In a recent Town & Village editorial, the topic was how the mid-lease rent hikes given to 1,300 residents was bad business. The reason was that it would cause hundreds of vacancies and end up replacing more stable residents like families with less stable ones like students and others living in roommate situations.
However, there is another reason why we think the mid-lease increases (which have been as high as over $2,000) are bad business and bad for the community.
The other reason is that an exodus of tenants means a sharp drop in business for local retailers, many of whom have already been hurting since Sandy and the temporary closure of the VA Medical Center. Obviously, eventually new tenants will replace the departing ones as customers of local shops, but with a large chunk of apartments being vacated, this is a process that’s going to take some time. Meanwhile, since apartment buildings around here for years now have had revolving doors due to steadily increasing rents, the challenge of regularly trying to attract – and to keep – clients is one that local businesses have already, on a gradual level, been struggling with.
But don’t take our word for it. Hear what a couple of merchants had to say.
Jen Cohen-Vigder, one of two owners at Beehives & Buzzcuts, a children’s hair salon that also offers art and music classes for kids, said the rent increases are all her clients can talk about.
“We have that conversation every day, three times a day, how awful it is,” said Vigder-Cohen.
Though she hadn’t yet considered what the effect could be on her not even two-year-old business, she conceded that if local families were replaced by students, “It’s not a good thing for our business.
“The strength of this neighborhood is in the diversity of the ages and generations and it’s important to our business,” Vigder-Cohen added. “We sell a lot of toys to grandparents and great-grandparents and we value them and the families who seem to be impacted.”
Dave Sidoti, owner of the Town and Village hardware store, also predicted a negative impact on the local economy.
“This is not going to be a good thing obviously,” said Sidoti. “It’s not going to be a community if Stuy Town turns into one-year lease hotel rooms. Consequently, when people pay these exorbitant rents, they’re not going to be spending or contributing to the economy. Students don’t spend at your local businesses except restaurants and bars. They don’t spend money to fix up their apartments and even your newspaper, they aren’t going to subscribe, because they’re just going to stay a year and leave. They aren’t going to care. It’s a shame.”
Sidoti added that as a result of the recent round of rent hikes, he’s already said his good-byes to a customer. The resident, he said, couldn’t afford the increase and will be moving to Queens.
“It’s not that I don’t want young people in the neighborhood; don’t get me wrong,” said Sidoti. “But they’re not necessarily starting a life in New York City. They’ll stay for a year or two and then they have to move to the outer boroughs. And as your outer boroughs get filled up, where are your working people going to go? Are they going to travel two hours for a ten-dollar-an-hour job? In the future, it’s going to be a major problem. The landlords are here to make a buck, and they can get that money from restaurants and big corporations. You’re not going to have mom and pop stores offering small services.”