Jeremiah Moss (a pseudonym) has for years been documenting New York City's depressing transition into an outdoor mall filled only with Starbucks and drug stores, on his website Jeremiah's Vanishing New York.
New York City now has 7,541 chain stores like Dunkin' Donuts, Subway, McDonalds, and Duane Reade. That number has been climbing for six years.
After witnessing, photographing, and writing about so many independent stores closing and being replaced with places that can afford the astronomical commercial rents in the city, Moss decided he wanted to see something more tangible come from his effort.
So Moss has begun organizing a campaign called #SaveNYC to convince New Yorkers to push harder for legislation that would help preserve the character of the city. What Moss is calling for seems pretty reasonable: an act, called the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which would limit out-of-control rent hikes on small businesses to prevent eviction; the creation of a cultural landmarks program which could limit the rent charged to beloved but threatened small businesses; zoning that limits the amount of chains in a given area (something San Francisco and many other cities have already done); an end to tax breaks for large businesses; and fines for landlords who leave stores vacant as they await higher rents (something similar is already on the books in London).
While these measures alone obviously won't stop all the negative effects of gentrification, they're a great start and could have a big impact. Chelsea, one of Manhattan's most gentrified neighborhoods now seems like it's under siege because there are so many vacant storefronts. That's not because it's a bad neighborhood, but because landlords keep evicting tenants in hopes they can find higher-paying ones. If all of SaveNYC's recommendations were implemented, that trend could be reversed.
According to CityLab, Moss decided to start his campaign after Cafe Edison, a decades-old cafe in the Theater District was forced out in favor of a fancier restaurant with a celebrity chef.
"We organized lunch mobs," Moss told CityLab. "Because it was part of the Broadway community, there were a lot of actors, directors, and everyday New Yorkers. It was the first time there was such a big response to a closing. But what it came down to in the end was that there was no legal way to stop it."
He hopes SaveNYC could change that.
[Image of every fucking corner in New York City via]