EMPTY STORES: NYC faces 'commercial vacancy crisis'

No matter where you go in New York City, it’s not hard to find empty storefronts dotting the streets with “For Rent” signs sitting in the window.

Residents have been feeling the pinch of living in one of the most expensive cities in the nation for years now, but business owners are having a tough time of it as well, with rising rents squeezing profit margins.

Now, thanks to a just-passed bill authored by City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, the city will be required to both create a registry of vacant storefronts and track all active commercial leases, in the hope of figuring out how to address what is being called a “commercial vacancy crisis.”

“We’re all seeing in our districts across the city the loss of our independent businesses,” Rosenthal says.  "We can't pass good legislation or create new, good public policy without good data."

Retail tenants aren’t the only ones feeling the squeeze in the city. Landlords are struggling with rising real estate taxes, carrying spaces while they sit vacantly and sinking more money into rentals to make them more attractive.

"Co-ops traditionally don't have the reserves sitting there to put money into prepping a space," Robin Abrams, Vice Chairman of Abrams Retail Strategies says.

And with ground-floor retail spaces sitting empty, the apartment owners in the floors above must pay more maintenance fees to make up for the lack of rental income.

Prices in New York City appeared to peak three years ago and monthly rents and vacancies are decreasing.

"Trends shake things up and self-correct," Abrams says.