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NYC Landlords To Face Tougher Scrutiny Over Reporting Vacant Retail Space

An empty storefront on Bleecker Street in 2018.

New York City upped its demands on landlords to disclose retail vacancies in their buildings in a new bill passed Thursday.

The city council passed the bill, sponsored by Council Member Gale Brewer, the former Manhattan borough president, which expands on a 2019 law that established a registry of vacant space and required owners to the report status of their properties, The Real Deal reports.

The rule, known as Local Law 157, sets deadlines for when information has to be handed over and requires landlords to say when the last lease expired. A landlord must tell the city of a June 30 vacancy by Aug. 15, and for an empty space on Dec. 31, the city must know by Feb. 15, per TRD.

“This will provide more data to observe patterns and trends to make better decisions,” Brewer reportedly said in a statement. The Real Estate Board of New York said it supports gathering more data to inform the formation of policies.

Some 11.3% of storefronts in New York City were vacant at the end of 2020. The gathering of the data about the vacancy is to inform studies about the extent of the issue, according to the city council's website. The Department of Finance collects the data, but since the 2019 law passed, the registry has lacked enough data to be considered a useful policymaking tool.

The city's retail vacancy has been worsening over the years. Between 2007 and 2017 the amount of vacant retail space went from about 5.6M SF to over 11.8M SF, according to a 2019 analysis from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer's office. Talk of commercial rent control has been circling over the last few years as a possible remedy, which many in the real estate and business community do not support.