Open Letter: To Realestate Developers
RE: Vacant Storefronts
Dear Realestate Developers
I hope this letter finds you all well. I live in New York, Brooklyn to be exact. I recently moved to a “nice” neighborhood, from a less gentrified neighborhood. I was shocked to find that in my new “nice” neighborhood there were so many empty storefronts. Every block has at least one empty storefront and some have as many as three. While Starbucks is closer and the streets are a little cleaner, my new environment is still afflicted by these holes in the community.
As a matter of fact, the empty storefront affliction has made ghost towns of many city blocks through out legendary neighborhoods in NYC. SoHo, the Lower East Side, Union Square, Harlem, I could list every neighborhood in the city with certainty that there are gaps in the community due to these empty storefronts. I had thought that these lapse in commerce was due to undesirable locations or neighborhoods, but who doesn’t want to be in SoHo or Chelsea? I have seen it in other cities too, L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, the list goes on.
This issue has prompted me to directly address this letter to the many men and women in development and real estate, who are now, by default of our capitalist society, the urban planners of our country and the engineers of our infrastructure. Rezoning for condos and commercial buildings have taken precedence over the need for schools, hospitals and public spaces. In your hand lays the same power that Robert Moses and Trump have had, which have left a dismal legacy of discrimination and institutionalized marginalization in my city. Moses made sure to literally place people of color on the margins by systematically building affordable housing projects faraway from the city center, while Trump fronted a wealth he could not back up himself to create untouchable properties that became wealth shelters for foreigners. Both these men’s business practices have left economical and psychological traumas in the city and the nation which we have not recovered from.
I am an Artist and like many of the Artists I know, I am a creative problem solver, I recognize opportunities by seeing what others don’t and I develop ideas into tangible things. Developers and Artist share a lot in common. An important difference is that the Artist, tends to work alone which fosters them to think as individuals, this makes it easier to connect with oneself and see truths unclouded by a groupthink mentality. Developers on the other hand work in groups and conglomerates which in effect have more resources and power that make a big impact.
What I am getting at is that when developers act they act as corporations not as individuals. When we as people act in a groups with the guise of LLCs and other legal protection in the name of capital progress, we do not make accountable decisions for communities or further more, for the individuals that make that community. We have gone so far off the tracks that our country, the same one that is still chanted to with “U.S.A., U.S.A., We’re #1. We’re #1” didn’t even make it a recent article by Monocle, an international publication, that cited the best cities to live in, in the world. Not one of the United Sates 3,144 cities qualified to make the list which measured the highest standard of living.
But I see opportunity! Dear individuals in Development and Real Estate, I reach out to you and invite you to my table and my studio. I am one of countless Artists brimming with ideas and creative solutions for the affliction of empty storefronts. Stop the too familiar small business failure mill. Don’t pray on small business by renting storefronts at unattainable and unrealistic “market value” rates that only guarantees a death sentence. Most small businesses don’t even have the chance to build a customer base before their seed money runs dry on rent. Work with me, work with an Artist who wants to collaborate. Share your knowledge with the Artists, we have been left out of the conversation for too long. Help us see the facets of business that will bring relevance to our work in your sphere and let us show you the depths of unimagined possibilities.
These storefronts are opportunities for cultural collaborations that when given the chance might become part of the new infrastructure that strengthens our neighborhoods and perhaps even our country. Invite Artists to be culture makers on the ground level, invite us to complement and build on what you have already created. Activate the empty storefronts with programing and events lead by people who are invested in the community, allow us to show your potential costumer the possibilities and we might even become your clients. But please don’t use me, don’t use Artists to create a mural on disposable walls or even bring in trending Artists from Europe or Miami. Our communities are brimming with local Artists without a platform. Talk to me, lets have a conversation about building legacy together.
The Art Engineer