During one of his interviews with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was “very interested” in establishing a vacancy tax to penalize landlords who leave storefronts empty while seeking higher rents.
The Real Deal’s digital editorial director Hiten Samtani recently sat down with Rafael Pi Roman of PBS affiliate WNET-13 to discuss this proposal, and while he acknowledged that retail was struggling in the city, he said that landlords insisting on getting high rents were not the major culprit behind empty storefronts.
“I think that’s a little bit overblown, to be honest,” Samtani said, maintaining that a bigger factor is “Amazon or Jet.com, these big ecommerce giants who are taking a lot of the day to day shopping experience off the stores, out of brick and mortar and online, and we still haven’t figured that out.”
Samtani said de Blasio would likely have to go through Albany to actually get a vacancy fee implemented and cited a tax incentive for landlords who fill up empty storefronts as another possible solution to the problem.
TRD reported in October that retail was vacant in almost $1 billion worth of newly purchased real estate in Soho and counted 82 empty storefronts in July on the Upper East Side between 57th and 96th streets and Second, Third, Lexington and Madison avenues.
Watch the full interview between Samtani and Roman above. – Eddie Small