The tenth annual ranking of national retailers in New York City by the Center for an Urban Future (CUF) just came out, and it reveals a 1.8 percent increase in the number of store locations over last year in the city as a whole. 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 mixed news for the zip codes that overlap with Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo. Two of our five zip codes saw a decrease in chain stores, while another two saw an increase. One remained unchanged. But the good news is the decreases were much larger, percentage-wise at least, than the increases, so we bucked the citywide trend of an uptick in chain store presence.
So first, the bad news. The 10014 zip code, which falls entirely within the West Village, saw a small 2% increase in chain stores. Last year there was a 5% decrease in the number of chain stores, according to the 2016 report.
The 10003 zip code also saw a 1% increase in chain stores; this covers most 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.
10011, which includes much of the central and west Village between 5th and Greenwich Avenues did not change. Much of this zip code lies north of 14th Street, and includes the chain-heavy 6th Avenue and 23rd Street corridors.
Now for the good news. The 10012 zip code, which includes much of the Village south of Washington Square, northern SoHo, and NoLIta, actually saw a 5% decrease in the number of chain stores.
And the 10009 zip code, which covers the East Village east of 1st Avenue, as well as Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, saw the largest decrease in chain stores, down 7%, from 28 to 26.
This zip code area 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 bucked this citywide and nationwide trend.
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, like many other communities, was working in 2017 to make supporting and maintaining diverse and unique homegrown businesses a priority. In June of last year, 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”. One way to do that is through 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. There is a proposal which GVSHP supports for a special zoning district in the East Village that would limit the proliferation of chain stores (more on that proposal here). Although the proposal seems stalled at the moment, it is hoped that the board will finally respond to the widespread support for a Special District this year.
Working to preserve small, independent businesses is a top priority for GVSHP in 2017. Want to help? We’ve got lots of ways:
And check out the Get Local guide by our friends at East Village Community Coalition.