In the past few years a litany of small businesses have closed in Manhattan. From music venues like CBGBs and the Roseland Ballroom to stalwart restaurants like Union Square Cafe, NYC landmarks are disappearing at an alarming rate. Normally this would be a sign of a struggling economy but here it means quite the opposite. These businesses are not closing due to a lack of success but rather from increases in rent. The result is more office space and less culture in the City’s central borough.
The irony of this situation is that it is self-inflicted. Many of these businesses opened in rough neighborhoods, such as Hell’s Kitchen, years ago. The existence of such cultural institutions made those neighborhoods more attractive. As more people moved in, rents inevitably went up. So when the leases for these businesses expired, their rents increased to impossible levels. This left these hip spots no choice but to pack it in and a vacancy too expensive to fill by anything but corporations.
The resulting gentrification has made most of Manhattan a less worrisome place to explore at night but it has also sucked the life from it; anything worth doing in life is at least a little bit scary. Streets have become filled with suits and devoid of artists, riddled with the innocuous and missing the unique, their once vibrant colors painted over with beige.
A positive effect of this has been the resurgence of Brooklyn. Brooklyn has quickly become the cultural hub of the City with restaurants and venues sprouting up throughout the borough. However, with a landscape very similar to that of Manhattan past, it breeds fear that Brooklyn will fall into the same cycle as Manhattan and gentrify itself into corporate oblivion, a process which has already begun.