To the editor:
Bad news. Certainly not of the magnitude of MAGA, Ukraine, climate change, or mass shootings.
But it’s sad news. Blue Bay has closed.
When my friend Beth — who’d had her Thanksgiving dinner there — told me, I was shocked.
This was a thriving nearly 50-year-old Riverdale institution, a go-to restaurant especially for longtime residents, “regulars.”
I contacted my cousin Scott who, in summer, walked from Inwood to Blue Bay, and my Upper West Side diner-loving friend Tom — both fans of Blue Bay. We had brunch there on Sunday, one last time, ordering our favorites: mine the challah French toast. (I took home a spinach pie and Greek salad.)
Here, in Riverdale, we were relieved when restaurants and shops managed to stay afloat despite the coronavirus pandemic. But there’s another threat here. Blue Bay’s landlord would not negotiate a new lease.
This happens all the time in New York City. And yet another local business shutters its doors. It happened to an awesome, affordable exercise studio, The Works, where I went in the late 1980s. Located on Lower Fifth Avenue, when stores like Banana Republic opened, the studio’s rent went up. And up.
It moved to a smaller space but eventually closed, shut out by skyrocketing rents in the newly dubbed Flatiron District. Naïve, I asked if there were not rent stabilization for small businesses. Hah! Landlords ruled.
I later moved to Chelsea, where trendy (read: expensive) restaurants replaced mom-and-pop shops. After 38 years in Manhattan, I settled in Riverdale, a community where I could sit outside Blue Bay, and friends would stop to chat or join me for coffee.
It’s a pity for small businesses that there is not a citywide rent stabilization law. This can backfire, when stores remain vacant; with three empty storefronts. West 235th Street is already looking a bit seedy.
Doing research, I learned that rent control for business properties had, in fact, been in effect from World War ll, but disappeared in 1963. In 2019, the city council considered a bill for a commercial rent guidelines board to determine limits on yearly rent adjustments (by percentage) made up of nine mayor-appointed members representing landlord, tenant and public interests.
Whither that proposal?
I challenge city officials — from our councilman, Eric Dinowitz, all the way up to Mayor Eric Adams — to impose rent stabilization guidelines on landlords of small businesses so neighborhoods can avoid a downward economic spiral, and keep the places that characterize them, places like Blue Bay, alive.