On the stretch of Graham Avenue between Maujer and Stagg Streets, blocks from the Montrose L Train station, there’s a line of empty storefronts. In a neighborhood as white-hot as Williamsburg, they’re an unusual sight — because they’ve sat unoccupied for at least a year, but also because of their owner: the New York City Housing Authority.
NYCHA, which owns and operates all of NYC’s public housing, has been leasing commercial space on city property since it was established in 1935. Rent is affordable: a 630-square-foot retail space on the first floor of the Williamsburg Houses — on the aforementioned stretch of Graham — is available for $1,312.50 a month, and a 375-square-foot space in Manhattan’s Harlem River Houses is renting for just $562.50.
So why are so many of them empty? There are five store spaces on Graham without a renter, and another nine were recently leased to a supermarket that hasn’t yet moved in, a NYCHA representative told ANIMAL via email, adding that the agency “makes every effort to identify viable commercial tenants for its spaces that serve both the residents and the community.” When we inquired about just how long the storefronts have been unoccupied, the representative wrote that NYCHA does not “keep specific records” about vacancy.
NYCHA, it should be noted, is not exactly swimming in money. As of last year, the city agency was $60 million in debt, and it has considered a controversial plan to lease public housing land to luxury apartment developers. Finding tenants for the 11 spaces currently listed as available on its website would bring in an additional $328,069 in revenue per year — not nearly enough on its own to get NYCHA out of the red, but a significant income source that doesn’t involve turning project playgrounds and parking lots into expensive high rises.
The representative offered a few guidelines for perspective renters. Restaurants and clubs are off-limits, and many of the available spaces are not open to delis or grocery stores. According to the NYCHA representative, an ideal tenant provides “goods and services that benefit the residents of the development and the broader community,” demonstrates “expertise and experience in operating their business, ” can “sustain it during rough patches [and] pay rent on time, and does not “create any nuisance issues.”
If that sounds like you, apply here.
(Photos: Bucky Turco/ANIMALNewYork)