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Blue-State Paradise: Vacant NYC Storefronts ‘Creating Havoc,’ Nearly Double Since Pandemic

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New York City’s storefronts


In 2024, a notable 11.2 percent of New York City’s storefronts remain unoccupied, marking a stark rise from the 6 percent vacancy rate recorded in 2019.

Rapid escalation


While the numerical increase may seem modest, the 5.2 percentage point jump represents an alarming 86% surge in vacancies from 2019 to 2024, indicating a substantial and rapid escalation in empty storefronts.



The vacancies were commented on by Manhattan Councilmember and Democratic representative, Gale Brewer who said they “are creating havoc because there is homeless, garbage and the business next door hurts.”

Archaic zoning barriers


What is behind this pattern? At a recent session of the New York City Council Committee on Small Business, Calvin Brown, the deputy commissioner for neighborhood development, attributed the issue to “archaic zoning barriers.”

Eric Adams


New York City Mayor Eric Adams has been a proponent of revising the existing zoning laws. Through his program, the “City of Yes,” Adams seeks to actively pursue this objective.

Economic opportunity


According to the New York City Planning Department website, “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity would remove outdated limitations on businesses and ensure that local retail streets and commercial centers across the city can remain lively places that sustain our neighborhoods.” However, is it truly the zoning limitations that have resulted in the high number of vacant spaces?

4.4 billion


As reported by The New York Post, retail businesses in the state suffered a total of $4.4 billion in losses in 2022 as a result of shoplifting. The rate of theft has increased by 64 percent from June 2019 to June 2023. Additionally, within the city, incidents of retail theft have escalated by more than 6.5 percent in April 2024 compared to April 2023.



New York City Councilmember for Queens and Republican Vickie Paladino put it frankly. “We’ve got kids coming in on bicycles and just ransacking a store.” She continued, saying, “We can’t sugarcoat the fact that there’s rampant crime in the city that is preventing people from opening small businesses in areas that used to be nice places to go to.”

Retail theft


Bronx Councilmember Oswald Feliz, chair of the Committee on Small Business and a Democrat mentioned how close to home the issue was for him. “There’s a Walgreens one minute away from where I live that’s closing down due to retail theft.” Going further he stated, “Anytime I speak to a small business that is literally the very first issue they bring to us.”

Mundane items


Paladino mentioned theft has gotten so bad that even mundane items are locked away. “I went in to buy a tube of toothpaste. It, of course, was locked up as everything is now. But the store manager is keeping one tube of toothpaste behind the lock. It’s insanity.”

Imposing taxes


The proposed solution to the growing number of vacancies lacks effectiveness. Brewer supports the idea of imposing taxes on landlords, suggesting that owners of large retail properties intentionally keep them empty until chain stores become tenants.



In essence, whether caused by zoning restrictions or widespread theft, the surge in vacancies is evident. These empty spaces lead to issues such as homelessness and accumulating waste, with Brewer proposing a tax as the remedy. Without the government addressing homelessness, waste management, and crime, landlords will struggle to attract tenants, including chain stores.

Tax system


It’s worth noting that New York’s current tax system is rated poorly. According to the Tax Foundation’s 2024 State Business Tax Climate Index, New York ranked 49th out of 50 states in terms of tax system structure in 2024.



All of these challenges could have been avoided. The closure of businesses and storefronts due to COVID, leniency on crime and bail policies, and the exodus of wealthy residents due to high taxes were not inevitable for New York City. However, the city’s voters elected a government that implemented these decisions, leading to the current consequences.

Play stupid games


New Yorkers have played a stupid game, and as the old saying goes, “play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” And what prizes could be stupider than crime-ridden neighborhoods, locked up toothpaste, and piles of garbage?

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