Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bank Shot

The Times' City Room Blog posted a story about the proliferation of bank branches in so many areas of the city. This story should be read as a companion piece to the NY Sun article about the decline of mom and pop stores in the city-the subject of a hearing conducted by David Yasskey's Small Business Committee.

The bank explosion, and similar phenomenon with drug stores, is causing the disappearance of local small businesses-stores that provide vital services to their neighborhoods. In addition, the result of all this is a loss of diversity and vitality as all the city's neighborhoods begin to resemble each other as a result of this homogenization process. As one City Room commenter said: "I think it’s a blessing that in my neighborhood I am no more than 100 steps from an ATM. Not to mention only 100 steps from a place to buy dental floss. OK, so I can’t buy a good piece of fruit without several blocks, and one of the best pizza places in the city (in my neighborhood) is under dire threat, etc. But who needs fruit or a Mom and Pop pizza joint when you have such great access to cash and floss?"

Another really big concern here is the loss of neighborhood supermarkets, driven out by the rents that the banks, drug stores and national chains can afford to lay out. As an another City Roomer remarked: "Supermarkets around Manhattan are forced to close as their leases expire. They cannot pay the levels of rent that bank branches pay. The New York Times actually ran a story about the dwindling number of grocery stores in the city. Now we can understand the reason."

All of this was the focus of the Yassky hearing (Gale Brewer was a co-chair). At the hearing Rob Walsh, commissioner of Small Business Services, expressed sympathy with the law makers concerns but told the hearing that there weren't many easy solutions. Walsh might want to think outside of his boss' narrow big business perspective and examine how the use of overall tax reductions, leavened with some creative zoning ideas, could stem the exodus of one of the features that make this city so interesting.