Volume 79, Number 7 | July 22 - 28, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Mixed Use

By Patrick Hedlund

Union Square gets Racked

After months of speculation, West Coast department store Nordstrom officially announced a deal to move into the former Virgin Megastore space on Union Square South, where the company’s discount spin-off Nordstrom Rack will open in spring 2010.

The agreement marks the Seattle-based retailer’s first foray into Manhattan, with 32,136 square feet of ground-floor space at the trophy address, which is owned by real estate heavyweight The Related Companies.

The electronics-and-media chain Best Buy also announced plans to take over the adjacent ground-floor property, formerly occupied by Circuit City, by late 2009.

Nordstrom Rack features apparel from the department store at 50 to 60 percent off original Nordstrom prices. The company currently operates eight Nordstrom stores and three Nordstrom Racks in the tri-state area.

“This is a rare opportunity that opened at the right time for us,” said Scott Meden, president of Nordstrom Rack, in a statement. “Union Square is a thriving retail area and is an ideal location for the city’s first Rack.”

The two-level space became available when its former tenant, Virgin Megastore, recently vacated the property as part of its departure from the U.S. market. Circuit City closed earlier this year after the company filed for bankruptcy and began auctioning off all its properties and leases nationwide.

“Nordstrom Rack and Best Buy are a perfect complement to the district, which has seen an increase in pedestrian traffic by 59 percent over the past five years and more than 35.5 million riders who used our subway stations this past year,” read a statement from Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership. She added: “In addition to the jobs that Nordstrom as well as Best Buy will bring to the area, the leasing of the retail space at One Union Square South will ensure that the retail blocks surrounding the park remain as popular as ever.”

Rise of the machines

Nearly 100 illegal cash machines encroach onto sidewalk space in the East Village, creating a public blight and increasing the risk of crime, according to a recent survey by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

The citywide survey found 258 unregulated sidewalk A.T.M.’s located throughout Manhattan, most of which are owned by companies that contract with nearby retail stores to place them on sidewalks near busy stretches.

Stringer has urged the city to adopt regulations to discourage the proliferation of such stand-alone A.T.M.’s, decrying their intrusion into public space and the potential threat they pose to user safety.

“The last thing our crowded sidewalks need is competition for space from these illegal machines,” Stringer said in a statement. “But this is more than just a nuisance. The exploding number of sidewalk A.T.M.’s need to be covered by the same consumer protections that apply to bank A.T.M.’s. Otherwise we’re asking for rising incidences of street crime and identity theft.”

The survey showed that more than 85 percent of the bank-unaffiliated street A.T.M.’s lacked visible surveillance cameras and more than 40 percent had been vandalized with graffiti. Additionally, the average charge for withdrawing money was nearly 8 percent higher than at indoor A.T.M.’s surveyed.

“Community Board 3 has an active street life and densely populated sidewalks,” added Susan Stetzer, district manager of C.B. 3, in Stringer’s statement. “Illegal A.T.M.’s do not serve our community — they create potential criminal/safety problems, they are covered with graffiti, and they take up valuable sidewalk space.”

According to the Borough President’s Office, retail stores are only permitted to display merchandise for sale within 3 feet of the store. The city Department of Transportation currently regulates the A.T.M.’s, and Stringer called for all of the machines to be licensed to “force the owners to meet reasonable standards of safety and cleanliness.”

The East Village-based blog EV Grieve also complained about the preponderance of A.T.M.’s back in March, photographing six cash machines along one block of Avenue B alone.

On the sidewalk outside Sara Renaud’s apartment on Prince St., she complained of seeing two A.T.M.’s sprout on her street between Elizabeth St. and the Bowery in recent months. She said that the influx of nightlife establishments in the area has led to an increase in the machines’ presence Downtown.

“This is a beautiful little neighborhood, it used to have class,” said Renaud, who recently started a petition seeking to limit the number of freestanding street A.T.M.’s. “It’s like Vegas — it’s just out of control.”

She also reported that a mugger recently targeted someone on her block, leading Renaud to speculate that card-swiping patrons have become easy marks for criminals.

“If I was a mugger,” she added, “that’s where I’d hang out.”


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