Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Hearing on retail diversity

State Senator Squadron will hold a hearing on retail diversity.

Unless we want every neighborhood in New York to look alike, local businesses will need support, non local businesses regulation and restriction.

The latter can include the former. A zoning that restricts businesses -- there are zonings that exclude banks and airlines, for example -- can drive down commercial rents, preserving local stores that serve the local community: if big payers like banks or nightlife destinations are excluded from a neighborhood, landlords must settle for the humble low renters like the store that's already there and been there eighty years.

I'd want to warn the Senate that big money is more accomplished than small business at exploiting government programs. Unless carefully crafted, government assistance to business can easily spread the harm it was intended to contain. And big business will lobby to craft any measure to its benefit.

I'd also warn that no narrowly-bestowed assistance or focused regulation can alone save small businesses from the onslaught of the sweeping rush towards money. Loss of local business belongs to a larger social and economic trend towards the upscale in New York that includes both local residents and businesses. Residential upscaling endorses commercial upscaling in the advancing spiral towards generic mainstream culture of no particularity, no flavor, no difference, no identity, leaving chain stores and non-local upscale nightlife where a neighborhood once was. Even old stores in situ cannot resist the transforming allure of new money. There's no frog wouldn't prefer being prince.

So the force of that current in a metropolis can't be reversed with a narrow focus on retail, but preserving retail is one good place to start the dam. Without regulation, the real estate marketplace -- both the purveyor profiteers and their limitless hosts of consumers -- will efface the entire city and all its neighborhoods.

The blight continues in the East Village and the Lower East Side, and is infecting Chinatown now.


Anonymous said...

Retail diversity is a myth. You need a core of stores that are all alike in order to attract customers. Wheather the core is restaurants, clothing, jewelry, shoes etc. Once you have a core that atracts customers other stores will follow. The butcher the baker and candlestick maker are myths that do not exist in Manhatan anymore.

Anonymous said...

Legislating what goes and what stays was tried by Russsia and failed. Let the marketplace decide. Keep government out of retail.

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