New York City - Thompson: I'll Brake Chains Of 'Everywhere' Stores
New York City - You’ll have to hike awhile to reach the nearest Starbucks or Duane Reade if city comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson has his way.
During a forum last week in Midtown, the Democrats’ front-runner argued that chain stores are ruining the fabric of the city and suggested imposing restrictions to keep them from proliferating.
“If you look at neighborhoods all across the city of New York—East Side, Upper West Side, Brooklyn Heights and so many others—that were at one point wonderful because of the local businesses that were there and now it’s changed dramatically,” Thompson told a meeting of Democrats in Hell’s Kitchen.
“Now those local businesses have been pushed out. It makes our city very different.”
Banks were singled out as one of the worst culprits.
“I never knew there was a need for that much money in having all those ATMs across the city of New York,” observed the comptroller.
Thompson aides pointed to San Francisco—which has some of the toughest zoning rules in the United States—as a possible model.
Under San Francisco’s “Formula Business Restrictions,” which have been upheld in the courts, individual neighborhoods get a chance to veto the establishment of a chain shop.
Thompson didn’t go quite that far.
But he did raise the idea of “retail retention zones” where large retailers would be blocked from renting space held by small mom-and-pop shops.
Thompson also called for taxpayer subsidies to hold down retail rents.
He pointed to a program begun in lower Manhattan after 9/11 that provided property-tax abatements of $2.50 per square foot and exemptions from the commercial-rent tax to businesses that relocated downtown.
That raises the question of whether the city—facing a $5 billion deficit in fiscal 2011—can afford new tax breaks.
Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign declined comment.
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