EDITORIAL: On a positive ‘Note,’ hope for a blighted corner

The former bookstore space at the southeast corner of Eighth St. and Sixth Ave. has been vacant more than five years. For that whole time, TD Bank has held the lease.

Barnes & Noble closed its store there at the end of 2012. Years before that, it had been a B. Dalton bookstore. It was originally built to be a bookstore.

Our understanding is TD Bank has a long-term, 20-year lease, or thereabouts, and that they are paying an astronomical rent — $200,000 a month, or so we are told by a local source who is up on such things. That rent sounds incredible, but that’s the word on the street. If that’s the case, the landlord clearly feels this is a marquee location that can command the kind of sum from a quote-unquote “national chain” — the holy grail of Manhattan commercial property owners nowadays.

The vacant former Barnes & Noble store, at the corner of Eighth St. and Sixth Ave., has been an eyesore for years. Photo by Lincoln Anderson

Apparently, even TD Bank realizes we don’t need ANOTHER TD Bank, which is apparently why this spot hasn’t gotten one.

Meanwhile, for all these years, TD Bank could have done something else — something, almost anything within reason, would be better than nothing, in this case — with this key corner property. For example, why couldn’t we have had a bookstore there? On a short-term lease, if need be.

As William Kelley, the executive director of the Village Alliance Business Improvement District, has put it, that corner is “The Gateway to Eighth St.” Eighth St. was once the Village’s main shopping strip. Then it became a shoe-store street, then fell on hard times, filled with empty storefronts, and is now rebounding with upscale restaurants and nightspots.

Corners are key. All you need to do is listen to the recording of Jane Jacobs at the yellow upside-down “periscope” on the other side of the intersection on Ruth Wittgenstein Triangle. Jacobs talks about how important street corners are — places where streams of pedestrians mix and merge, come into contact.

This currently blighted corner reflects terribly on TD Bank — and also the landlord, who is happy to pocket the rent, of course, but should be pushing to reactivate that spot. This whole strip — from the old bookstore space down to the now-also-empty former Duane Reade space at Waverly Place is owned by one landlord, Friedland.

But now the Blue Note jazz club apparently is looking to open up a live-music venue there. Its liquor-license application has been on the Community Board 2 S.L.A. Committee’s agenda for two months but keeps getting “laid over” for some reason.

A music club there would be great, and would hark back to when Jimi Hendrix built Electric Lady Studio a few doors down and, before that, to when Barbra Streisand got her start singing at the Bon Soir on Eighth St.

What would be even better is if the place offered open-mic nights, like some of our favorite recently closed venues, Cornelia St. Cafe and SideWalk, and no-cover entry on at least some nights to see great local talent. Admittedly, that might not be part of the so-called “business model,” and perhaps it’s not very realistic to hope for that. But so far, the TD Bank business model has been a disaster!

13 Responses to EDITORIAL: On a positive ‘Note,’ hope for a blighted corner

  1. That whole block on 6th on both sides is due for some serious redevelopment. Mostly retail taxpayers, and a few old tenements. They could do some serious residential over retail there, hundreds of units.

  2. There is far more than enough retail in this area. This building being closed is not a bad thing. It could use some beautification rather than a line of kids waiting to get into a club there. It'd make walking along that sidewalk even more impossible without being knocked over or out into traffic.

    The Bank could care less about this location, because they can continue to deduct the rent from their federal taxes. Just less they have to turn over to Uncle Sam. That's what needs to change – tax laws.

    It's too bad that they can't be forced to turn the space over and into low income housing. Everyone screams that we need places for the homeless and poor to live, and yet this building is just sitting there. nimfy?

  3. For several hundred years in NYC it was the public that decided through their patronage of what business would be in their neighborhoods. Now its the landlords who solely decide and that model is destroying the city's local economy. What is clear to just about everyone but our lawmakers is the landlord's model for the past 20 years has been based upon having all the rights when a business's lease expires and having these rights in a hyper speculative commercial real estate market has produced a growing crisis. It makes NO difference who takes over a location, when their leases expire they are in deep trouble. The turnover rate of businesses in NYC is a disgrace. The greed of landlords have made it impossible for small businesses to make a profit and thus has made NYC the most risky city in the world to invest in a business. Until they pass a law giving rights to business owners to negotiate fair lease terms , the future of every business and jobs is in jeopardy when their leases expire. We have the 2008 Wall Street model working on Main Street . The greedy controlling the lawmakers, to "do nothing" even with a growing crisis.

    • "Now its the landlords who solely decide" — and yet no law was enacted that changed anything. NYC has always been this way. Even Aaron Burr had problems staying in business. If SBJSA was so good, you wouldn't need to reinvent history.

      "when their leases expire they are in deep trouble." Or they could move to another empty storefront, if there are as many vacant ones as you want us to believe.

      "NYC the most risky city in the world to invest" — spoken like someone who truly has no data to back them up.

      "We have the 2008 Wall Street model" — you mean unsecured mortgage-backed securities that were bundled and resold by insurance companies like AIG? Well, you'd be so wrong, but I bet it felt good to type a lie.

      "The greedy controlling the lawmakers" — and yet, we continue to vote for these lawmakers, so maybe we need people other than Democrats on the ballot. Or maybe if the SBJSA wasn't unconstitutional, you wouldn't blame the people you vote for.

      Vacancy tax! Vacancy tax! Vacancy tax! Vacancy tax! Vacancy tax! Vacancy tax! Vacancy tax! Vacancy tax!

  4. Kevin Callaghan

    How about an Amazon store?

  5. No, not 100’s of units! Ugh. Glad I’m not an investor of TD Bamk – what a waste. The venue described might be great for the area.

  6. Guest is clueless. Yes FACTS matter. Most Small businesses cannot afford to just up and move to another location when the rents all over are too high, and they have ZERO right to renew after they establish their location for ten, twenty or more years and also improve the landlord's property value by the investments they make in that location, and in the end the community and its main street benefit. A vacancy tax will not save a single business, not one. Long time businesses need long term reasonable rents so they can renovate and continue to make a reasonable income, just as landlords are entitled to a reasonable return on their investments. I will not debate this further; except to say the Small Business JOBS Survival Act as everyone knows is constitutional and has been fully vetted. Facts as pointed out in another comment instead of pointless uninformed debates can be found at http://www.saveNYCjobs.org

  7. So much wrong with this article. The building was built after tearing down the low buidling that was there on the corner tht housed a nedicks and its first tenent was Nathans (I think the biulding may have been built specificly for nathans) then later it was a B&N and then the third tennet was the B. Daltons before it was boarded up for years. The building is emblematic of the Developers/lamdlords today who have shuttered the street by raising rents so that only high end stores can afford to be there if not actualy just keeping the property of the market until they can get that insane rent.

    What they are doing is creating their own blight so they can push for rezoning and other city concessions so they can tear down and build higher densith retail spaces. This is happeningh in soho as well

    • The renter (TD Bank) is keeping the space empty, not the landlord, so tearing it down is not on the table. You are currently wrong, but that could change.

      And SoHo is all about the racist council member who was bought off by REBNY, and she's trying to pay them back before you final term ends..

    • Damn the "lamdlords"!

  8. Dov, sorry, that's not correct. The building housed B. Dalton before Barnes & Noble, which was its most recent tenant. As to the landlord's ultimate plans, perhaps you know more than us.

  9. Where are the politicians? Actions speak louder than words. No one in power has addressed this crisis through meaningful action. This crisis was brought about by exponential rental increases. Those in power take real estate money.

    Save our City.

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