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Vacant Storefronts in NYC

New York City can be a challenging place for small businesses to operate. In addition to adhering to occasionally complex regulatory schemes enforced by multiple City agencies, business owners confront hurdles including rising rents, taxation, competition from chain stores and e-commerce retailers, and various zoning restrictions. Over the course of the last year, a slew of beloved local establishments across the city closed amid skyrocketing costs.

In spite of this myriad of difficulties, the City has not yet conducted a comprehensive, longitudinal study of the specific disruptive impact that e-commerce has had on traditional retail. Several efforts have highlighted a different aspect of the larger issue of vacancies, though there was not enough data to ascertain the full scope of the issue.

Local Law 157 of 2019 seeks to gather data about the state of vacant storefronts to conduct the sort of studies needed to understand the full scope of storefront vacancy in New York City. The bill requires the department of finance to collect data and establish a public dataset of commercial properties in the City.

Through an analysis of this data, the New York City Council Data Team has investigated hotspots of storefront vacancies and potential economic correlations:

  • Overall, the highest vacancy rates are found in the lower and midtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn business areas. These are also the areas that received that most COVID-19 grants and loans.
  • At the neighborhood level, West Brighton, Stuyvesant Town-Cooper Village, Turtle Bay-East Midtown and Brooklyn Heights-Cobble Hill have the highest vacancies. At a more granular level, census tracts with the higher vacancy rates have, on average, 216 storefronts per census tract and are mostly located in lower Manhattan.
  • While the vacancy rate hovers around 12% for most census tracts, those with lower income residents are more likely to have very high vacancy rates (above 20% vacancy).
  • Improving current reporting of Local Law 157 of 2019 is important to fully understand the issue. Recommendations are provided below.
Map of New York City's five boroughs

Vacant Storefronts in NYC

8,542 Vacant Storefronts
Dec 31, 2020

11.3% of Storefronts
Dec 31, 2020

2.08% Increase in Vacant Storefronts
2019-2020 Change

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Vacant Storefronts by Neighborhood

2020, Neighborhood Tabulation Area

Vacancy rates by neighborhood tabulation areas

NYC Neighborhoods, 2020

Highest Vacancy % (Count)
West Brighton (Bk): 36.51% (23)
Stuyvesant Town-Cooper Village (Man): 25% (6)
Turtle Bay-East Midtown (Man): 19.81% (247)
Brooklyn Heights-Cobble Hill (Bk): 19.19% (57)

North Side-South Side (Bk): 18.52% (163)

Lowest Vacancy % (Count)
Williamsburg (Bk): 1.89% (2)
Auburndale (Qn): 2% (3)
Parkchester (Bx): 2.07% (3)
Rossville-Woodrow (SI): 2.60% (2)
Kingsbridge Heights (Bx): 2.61% (4)

Vacant Storefronts by Council District

2020, Council District

Vacancy rates by council districts

NYC Council Districts, 2020

Highest Vacancy % (Count)
CD 4 (Man): 17.48% (915)
CD 1 (Man): 16.66% (857)
CD 3 (Man): 16.26% (831)
CD 35 (Bk): 15.88% (159)
CD 33 (Bk): 15.09% (340)

Lowest Vacancy % (Count)
CD 14 (Bx): 4.70% (58)
CD 16 (Bx): 5.55% (53)
CD 51 (SI): 5.90% (60)
CD 13 (Bx): 6.23% (75)
CD 18 (Bx): 6.33% (56)

Vacant Storefronts Over Time

Vacancy Rates 2019-2020, By Borough

Manhattan had the greatest vacancy rate increase, 4.38% point difference from 2019 to 2020.
The vacancy rates of Queens and Brooklyn overall also increased, while that of Staten Island and the Bronx decreased.

Borough Change, Vacant Storefronts

Map of New York City's five boroughs

2019 – 2020
Manhattan: increased by 4.38% points
Brooklyn: increased by 1.57% points
Staten Island: decreased by 0.91% points
Queens: increased by 1.18% points
Bronx: decreased by 0.46% points

Neighborhood Characteristics and Storefront Vacancy

Median Income and Storefront Vacancy Rate

When the median income of a census tract dips below $40,000, the rate of storefront vacancy increases substantially.

While the vacancy rate hovers around 12% for most census tracts, those with lower income residents are more likely to have very high vacancy rates (above 20% vacancy).

Identifying Trends

Clustering based on number of storefronts and vacancy, 2020

We identified areas in NYC that have higher than average vacancy rates as well as a large amount of total storefronts by clustering the census tracts based on vacancy rates and the total number of storefronts in that area.

We see that as the number of total storefronts per census tract increases, so does the vacancy rate.

Census tracts with higher vacancy rates have, on average, 216 storefronts per census tract and are mostly located in lower Manhattan.

SBS COVID-19 Grants and Loans

2020, Employee Retention Grant & Small Business Continuity Loan

Map of employee retention grants and small business continuity loans by zip code

Employee Retention Grant

Top Zip Codes, 2020
10018 (Clinton-Midtown West): $1,531,889
10001 (Chelsea): $1,440,080
10013 (Tribeca): $1,049,157
10036 (Clinton-Midtown West): $1,015,852
10016 (Murray Hill-East Side): $996,767

Small Business Continuity Loan

Top Zip Codes, 2020
10018(Clinton-Midtown West): $1,443,250
10001 (Chelsea): $1,277,750
10012 (NoHo-Soho):$986,000
10016 (Murray Hill-East Side): $816,500
10019 (Upper West Side): $721,000

Recommendations on Reporting

The NYC Department of Finance currently reports vacant storefront properties to comply with Local Law 157 of 2019. Data is collected using an online portal, which allows owners to provide information about ground and second floor storefronts on their properties.

In the current data set, each row shows a ground floor or second floor storefront that was registered with the department as of December 31 of the reporting year and legally required updates provided as of June 30 (or date sold if earlier) of the calendar year immediately following the reporting year. Currently, each row contains the property’s borough, block and lot number and the storefront’s street address (and zip code).

Certain changes could be made by the Department of Finance to improve the overall usability of the data set. Those changes include:

  • Adding a column for the date and specifically the year of the data collected
  • Streamlining the multiple datasets for each year into one dataset to allow for easy integration in live updating tools/maps/charts and more accessibility to citizen data scientists
  • Reduce geocode null values
  • Require class 1 properties to update their status as of 6/30 or date sold if earlier than 6/30
  • Require owners to report the primary business activity of the last business that leased the storefront as well as the current business

 For feedback, comments, and questions please email

Created by the NYC Council Data Team.