New York's Other Banking Crisis
Lind, Diana, The Next American City
Who hasn't lamented the impact of chain retail on Manhattan's character?
Formerly a bastion of mom-and-pop stores, Manhattan has slowly turned many of its chaotic avenues into a suburbanstyle monotony Take a quick cab ride up lower Sixth Avenue and find blocks lined with Best Buy, Old Navy, The Container Store and other retailers commonly found in malls.
When discussing the "mall-ization" of Manhattan, often fingers point at retailers such as Starbucks, which has 186 stores in Manhattan, or Duane Reade (139 stores) or Subway (136 stores). Meanwhile banks, whose retail coverage exceeds the total of those of the three aforementioned companies plus Dunkin Donuts (76 stores), McDonalds (72 stores) and Rite Aid (37 stores), get none of the blame.
According to the last count (prior to the latest financial meltdown), there were 660 bank branches in Manhattan, up from 466 branches a decade earlier. (An unsophisticated mathematical analysis suggests there is now one bank branch for every four blocks, excluding Central Park.)
While bank branches provide those essential customer service needs that can't be answered by the Internet or an automated phone call, they all needn't be located at street level. And yet, because of the fierce competition for banking and ATM convenience, banks have carpeted New York City's streets with their standardized logos, harsh lighting and impersonal facades. Ubiquitous lobbies of ATMs give little back to street life, except temporary housing for the homeless.
When the Center for an Urban Future (CUF) started a new series called New York by the Numbers, which provided a statistical snapshot of the city, they tallied New York City's largest retailers - but didn't count bank branches or ATM kiosks.
"We did give some thought to counting the number of bank branches and I can't give you a good reason why we didn't, except that if we'd had more time we would have," says Jonathan Bowles, director of CUE "A lot of people don't consider banks as national retail. But clearly banks are a part of the problem when it comes to the generic quality of some New York's streetlevel retail, the oversaturation of the same kind of retail and the squeezing out independent businesses."
According to Bowles, New York by the Numbers starts the discussion about the statistical information but doesn't take a position on it.
"My own take is that the data shows that there are some parts of the city that have become oversaturated with chain …
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Publication information: Article title: New York's Other Banking Crisis. Contributors: Lind, Diana - Author. Magazine title: The Next American City. Issue: 21 Publication date: Winter 2008. Page number: 18+. © The Next American City, Inc. Summer 2008. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.