Real estate braces for another tense night
Industry mixed on how looting will affect retail’s return
New York’s real estate industry braced for another night of uncertainty Tuesday after high-profile instances of looting cast doubt on the city’s recovery.
Protesters started gathering again in the afternoon ahead of the city’s moved-up 8 p.m. curfew as shop owners boarded up storefronts. The previous night, looters struck Soho, Midtown and the Fordham Road section of the Bronx, among other areas.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the city announced it was banning vehicular traffic to Manhattan south of 96th Street except for essential workers.
GFP Real Estate co-CEO Brian Steinwurtzel said the move should help prevent a repeat of the previous night’s mayhem.
“From what I could tell, a lot of the looting was organized in a way that cars and vans were showing up to do it,” he said. “I think that will help elimane these groups’ ability to do that again.”
Videos on social media showed cars being used to help loot stores in areas such as Soho, where shop owners spent the day assessing the damage from Monday night.
In South Brooklyn, a group claiming to include more than 100 business owners and residents said it was gathering “armed with legal weapons, including baseball bats and more” to protect the community from looters.
Steinwurtzel said he believed most of the activists protesting the death of George Floyd were doing so peacefully and that a small number of bad actors were stealing from stores. He added that he spent the day talking with residents, store owners and office tenants about their plans for the city’s reopening following the Covid-19 shutdown, and that the looting cast a dark shadow over what had been a sense of optimism.
“I think things had been moving in a really positive direction until the past few days,” he said. “It seems like this is the last thing New York needs.”
In some of the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods, business improvement districts reversed guidance they had given retailers early in the shutdown against boarding up storefronts.
“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.”
Many retailers were preparing to return partially for phase 1 of the city’s planned reopening, set for Monday.
“I think all retailers in the city had been making plans to open as soon as they possibly can,” said Peter Braus of Lee & Associates. “This is just going to set them back further.”
Kramer Levin attorney Jay Neveloff said it was unclear how the looting and curfews would change stores’ plans to reopen.
He did note an anomaly: Looted stores, many of which have been unable to generate sales during the shutdown, may see their first income in weeks — from insurance claims.
“It really shows how the world is upside-down right now,” he said.
Contact Rich Bockmann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-415-5229