Mapping Vacant Stores to Show How ‘High Rent Blight’ is Killing the City

Posted on: August 29th, 2016 at 5:12 am by


Warehousing. High rent blight. Store for rent. Call it what you want, but it’s a big problem in a city that so eagerly tosses its working class, mom-and-pop establishments into the proverbial gutter, in favor of high-paying corporate chains.

It’s something that the Lower East Side, but the city at large, grapples with to a much larger extent these days. Around here in the neighborhood, you can count dozens of stores that have been empty (and dusty) for at least two to three years.

That’s where programmer Justin Levinson comes in. He created a website that perfectly illustrates the problem on a handy map. Vacant New York shows just that; take it for a test spin…

Some context:

Even on a sunny June day, a third of the storefronts up and down this stretch of 14th Street are dark; the For Rent signs plastered on the windows keep the piles of conduit and shelving remnants in shadow. Plastic bags and empty takeout containers collect in the doorways, and one window has a streaky, sloppy graffiti tag painted in glass-etching acid. But this isn’t 1981, there’s a Duane Reade at the end of the block and upper-floor tenants are paying thousands per month for shoebox apartments. This is high-rent blight.

The vacancy problem is immediately visible but lacking in hard data. The intent of this project is to provide some background around commercial vacancies and use a map to give some insight into the extent of the issue, ideally doubling as a tool for community groups and policymakers to identify areas for intervention.

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