Sunday, October 15, 2006


-Mr. Feiner:
We are the exclusive leasing brokers for the Barnes & Noble building. We have had strong expressions of interest from several national furniture and sporting goods firms.
I believe to closing of Barnes & Noble is the result of that company's business problems. Similarly the closing of Treasure Island, Fine Arts Cinema, and Gourmet Garage are products of industry change not a poor reflection of Central Ave.
The chain expanded aggressively in the 1990's. The book business then became competitive. Amazon and other Internet sales and download services, Costco, Target, BJ's, Wal-Mart, Supermarkets and drug stores expanded their book and music departments and steeply discounted prices.
The book stores became hangouts with too much browsing and not enough purchasing. Now the retail book industry is going through a time of consolidation.
As a retail leasing broker I can attest there is a strong interest in retail space on Central Ave. Michaels, Christmas Tree Shops, Commerce Bank, Chase Bank, E-Trade, Fidelity, Panera Bread, Bo Concept Furniture, Mattress chains, T-Mobile, Verizon, are new or expanding tenants open or planning opening. Several new furniture stores also opened on the Yonkers end recently.
High rents are being set by financial tenants, pharmacies, wireless stores and service stores. Rent sensitive retailers like apparel, furniture and services have also expanded. Landlords have dollar signs in their eyes when they hear what the banks have been paying. Eventually owners settle down to make a deal when they realize their have tested the market. This is despite some of the highest real estate taxes and energy costs for roadside retail centers in the nation.
The greatest obstacle to retail leasing in Central Ave. is the unrealistic parking ratio required by restaurants to enter major centers where there is plenty of parking. We have to turn away a huge number of food inquiries from these centers. As a result White Plains, Port Chester, the River towns and New Rochelle have blossomed with trendy new restaurants. People eat out more than ever and Central Ave. has very few choices for a retail corridor of it size.
I am pleased the Town is making an effort to control speeding on Central Ave. I suggest visible police cars do more to deter speeding than a more profitable radar trap. More traffic lights and readable street and storefront signs are also needed to slow traffic and facilitate safe turns. Many customers pass their destinations and have to make U-turns due to poorly visible storefront or retail center signage. Lack of clear street signage, visible storefront address numbers and obstructions contribute to motorist confusion and accidents.
Barry Endelson
Aries Deitch & Endelson, Inc.

my partner Barry is absolutely correct.
We are actively filling all Central Ave vacancies. We are negotiating deals on all the remaining space at Midway S.C.,and have active interest on the Barnes Building. Everything else on the Ave is leased except the Treasure Island building-so the vacancy rate is very low.
As to Barnes closing. Concerned Greenburgh residents can travel 5 minutes,2.6 miles to Crossroads S.C. to do their bookshopping. Barnes has already saturated our area w/ stores. The Hartsdale store is redundant.
Furthermore,notwithstanding the good intentions of Greenburgh residents, most savvy retailers will go to an area that they perceive needs their business. The market dictates!! And you can put both our responses on your web site.
Bill Hesse
Aries Deitch & Endelson


Anonymous said...

These explanations represent only the business side of the equation. That is an important element in our community, but not the only one. I'm hoping that most of us who live here prefer to be treated as people and not as just marketing targets or wallets waiting to be opened.

I think Paul's original question was how to keep some community- friendly businesses - where people can have an experience more unique or interactive than the cloned outlets that exist in every shopping area across the country.

It sounds like the answer you have given is "the market right now is so hot/tight that we can sell every square foot to franchise/chain stores" which, in turn, will sell us more stuff. So, if we as a community want more unqiue places, or places where we can interact socially in a more relaxed setting, we will have to look elsewhere - unless there is room for the town to intervene and designate some areas as "not for maximum profit." I'm not fooling myself for a second that this will ever happen.

From a consumer's point of view, I agree with the assessment that we could use a bigger variety of desirable dining options and easier to find/identify storefronts. But slowing down Central Avenue? I am overjoyed when it is moving at all! Clearly you have not spent much time trying to get to a few different stores in one afternoon - especially on the weekend. The road moves like glue, and you can get stopped at every light. Not to mention stuck behind left turns where there is no turn lane. If the store were easier to spot, or the composite signs at the roadside were easier to read and more accurate, I don't think speed would be an issue.

And by the way, according to Barnes & Noble, that store was doing great business and wanted to stay, but balked at having to sign a 10-year lease extension instead of 5 years, even after agreeing to split the cost of extensive repairs to the foundation that have caused recurring water leaks over the past few years.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

I agree with you -- if there were a way the Town could encourage more variety -- including keeping bookstores and grocerty stores -- that would be great. They can't because they cant discriminate.

More restaurants sound great, although we have a lot of great ones on central avenue, including rusticos and cafe mez and even the candlelight. We do not need more fast food.


Well I tend to disagree with the Blog statements about people just
browsing. I myself go there at least once a week to buy a book, (pocket edition), card or some gift item.

I thought that this store in particular did a wonderful business. The store mgr. there let me give a Red Hat Society Speech to promote a book they were selling at the time and the mgr. was very accomodating.

In addition, I noticed many neighborhood teenagers in the store - staying out of trouble by buying books, and yes, some just browsing, but at least their reading !!. I too realize that the other stores are not far geographically from one another, but this particular store was/is my favorite. I am sorry to see it go.

Carol B. Germano
Hartsdale, N.Y.

Anonymous said...

The simple answer to Central Ave and the traffic problems is a two-way left turn lane extending along the entire section from Yonkers to White Plains. This is present in all such corridors all over this country, and would make the route much safer. More importantly, PLEASE do not let another awful furniture store in. Enough already. We need useful stores and the parking issues should be easy enough to deal with if the will is there. No question that $50/sq ft rates make it impossible for most businesses, mine for one would go under. The question is, what kind of a neighborhood do we want? I for one do not want another tacky furniture store, another bank, or another drug store. Just visit any other state Rockville Pike, Md,El Camino Real, CA....) and see how much better it could be..... Where there is a will, there is a way. Thanks.

David Sloane said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Sloane said...

I have petitioned Paul Feiner as well as Nick Spano for years with regard to a turning lane from the "Candlelight" to White Plains. There is plenty of land along side of the roadway. Our political leaders must determine that this is a priority and lobby Albany to get the funds.

I agree that the market will determine what tenants can afford the outrageous rents on Central Avenue.
Although the Town can streamline the process to build/renovate a store, it should not simply roll over to encourage a business to move in.
The Town needs to understand that every day the store is not open, the business is paying rent.
A prime example of Greenburgh Planning and Building Department's incompetence the Portuguese restaurant and Pizza Parlor on East Hartsdale Avenue. The owners of these businesses put up their life savings, only to have the bureaucrats in Greenburgh delay their eventual opening.
Paul - you often say that you have little control over these issues - if your employees are "business unfriendly" and are unwilling to change, then fire them - you are the Town Supervisor!!!

Paul Feiner said...

David: Thanks for your comments. I'd like to clarify a point you made about my ability to remove people from office. Under NY State law I do not have the ability to hire and fire. The Town Supervisor is one of five elected members of the Town Board. It takes 3 Board members to appoint Planning & Zoning Board members and department heads. The Town Supervisor cannot unilaterally remove anyone from office. Planning and Zoning Board members are appointed for fixed terms of office.

Anonymous said...

A home goods or home expo store would be great for the avenue

Anonymous said...

Central Ave needs a hardware store.

Tom Hay said...

It seems like alot of us have strong feelings about this issue. It's good to have a forum to get opinions and ideas out.

I agree that yet more cookie-cutter stores or furniture outlets would be disappointing and redundant. And full-length left turn access should be a given. I also felt there was something especially welcoming about that particular B&N store, and I will miss it.

But then I ask myself what could really make Central Avenue better? Not just small patches of improvements, but a big leap forward. Could it ever become something vibrant and dynamic, not just utilitarian? Could we ever actually be proud of it or want to go exploring along it instead of just using it by default because that's where so many stores are?

One of the comments mentioned towns that had come up with better solutions. I would be interested to hear more about these, or where more information could be gathered.

If there is never an idea bigger than renting out the available real estate, there will never be any real progress. Maybe we can generate some ideas and kick them upstairs to help jump-start the process.

Anonymous said...

Paul --who owns the ex- Gaseteria just south of 4 Corners ?? what is the problem with this forever deserted empty eyesore - i? really makes the whole area suffer from South Bronxitis....BAD! REALLY!!

Anonymous said...

Shame that the best retail stores for entertainment seem to be forced out. Kids, elderly, and less materialistic consumers in general seem to be squeezed in Westchester.

My experience as a strip mall retailer is that landlords in this area are a relatively small group, with a lot of power to charge increasingly high prices. In many areas outside the northeast strip mall space is a commodity. But in the northeast zoning laws and other constrictions on building mean that more space is impossible. So landlords (who often dont need the money) are happy to wait out vacancies and keep prices very high.

Probably B&N feels the economy has flipped in the other direction and won't pay higher prices that other big box stores will or have in the past.

My guess is that as the economy slows and particularly as retail banks stop expanding locations (as reported in the press last month) more locations will be remain vacant for longer periods.

Frankly consumers have enough big box generic furniture, banks and home goods stores in this area. These stores are convenient maybe once a month, but otherwise we don't go into them. They sap our souls. We need more variety in the retail stores, often provided by smaller entrepreneurs. Other comparable towns in greater Boston, lower Connecticut, Manhattan, Long Island etc pay attention to this.

Targeted tax incentives might be part of the answer. Perhaps incentives encouraging smaller, "community oriented" retail locations would be effective. This is not anti-business at all - It is needed to keep a balance of activities and culture for unmet segments of the population.

B&N and the Art movie house will be sorely missed.

Paul, help us bring in retail stores that consumers really need in all segments of life.

Anonymous said...

Not another furniture store or bank. How about an Olive Garden. None in Westchester

Anonymous said...

I feel that Central Park Avenue needs comprehensive, visionary, professional planning and management - the entire stretch from Yonkers to White Plains, but especially between the nature center and the pet cemetery. A complete re-engineering of the intersection with East/West Hartsdale Avenues would need to be a cornerstone project for any genuine vibrancy to occur. Left as is, or with just piecemeal efforts, Central Park Avenue between East/West Hartsdale Avenues and Mount Joy/Underhill will continue its obvious, continuous decline. That stretch of Central Park Avenue has such a rich taxbase potential for Greenburgh if there were a professional action plan in place - i.e. sophisticated marketing, clear zoning, signage standards, wise engineering, basic roadway maintenance, long-term planning ... the works.

Anonymous said...

There are some deserted pieces of land along Central Park Avenue that the Hartsdale Parking District could purchase for Metro North commuter parking. Do a M-F shuttle bus from 6-9am and 4-7pm to help alleviate the parking woes around the train station area and to increase the district's revenues. This is certainly no long-term solution to the problems of Central Park Avenue, but it does easily address a serious problem for town residents.

Anonymous said...

Central Ave needs a Fairway store.

Anonymous said...

I sense a committee in the making.....

GoodGovtGuy said...

1) on B&N - We (local govt) cannot dictate to whom an owner can lease its commercial property; we can only encourage them to make choices we favor through tax or other incentives. If Greenburgh REALLY wants full control over tenants at certain locations spread around town so as to produce an ideal mix of uses, then we need to buy the land outright (thereby removing it from our tax rolls) and lease it out as we deem best serves the interests of the community. If done right, this could increase the value of neighboring properties (and nearby residential areas) thereby offsetting the short term taxroll reduction. If serious about pursuing such an objective, we need a new comprehensive master plan for the entire Town.

2) on the need for a municipal presence along Central Ave - Given that ground has not yet been broken on the new library, and that many central Greenburgh residents are already accustomed to go to B&N on Cental Ave for library type activities, has anyone thought to inquire as to shifting the location of the new library to this site? I know it's very late in the process; I know it could be complicated; I know we would still need a library service of some type in the fairview area (perhaps a satellite facility in town hall?); but ...
- the B&N site is more centally located to unincorporated Greenburgh
- it is a higher density residential area (more people are within walking distance of it)
- perhaps the cost of acquiring the land could be offset by that of the old town hall / existing library
If we're serious about doing what's best rather than just what's cheapest or easiest, then this should be QUICKLY looked into (apologies if this has already been done) and acted on -- even if, in the end, it doesn't make sense.

3) on the loss of the Fine Arts Cinema - Greenburgh is ideally located to host a major Performing Arts Center. Perhaps instead of allowing more homes to be built on the property being sold by the School for the Deaf, we should seek a benefactor (e.g. - one of the many multi-millionaire producers / directors / artists living in the area - ala those that helped finance Jacob Burns) and other sources (e.g. - NEA, NYS Arts Council, etc.) to fund a PAC at that location (near both WCC and I-287). See for an example on Long Island - not that ours would need to be so big. If we want to encourage arts in the area, we need locations where it can take root. The School for the Deaf property is just one possibility (especially if the Tappan Zee project comes to fruition).

4) on local arts in general - Do we still have a functioning Arts and Culture Committee? If we do, they're doing a poor job of promoting themselves and the arts in Greenburgh.

Overall, we need a much broader outlook with much longer-term planning than is usually the case here. I know the crisis of the moment needs to take precedence with our town staff's time, but we can't continue to neglect the big picture and still expect a positive outcome for our community.

Phillip Chonigman

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately we need a strategy but have no strategists, just tacticians in our government.

Marc Herman said...

Dear Paul, I own a small business with 5 employees, it is an executive search firm working with Wall Street Clients. Small business growth has been exploding the last 10 years with many service firms leading the pack. What we need is office condo's. I have at least 12 other firms that are looking for a "to purchase" office condo in an office only type building. We are accounting firms, law firms, etc. It would give us better control over our monthly expenses by having a fixed rate mortgage, rather than an ever increasing burden of paying the expenses of a landlord type rental. As a condo fee we could share the services of the building and many of the condos would be pre-sold making the projects attractive to a bank. Also the small business could build equity and use that to grow and develop, which they do not have as renters.

One Big box type location could turn into 40 or more condos (assuming 4 per floor and 10 floors). These condo's would need other services like coffee shops, restaurants, printing, technology/phone/computers, etc. Thus giving other small businesses the flow they need each day to stay in business rather than just being a car destination.

A real estate project like this would be financed to build and then the money would be recouped thru the sale of the condo's within a short time. I know Wachovia bank was interested in projects like this. Also there are many grants and federal money available to women and minority owned businesses that could help you begin these projects.

The small business community is so incredibly underserved. There would even be a good market for making the first floor a retail space that also could be owned as a condo.

The office condo would not burden the school system or other services of the town but would bring in tax revenue in the form of both real estate and income taxes as well as supply a steady stream of revenue to other businesses that would service those condos, thus allowing central avenue to grow.

The office condo has been successful in Denver, CO and other markets but is strangely absent in NY other than the occasional Doctor's office that is on the ground floor of a residential type condo.

I would be happy to volunteer to work on researching this project with you. Please consider servicing the small businesses. There are so many of us that need these services.

Thank you, Carol Geiler

Marc Herman said...

Philip Mcenerney wrote:

Central Avenue is not "friendly". It is a high pressure hassle from a driving point of view. There is no place along the whole Avenue that is "community oriented" - it is not like a boulevard you can walk and have shops and restaurants that you pass by, stop in, etc. The idea of Central Ave. has grown tired. It is time consuming and stressful to shop there. It is so 1960's. It needs to be redesigned for both traffic and pedestrians alike - a central Parking area every so often so people can "work the block". It needs restaurants that are not chains or mega establishments. It needs to be planted and pretty. It needs to be rethought from an urban planning point of view - no band aid fix here. Face it - how many people make it a destination of pleasure - movies, restaurants, etc? It is "gotta go to this store" - go there and get out quick. No one spends a pleasurable day on Central Avenue. It is urban hell. Pick ANY store headed south and think about making a left out of their parking lot. AAARRGH!!! Death risk. Business communities prosper when they become a destination with purpose and pleasure - and Central Avenue ain't it. It is about ten years from being retail blight - and is already appearing slum-like. YES - SLUM. It is well on it's way.
You did want my thoughts, did you not???

Anonymous said...

While I know it's not in Greenburgh, and not without controversy, I'm looking forward to seeing Ridge Hill built, which will give us the shopping alternatives that everyone is asking for, in an environment that will be welcoming and accessible!

Marc Herman said...

Dear Mr. Feiner,

As a resident of Hartsdale that lives right off of Central Avenue, I read with interest the article that was published this past Sunday. I have 2 suggestions for the empty spaces: more family-friendly, casual eateries, such as Panera Bread -, Outback Restaurant & Bellizzi's. Also, I think the European Health Club building, which is very unsightly, should be converted to an indoor play space for children, such as Krazy City in the Palisades mall or Leapin' Lizards in Port Chester. I hope these suggestions are helpful.

Thank you,

Lucy B.

Anonymous said...

Philip Mcenerney wrote: "It is about ten years from being retail blight - and is already appearing slum-like."

I believe that the area is no more than three years from being retail blight.

And like one of the anon posters, I'm also very much looking forward to Ridge Hill.

hal samis said...

Dear Mr. Chonigman (again) and Carol Giler,

NYS Town Law prevents town governments from entering the real estate business. Taxpayers should not be forced to pay taxes which are used to underwrite speculative or even sure things. So much for the idea of buying buildings or land with the intent to rent.

In real estate development, math calculations alone do not create the proverbial "home run". You must consider a number of factors.

Thus the simplistic business plan of saying that you could have four condos on a floor of a ten story building ...
ignores those simple, mundane details like zoning laws with regard to height restrictions and parking requirements. If you would look at what's happening elsewhere in town, you would be aware of several, long standing issues which are making local real estate attorneys wealthy by going through the motions. However, if you know a location where a ten story building would be accepted in Greenburgh, I'll finance it.

The reason that office condos don't happen that often in the northeast is that it is prime territory for office use and with little land left (highway access and parking) to develop/zoned for this particular purpose, professional real estate investors
are loathe to sell and give away the upside. The Henry George theory of economics says that the three ingredients of value are lnad, labor and capital -- only the land is a fixed quantity. Stick to the headhunting biz. When you create a condominium, you are effecting a sale. On the hand, residential developers are always assessing the strength of the rental market vs the sales market and are more flexible in their mindsets about whether to retain, sell or convert.

So much for why you can't just do what you want in a community. Now let's look at the numbers to see why residents see only blight when passing vacant stores while the owner sees only $$$.

Finally, in all income producing real estate that is or may be for sale, vacant space is more desirable because of the perceived upside. Once a property is fully leased, there is no more romance. Thus if one were of a mind to sell, the buyer often mentally fills in the value of the rental space and it is generally higher than the market because buyers are optomistic about the future whereas sellers are less so inclined. Also, if there is a buyer who is a user, having the store vacant means he doesn't have to wait until the tenant's lease is up or have to incur an additional expense to buy out the lease if possible. Finally, if one were selling an occupied building, say at a cap rate of 10 this would justify holding out to obtain the asking price rent and keeping the store vacant until it is achieved.

For this illustration, assume there are no annual step-ups in rent over a 5 year period.

Example A
5000 sq ft building income would be $100,000 if rented @ $20 per ft

Example B
5000 sq ft building income would
be $150,000 if rented @ $30 per ft

If it took a year to get $30 vs the immediate rental @ $20, at the end of the first year, you would have no income from Building B, at the end of the second year you would have $150,000 @ $30 versus two years @ $100,000 = $200,000 from Building A.

At the end of the third year, building A would have produced $300,000 while B would also have produced $300,000 due to $0 rent collected the first year from maintaining the vacancy.

At the end of the fourth year, Building A would produce $400,000
while B now brings in $450,000.

And at the end of five years, Building A produced $500,000 whereas Building B produced $600,000.

Of course this could be shown with more complexity if expenses were factored, or not, if net, net, net leased. But generally in a worst case scenario, Building B by remaining vacant for a year would still produce a better return.

However on a sale, if each building sold for 10 times the income, at the end of the five year period, Building A would sell for $5,000,000 whereas Building B would sell for $6,000,000...a clear advantage and, in a nut shell why owners are in no rush to rent vacant space.

However, if financing is a factor then the situation could easily change. However, generally, the more income to service debt, the greater the mortgage (leverage).

So keeping a store vacant or waiting for the higher rent is often the smarter strategy.

Especially in communities with tough zoning and planning board rules that favor the existing building by continually making it harder for the last building to be built, to be built.

Anonymous said...

I just got back from vacation and have now found out that 2 of my favorite places on Central Avenue -the Fine Arts and the Barnes and Noble - have closed/are closing. I'm disgusted. How many furniture/mattress/fastfood chains do we need as well as THREE Pathmark supermarkets ?? Ditto for franchise and chain stores.

I never eat at Pizza Hut/McDonald's/Burger King and have bought exactly ONE furniture item (a mattress) from one of the million mattress stores. On the other hand, I was in Barnes and Noble at least once or twice a week, not just to "browse" but to actually spend MONEY on books, magazines and cards. I was also a frequent visitor to the Fine Arts which was the only theatre that showed movies for audiences over the age of 20 (yes, I know there is the Greenburgh 100 but who wants to watch a movie on a screen not much bigger than what you have at home).

What about Fairway? We travel into Manhattan specifically to shop there while we could be spending money in our home community. What about any restaurant chain - if you have to have them - that's one step up from horrible food - there's no Chili's, no Cheesecake Factory, nothing remotely like them with the possible exception of California Pizza Kitchen. And what in the world is preventing smaller retail establishments with merchandise that isn't duplicated in every single other store (Bed & Bath vs. Linens & Things) - again, if you want to shop for anything unique in the way of sheets, comforters, etc., you have the chance of a snowball in hell in finding it on Central Avenue.

I live in Hartsdale and I love my apartment but I sure don't consider myself as living in a real community since it doesn't offer the kind of products, foods and services that I'm looking for. What a pity that I'm paying such high taxes to reside in a place that offers so little that isn't cookie-cutter or designed for the lowest possible denominator.

Barry Endelson said...

I have good news for Mark Herman. Panera Bread is in construction on Central Ave. & Ardlsey Rd. in part of the former Wiz building.

Regarding Fairway, several upscale supermarkets have been looking on Central Ave. A problem is many want more space than is available.

One long standing grocery store is slated to be sold next month.

Whole Foods is planning a 90,000 sq. ft. store in Ridge Hill Village.

I think by naming Fairway your are seeking an upscale grocer with promotional prices. The most economic way for that to happen immediately would be for existing grocery chains to have more quality products. The A&P renovation in Scarsdale is noteworthy.

Anonymous said...

The A&P in Scarsdale has outpriced our family. I cannot afford &8.99 per pound for lunch meat, I drive to Apple Farm instead. Even the yogurt is too expensive now. I begged for a better store (this store was truly pathetic) and now what we have is not usable. I am praying that some kind of deal is worked out for the Stop & Shop in Dobbs Ferry so I have somewhere to go. Bringing the A&P up to the standards of all the A&P's in other states is the least they could do, charging us more for this is unconscionable.
In San Jose, CA there is a new concept live/work/shop space which is lovely and very busy. All I hear about in New York is excuses as to why things can't change. This is definitely do-able on Central Ave and with gas prices up and oil on its way out, is the only way to go. Bring back walking! As if obesity wasn't enough of a reason.

hal samis said...

Dear Mr. Endelson,

What, then, is the story regarding Gourmet Garage at Midway. They vanished even before Trader Joe's opened; TJs coming in turn decimated Turco's although Turco's had been for sale since 2002.

hal samis said...

Dear "bring back walking",

You know the way to San Jose but do you know the way to Ridge Hill, Yonkers?

Live/work/shop + play.

Now all you have to do is convince those residents who suddenly are so concerned about the fate of the chain stores on Central Avenue -- how to live without them if they were vacant -- and how to live without the traffic they collected.

Anonymous said...

To Barry Endelson: Did I understand you correctly when you wrote that "by naming Fairway" I'm seeking "an upscale grocer with promotional prices"? The fruit and vegetable prices at Fairway are lower than anyone's in Westchester with the exception of Apple Farms (if THAT goes out of business, we'll move) and the selection they have of dairy products, breads, cheeses, olives, ethnic foods, etc. beats ANYTHING available in Westchester, again with the exception of Whole Foods which is lovely to browse in but death to the wallet.

Despite all the postings, I still can't understand why so many communities in both Connecticut and New Jersey offer such a great variety of restaurants in all price ranges while WE, on Central Avenue, are limited to fast food or pricey, special dinner only places.

Since so many banks have gone up on Central Avenue, I'm assuming that the builders think Westchester residents have enough money to save/invest/spend. So, how come so much shopping is devoted to the lowest common denominator? Central Avenue between Ardsley Road and Route 119 looks like (sub)urban blight.