As Looting Spreads Through Manhattan, Retailers Race To Board Up Storefronts
After damage at retailers in SoHo Sunday, looters moved north and vandalized and robbed stores along Fifth Avenue Monday. On Tuesday, New York City braced for yet another potential night of unrest.
A citywide curfew was brought forward to 8 p.m. Tuesday and will run through Sunday night, as property owners and retailers began to prepare for possible activity farther north.
While thousands of protestors took to the city streets to peacefully demonstrate after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, as Monday evening wore on, looters began smashing windows in some of the city's toniest shopping areas, damaging property and ransacking retail locations.
“People have seen this moment and they exploit it. That is criminal activity and it is looting,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his daily press briefing Tuesday.
He stressed those destroying property and stealing are separate from those demonstrating against race discrimination.
“New York City was looted," he said. "It was looted yesterday, in Manhattan, also in communities of color — in the Bronx, in Brooklyn, where we have spent years doing economic development. These looters destroyed businesses that are essential to the community.”
In describing the situation as a “disgrace,” Cuomo said Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police department had failed to manage the problem. He has offered to send the National Guard to the city, but de Blasio has declined the offer.
There was widespread damage to stores in SoHo Sunday night, and on Monday evening looting and vandalism broke out in areas including Herald Square and along Fifth Avenue. Plywood protecting Macy’s flagship store was ripped down and the store ransacked, while windows at the NikeTown store on Fifth Avenue were smashed and the store was robbed, as was a branch of Bergdorf Goodman — many small storefronts also sustained damage, The New York Times reported.
“We were scrambling yesterday and the day before, helping our retail tenants look at the cost of boarding it up, and looking at whether they could share the cost with the landlord,” Lee & Associates principal Greg Tannor told Bisnow. “If you can board up the store, board it up. Move everything to the basement. You need to protect yourself.”
Compass broker Robin Abrams was giving her clients a similar message.
“Their stores are at risk,” she said in an email. “What a mess from both a physical and emotional point of view for the country … It enrages me that racism exists in today's world and we have to do much better. Hopefully we can take some steps peacefully to make some real change.”
The 125th Street Business Improvement District sent an email Tuesday saying there would be increased police presence in the area, the heart of Harlem, and that property owners should begin fortifying their properties.
“We have been good up until now, but last night there were two attempted burglaries in our BID boundaries and one on 116th Street,” the email stated. “If you choose to use wood panels to secure your space, please make sure they cannot easily be removed.”
Other BIDs around the city took a similar approach, reversing previous advice against boarding up buildings, The Real Deal reported.
Founder of Madison Square Realty Eric Yarbro, who is a Harlem local and the co-chair of the Real Estate Board of New York’s Harlem and Bronx Committee, said he would be addressing the issue with the committee at a virtual meeting on Friday.
“I am duty-bound to address this issue as an African American,” he said. “When you see these young kids out there and putting their lives at risk to get a $200 pair of Nikes, it shows we need to have a broader conversation. There is a scarcity mentality and a hopelessness mentality … I would love to see the real estate industry lead us out of this in how we can address this.”