MONDAY, OCT. 28, 2013
Dear City Council Members:
The Staten Island Board of Realtors (SIBOR) represents over 1,700 Realtors and affiliated professionals (brokers, salespersons, property managers, appraisers, home inspectors, attorneys, lenders, etc.) who live and work in our borough. We want to share with you our thoughts regarding the proposed New York Wheel and Empire Outlet Mall project in St. George.
It comes as no surprise to anyone when we say the North Shore, specifically the neighborhoods in and around St. George, has suffered from decades of underinvestment and underutilization.
We hope the New York City Council will follow through on the promise of St. George and vote “Yes” to the New York Wheel and Empire Outlet Mall project on Oct. 30.
During this past year, one of our members completed a survey of the available retail spaces in the neighborhoods encompassing the Bay Street corridor from Stapleton to the Ferry terminal and found a vacancy rate in excess of 20 percent.
Consider that in downtown Manhattan there is a 2.2 percent vacancy rate and currently the national average retail vacancy rate is 10.5 percent. It seems inconceivable that a waterfront district in New York City, in close proximity to downtown Manhattan, is saddled with DOUBLE the national vacancy rate because individuals could not find a compelling reason to invest in this blighted community.
Since this project was first announced, our members have reported that the mood has changed from “wait and see” to a genuine excitement among merchants, property owners and residents in the area.
Members of the Staten Island Board of Realtors have seen more requests for space in these neighborhoods in the past six months than we have in the past six years.
Local merchants and property owners have organized to collaborate on safety, beautification and streetscape ideas. Investments have been discussed and planned along the Bay Street corridor – investments that will be made based on the premise that the Wheel and the Empire Outlets will bring a new vibrancy to the area and that opportunity will then expand throughout St George and Stapleton.
With rejuvenated stores, new businesses and new capital invested in an area that is crying out for it, we are looking at a revival in these neighborhoods that will positively impact the nearly 35,700 people who live in those neighborhoods. This will help bring in better services, more employment opportunities and a higher quality of life for all.
If this project does not go forward, it will not just set the area back a year; it will set the area back many years. It will send a “stop investing” message to the businesses and property owners not just in the immediate area, but far beyond.
A thumbs-down on the project would condemn this area to a continued experience of blight and a vacancy rate that is already double the national average. The new businesses and individuals that had been viewing this area as a viable location will pull away, seeing no compelling reason to come and experience all that St. George and Staten Island have to offer.
The negative effect on property values will extend beyond just commercial real estate, influencing the residential market values as well. Instead of inspiring new stakeholders in the community, a “No” vote will be inspiring the status quo. As we have stated earlier, the status quo has been anything but inspiring.
Over the past 30 years, many neighborhoods in New York City have had their transformational moment – Grand Central to Harlem to Williamsburg. This is St. George’s time. Overwhelmingly, the response from our members who live, work and vote in the area has been positive. They report that the property owners and business people they have been involved with are also extremely positive in regard to these projects.
The $500 million that will be invested in this area will extend beyond the lot lines of the Wheel and The Empire Outlets. It will be a spark in this area, which the residents, business owners and community has been looking for to change the dynamic and usher in a new era for downtown Staten Island.
Too often, Staten Islanders have reason to believe they are part of New York City’s forgotten borough. That sense has been built over years where outside influences have dictated the terms by which Staten Islanders have had to live. On Oct. 30, the City Council can change this.
Traci Cangiano, President, Staten Island Board of Realtors, and Sandy Krueger, CEO, Staten Island Board of Realtors