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PLG merchants: Landlords are keeping storefronts empty until gentrification hits

Closed for business: Shelley Kramer, vice president of Parkside Empire Flatbush Avenue Merchants Association, is spreading the word about the 22 vacant storefronts plaguing Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
Brooklyn Paper
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They’re the merchants of doomed!

The Prospect-Lefferts Gardens stretch of Flatbush Avenue is marred by long-empty storefronts as landlords wait for gentrification to bring higher-paying upscale retailers, according to local shopkeepers, who say the blight is bad for business.

“When you have less businesses open, you have less people coming here to shop,” said Shelley Kramer, vice president of the Parkside Empire Flatbush Avenue Merchants Association and owner of Play Kids toy store. “If you’re walking down the street and there’s a business at every door, it’s more appealing.”

There are currently 22 vacant commercial spaces along the 10-block stretch of Flatbush Avenue between Empire Boulevard and Parkside Avenue represented by the merchants association, many of which have been empty for a year of more, according to Kramer.

She believes the landlords are letting long-time tenants go, and are waiting for higher-end businesses to arrive when planned luxury residential properties open up — but that is still a ways off.

“They’re asking for $7,000 a month and there are no businesses looking to open in this area that can afford that,” Kramer said. “The demographic and the clientele are not here yet.”

Beyond the aesthetics, it is also a problem for locals businesses because many aren’t aware that their landlords could follow suit once their leases conclude, and the merchants association is offering advice and legal expertise to help those shopkeepers renegotiate their terms, Kramer said.

But that will only benefit stores with renewal options built into their contracts — those without them are at the mercy of their landlords, who aren’t beholden to the types of laws that protect residential tenants from eviction, she said.

“Residential tenants have more rights to stand on,” Kramer said. “All we have is the lease.”

Hoping to drive legal change, the merchants association invited Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D–Prospect-Lefferts Gardens) on a tour of their Flatbush Avenue territory on Feb. 13, where the clusters of empty storefronts struck the local lawmaker as a serious problem.

“This is an emergency,” Eugene said. “We have to find a solution to help them protect their businesses.”

The pol claimed he is working on two bills to help small businesses hang onto their leases, but refused to give any specifics, leaving the local business advocates skeptical that he is capable of accomplishing timely and effective change.

“He didn’t say what they were, which makes me a little nervous knowing how long it takes to get bills passed,” Kramer said.

Numerous landlords of vacant storefronts on the stretch did not return requests for comment.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 2:01 am, February 15, 2017
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Reasonable discourse

Charles from Bklyn says:
This is a common theme for landlords who dream their buildings are worth more than the actual value. Their greed hurts the community, and ultimately costs them lost rent. I would more heavily regulate building ownership in NYC, including mandatory set-aside apartments for disabled people, enforcement of rent stabilization laws, and a prohibtion on warehousing commercial spaces. Buildings do not exist in a vaccum.
Feb. 15, 2017, 9:38 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
There should be fines for any viable commercial storefronts that stay vacant for more than 6 months.
Feb. 15, 2017, 10:59 am
Andrew from Jersey city says:
A fine isn't the answer, not everything is always due to greed. Retail apparel as a category is being killed by online, Abd the barrier for entry and risk to open a store is insurmountable for most people. There simply are not enough business to fill storefronts in all areas.
If you fine landlords who have space vacant why not fine consumers who walk past mom and pop stores then buy things on line for less, they are actually far more responsible for the loss of mom and pop stores than rising rents.

People want to quickly blame a faceless greedy landlord while ignoring what their own purchasing habits have contributed.
Feb. 15, 2017, 12:16 pm
Betty from Williamsburg says:
Andrew is right on target. Retail sales from an actual building are in the decline because folks are too lazy to go to a store. They shop in the stores ... see it...ask questions and then go on line to make the actual purchase...not fair!
The other part of the equation is the greedy city commercial taxes placed on buildings. How can rents remain low when the city is bleeding owners with taxes? They have created a system that drives out tenants because the rents need to cover the expense of the taxes and maintenance. We need a moratorium on comm'l taxes in retail districts to encourage lower rents and help small businesses to stay in business.
Feb. 15, 2017, 12:41 pm
Stacey Williams says:
They're just waiting for some fancy people to open up their Dunking Doughnuts, or some kind of health club! The people in this neighborhood want crappy businesses - don't go holding out on them! Give it!
Feb. 15, 2017, 10:30 pm
HONEY Pooter from Williamsburg says:
It'S the same thing here, they're just waiting for it to gentrify!
Feb. 16, 2017, 6:30 pm
Jinx from Flatbush says:
Thank you for speaking up, Shelley-- scumbag landlords, especially absentees, are the bane of Brooklyn and other NYC neighborhoods.

At least in the pre-internet age the owner almost certainly had to have SOME connection to the place. Now?
Feb. 17, 2017, 2:43 pm
Matt from Greenpoint says:
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
There should be fines for any viable commercial storefronts that stay vacant for more than 6 months.
Report abuse

Yikes!

These are the people that want to rule your world.
Feb. 18, 2017, 11:12 pm

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