The Lord & Taylor 5th Ave store closing.

WHAT’S IN STORE IN NYC: New Yorkers, who walk the streets on a regular basis, know the challenge of keeping track of all the empty storefronts.

Now the New York City Council is trying to get a better handle on the actual count with a new bill that will require business owners to register storefronts with the city to be part of a database of retail spaces and their vacancy status. Passed Tuesday, the bill, Int. No. 1472, was introduced by Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

The demise of retail, the rise of online shopping, lengthy commercial leases and skyrocketing rents are some of the factors dragging down store traffic in the city. Empty stores can sit vacant for years, and the problem is noted throughout the boroughs. Pedestrians and tourists alike can see the abundance of unoccupied, and at times unkempt empty storefronts, in city blocks from Inwood in Manhattan to Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. The new bill — the first of its kind in the country — will create a tool for measuring and keeping track of the vacancies.

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Of course, the vacant store problem is a nationwide epidemic with hundreds of stores closing, including major chains like Gap and Chico’s shutting doors and others liquidating. Shopping malls have also been plagued by exiting tenants and are being repurposed with nonfashion businesses, fitness-oriented outposts and experiential elements. In New York City, Lord & Taylor has shuttered its Fifth Avenue flagship and Saks Fifth Avenue pulled up stakes from its Brookfield Place women’s location. Barneys New York is said to be flirting with bankruptcy.

Four months after it was jointly introduced, the bill requires building owners to register any of their vacancies on the city-managed public database managed with the aim of creating possible solutions. It will also create a resource for business owners in search of new outposts. Brewer said, “You can’t fix a problem when you can’t even begin to measure it. This database will be a boost for business owners looking for possible places to rent, those facing lease negotiations, and countless other possible services.”

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