lots of ways:
And check out the Get Local guide by our friends at East Village Community Coalition.