Foot traffic remains low in prime Manhattan neighborhoods

Storefront vacancies are up, revenues for small businesses are down

Foot traffic in Union Square, the Flatiron District and Chelsea is down by 50% from February. (Getty)
Foot traffic in Union Square, the Flatiron District and Chelsea is down by 50% from February. (Getty)

Foot traffic in Manhattan’s most visited business districts has dropped off significantly since the pandemic began, putting a strain on small businesses and retailers.

The number of inactive storefronts in Union Square and the Flatiron District, including those that were closed and vacant, rose 36 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The publication analyzed Foursquare foot traffic data, and found that activity was down 50 percent in the Flatiron District, Union Square and Chelsea, compared with February. That’s better than the spring, when foot traffic declined 75 percent, but is still lower than outer-borough neighborhoods where foot traffic has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Before the pandemic, Union Square and the Flatiron District had plenty of people populating the streets, including residents, office workers and students from nearby universities. But since the onset of the pandemic — when hundreds of thousands of people left Manhattan — business and foot traffic has vanished.

Small business owners like Tom Geniesse, the proprietor of Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit on West 19th Street, said that revenue has dropped off significantly since February. While retail wine sales are up 19 percent this year nationwide, his store saw revenue decline by about 35 percent.

Meanwhile, sales at Gotham Coffee Roasters, also on West 19th Street, are down about 60 percent this year, according to its CEO, Chris Calkins. “We’re still bleeding money,” he said.

[WSJ— Keith Larsen