Ben Fractenberg
Feb 2, 2018 · 3 min read

See How Shuttered Storefronts Are Destroying The West Village’s Character

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Anyone who has recently strolled through iconic New York neighborhoods like SoHo or the West Village has witnessed how blighted they’ve become by empty businesses.

There are many reasons for this, including commercial rents skyrocketing by upwards of 75 percent to $860 per square foot in some Lower Manhattan neighborhoods, per an August New York Times report.

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A man walks by the shuttered SUSHISAMBA on Sixth Avenue. (Photos by Ben Fractenberg)

In an effort to document how this impacts the city I spent a few weeks walking every street in the Village and photographing each shuttered commercial space from Sixth Avenue west to the Hudson River and from Houston Street north to 14th Street.

I came across about 150 of them, which you can see on the map.

Longtime Village resident Bud Beatty, 63, lamented the changes.

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“Everything is gone. I don’t know how a business could spend that much money,” Beatty said near his building on West 10th Street. “This whole area used to be more little shops. It’s sad.”

Major thoroughfares like Bleecker Street, once dotted with sex and head shops, have been replaced with corporate businesses and high-end boutiques.

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Another Bleecker Street corner business sat empty.

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Some of the storefronts have been left vacant for months, causing them to be graffitied in a way more reminiscent of ’70s New York.

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The retro Hamilton’s Soda Fountain & Luncheonette at the corner of West 4th and Bank streets closed in 2016 and still has not been replaced.

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Greenwich Street’s El Faro Restaurant, which started serving Spanish food in 1927, remains vacant after being shuttered in 2012 by Department of Health violations.

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Stretches of Christopher Street, one the Village’s historic LGBTQ enclaves once teeming with local shops, are plastered with for rent signs.

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Still, some mom-and-pop stores refuse to go gently into that good night.

Jeff Slatnick, 73, started working at the Music Inn on West 4th Street in the 70s before taking over the business when the owner passed away.

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Slatnick said he believed some landlords were willing to keep commercial rents affordable so they could attract renters to their buildings with the charm of the location.

But he saw another insidious force threatening his livelihood.

“Amazon, that’s the biggest attack on every store,” the owner said. “Now we’re threatened because of the Internet.”

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The site of the former Mew Men restaurant on Cornelia Street.

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