Ten years ago, photographers James and Karla Murray went out onto the streets of New York City to document the beautiful and unique storefronts that, for the better part of the last century, have been the defining face of New York. What they didn’t realize at the time was that they were documenting the end of an era.
After more than a decade under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s guiding hand, Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs have seen a dramatic change as Bloomberg’s policies championed new development through tax incentives and changes to zoning codes. The rezoning laws have allowed for luxury apartment high-rises in hot spots like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and the East Village. Since Bloomberg took office in 2001, more than 40,000 buildings have risen in the five boroughs.
The casualties of that effort have been the “Mom & Pop” businesses that used to define the neighborhoods that they were in. According to the Murrays, many of these businesses, like Mars Bar and CBGB, closed due to skyrocketing rents.
The Murrays recently went back to the storefronts they photographed a decade ago to see what has survived and what hasn’t. They were struck by what they found. Nearly two-thirds of the stores they photographed the first time around were no longer there.
James and Karla Murray shared some of the photos from the project with us here, but you can check out more at their website and blog. The original photographs of the storefronts were collected in the book, “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York.”
When the Murrays began photographing the storefronts ten years ago, they interviewed the store owners about their businesses. Many told them then that they feared losing their businesses due to rent increases.
Often landlords pushed out businesses in hopes of converting to condos. Sometimes, those plans never materialized, leaving storefronts simply vacant.
The East Village’s Mars Bar closed in 2011. It was torn down and replaced by a luxury condo with a soon-to-be-opened TD Bank on the ground floor.
Click here to see more of New York City’s changing storefronts.