For the past few years, Community Board 3 has been increasingly concerned about the retail diversity of the neighborhood. Residents frequently complain about the high number of new bars and restaurants compared with other retail businesses, especially service providers (like butcher shops, tailors, etc.).
After several months of debate, CB3 has come up with a letter to neighborhood property owners — asking for their support in creating a more varied mix of businesses in their buildings. Here’s the text of the letter from CB3 Chair Dominic Pisciotta:
The Community Board is the structure for community participation in planning and decision making for our community. Community Board 3 looks at the community as a whole to plan for its economic benefit.
Residents and business owners in CB 3 are working together to ensure the economic vitality of our neighborhood. We believe it is important to involve property owners in this planning as well. Among our chief concerns are maintaining economic diversity and serving local retail needs. Our community has a high demand for more daytime retail business such as grocers, butchers, shoe stores, stationery stores and other businesses that serve our local residents. Research and public input have indicated that our current condition of too many bars and eating/drinking businesses works against promoting a diverse economy.
We want to ensure that you as property owners are aware of these community needs and priorities and that you relay them to your prospective commercial tenants. It is important for new prospective businesses to understand community priorities and plans before finalizing leases and investing money. In this effort, we welcome your participation in our planning and outreach. Please consider the following factors before signing a lease with your next retail tenant:
>Business owners who live and participate in the neighborhood are considered more community‐ friendly than absentee owners.
>Businesses should have diverse price points for our diverse community.
>Businesses open during the day and that attract daytime street traffic are a current priority.
>Businesses that offer a product or service other than eating and drinking are a current priority.
Some areas in our neighborhood have been overwhelmed with bars and restaurants. Our community does not have the infrastructure to be an entertainment zone. CB3 recommendations to approve liquor licenses will reflect this. It is important and fair for potential businesses to be aware of these priorities and areas. The areas that CB 3 believes are oversaturated with eating/drinking establishments can be found on the CB3 website. Click on Liquor License Information and the CB 3 Restrictions on Liquor Licenses in Certain Areas.
We invite your suggestions and participation in creating an economically vibrant community that will better serve the needs of our residents. The schedule for CB 3 meetings, which are always open to the public, can be found on our website at www.cb3manhattan.org. You can also sign up on the website to receive monthly agendas by email.
It’s good that the Community Board is interested in improving the quality of life in our community, but they seem sadly out of touch with what vibrant communities consist of these days and in the dark about how one actually attracts diverse businesses and services.
On the ‘out of touch’ front, it is somewhat worrying that our board seriously imagines ‘stationary stores’ and ‘butchers’ to set up shop on the LES in the 21st Centur. Why not also seek out hatmakers and quill pen factories?
As for how one actually attracts realistic valuable new businesses and services, it is not via pronouncements from Community Boards or hounding existing revenue and tax generating businesses (such as bars and restaurants) out of existence. Rather, the Board should be working on incentivizing desirable new enterprises to set up shop. Consider tax breaks and expedited approval processes for grocers selling fresh, quality products, for a higher end clothing retailer, for a great children’s toy store.
Rather than continuing the current diet of endless meetings and peculiar pronouncements, I suggest that our Community Board go out and see how real communities have reinvented themselves for the better in the real world, and bring those learnings back to our neighborhood for real positive change.
Well said, Ken! I also think it’s contradictory of CB3 to bemoan the lack of butchers and grocers in the neighborhood while at the same time failing to stand up for the Essex Street Market, likely to be lost to SPURA development. The market currently provides a home for exactly the kinds of diverse, community-friendly, local businesses CB3 is ostensibly trying to encourage. And, thanks to CB3’s guidelines, SPURA development is going to flood the neighborhood with large chain retail stores, to the further detriment of local businesses.
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