Dear Editor,
Interesting reporting in the January issue regarding the restrictions on vehicular traffic on 14th Street. According to the article on page 11, we are led to believe that the “14th Street Busway” directly resulted in seven retail vacancies between 5th and 6th Ave. It takes some kind of journalism —conveniently disregarding other possible factors—to arrive at that conclusion.
Seven vacancies sound like a lot; however, what isn’t mentioned is there are roughly four dozen storefronts on that block, so the vacancy rate is only about 15%. The street is not “decimated.” The empty storefronts pictured in this article are really no different from other blocks in the neighborhood and throughout the city. Look at 6th Avenue between 10th and 14th. Gone are Sammy’s Noodle Shop, Pasta Flyer, Greenwich Village Mail Center, Wells Fargo, Rite Aid, and more….and it’s certainly not for lack of cars. 7th Avenue, 6th Avenue and 5th Avenue all have unrestricted vehicle traffic, as well as lots of retail vacancies.
The Citywide Mobility Study cited in the front-page story in the same issue (“It’s Time for Free Mass Transit”) all but proves that the Busway restrictions would not be the primary cause of the retail vacancies. According to this study, nearly every employee and 70% of customers would have either walked or used mass transit to get there, not a personal or for-hire vehicle. And applying the citywide average of 70% probably undercounts the actual rate for 14th Street…I doubt many customers drove to Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks pre-Busway.
Other reasons for retail vacancies are simply ignored by the writer. Did he give any thought to the pandemic and lost revenue due to shutdowns of non-essential businesses as potential causes? How about commercial landlords demanding unrealistic rents which don’t make economic sense for profit-seeking businesses? Those things certainly have made it difficult for in-person retail to thrive. Reasonable people can disagree over whether the 14th Street Busway is a good idea, however it is not the cause of the empty storefronts.
Bill Pullano