After looting, BIDs reverse guidance on boarding up stores

Business groups initially urged retailers against covering windows

(Photos by Sylvia Varnham O'Regan, Getty)
(Photos by Sylvia Varnham O'Regan, Getty)

Back in March, business improvement district leaders across New York City urged owners not to board up their storefronts during the pandemic. No longer.

“At the beginning of Covid, we told owners not to board up stores, that it would send the wrong message,” said Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance. “Now we are telling them they should.”

The change in guidance comes as looters strike some of the city’s most prominent business districts. The destruction Sunday and Monday nights stood in stark contrast to peaceful protests throughout the city, calling out racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo instituted a curfew at 11 p.m. Monday and have moved it to 8 p.m. for Tuesday and through at least the rest of the week.

BIDs are assessing the damage and recommending that owners remove merchandise from ground-floor windows and create physical barriers to prevent break-ins. Union Square Partnership has instructed commercial and residential property owners not to leave garbage on the curb overnight to avoid trash being set on fire.

Jennifer Falk, executive director of the partnership, noted that Union Square has become a “focal point for protest activity,” as “one of the primary places people think to congregate for the expression of free speech.”

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“We are all deeply troubled by the disturbing cascade of events recently, starting with the grievous death of George Floyd and then the resulting protests across the nation against police violence, entrenched racism, and the inequitable burden placed on minority communities during the pandemic,” she said in a statement.

On Monday afternoon, Dan Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership, followed protestors from Times Square to see if they’d eventually make their way to 34th Street.

“These protests are unpredictable,” said the leader of the business group, whose district includes Macy’s flagship store. Later that night, the store was sacked by hundreds of looters, according to Twitter posts and media reports.

Biederman lamented that his district is covered in plywood just as retailers were preparing to reopen. Retailers are slated to offer curbside and in-store pick-up starting June 8.

Write to Kathryn Brenzel at