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NYC underground retail spaces at alarming 75% vacancy rate. Here’s how the city plans to fill them.



NYC underground retail spaces at alarming 75% vacancy rate. Here’s how the city plans to fill them.

NEW YORK — Retail businesses in New York City’s subway system are failing and some merchants who are hanging on admit they are struggling to keep their doors open.

Sad-looking storefronts occupy the underground, places where you could once grab a slice or a newspaper or a coffee.

Of 195 retail spaces in the subway system, only 52 are open for business. A vacancy rate of nearly 75% is something subway riders notice.

“It does seem more and more spaces are closing,” one man said.

“Something is happening and for a reason, possibly an economics problem,” a woman added.

The fear is real for underground business owners  

Tommy Gehlhaus owns Tommy’s Figz, a retro collectibles store in the Columbus Circle station that is next to recently closed businesses.

“They can’t make the rent and we’re just not getting enough foot traffic,” Gehlhaus said.

At Tiny Dancer Coffee, connected to the 50th Street/Broadway station, owner Adrien Gallo said he can tell more people work remotely from home on Fridays and Mondays.

“I think ridership is down. I’ve definitely noticed it. While everyone else touts that it’s back up, I see numbers day by day,” Gallo said.

So what’s being done to fix the problem?

The MTA recently rolled out a plan to put art and entertainment into some of the vacant storefront space.

“Our MTA real estate group is activating the spaces in about 30 stations, bringing into the station arts, cultural groups for non-commercial purposes,” said Sandra Bloodworth, director of MTA Arts & Design.

A busking station for musicians recently opened on the Upper West Side and art exhibits are popping up throughout the system. They help beautify the spaces, while merchants cross their fingers and hope for better days ahead.

“We work hard every day to attract everybody that walks by and hopefully they’ll stop,” Gallo said.

Stop and shop.

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