Changing retail landscape in East Village a chain reaction

For the last 10 years, "Jeremiah's Vanishing New York" has gained a following by chronicling the closure of small businesses across the city. Recently, our Michael Scotto walked around St. Mark's Place with the man behind the blog to see how the East Village has changed over the last two decades. Here's the story, in part two of our series on the city's retail crisis.

For Jeremiah Moss, this new Starbucks on Avenue A and St. Mark's Place symbolizes the powerful forces of gentrification remaking the city.

"Starbucks started in Astor Place. Then it was on Second Avenue. Then they opened two on First Avenue," said Moss. "The further and further east it goes, the more upset people become because it feels like it is getting further and further into the neighborhood.   

Moss knows a lot about that anger because for 10 years. He's been chronicling the loss of independent, mom-and-pop businesses and the rise of chain stores on his blog "Jeremiah's Vanishing New York."

The blog has earned him cult status in the city. But as it turns out, it's not his day job, and his name isn't really Jeremiah Moss.

Moss, a therapist, says he began blogging when he noticed the feel of the city was disappearing.

"I started the blog because New York was changing in a different way, and, of course, change is a constant in New York, as people love to tell me, that's a given. There seemed to be a larger, faster change happening," Moss said.

To show NY1 that transformation, Moss led us on a walking tour of  the East Village, where he has lived since 1994.

"It changed a lot, a big part of it is really the population change," Moss said. 

For generations, new immigrants made the neighborhood home. In the 60s, it became a center of the counterculture.

But the grit has been giving way to boutiques and new housing, driving up real estate prices and rents along the way.

Many of the quirky stores that defined the neighborhood are now gone. 

In their place are chain stores that landlords find desirable because they’ll pay higher rents, and businesses that once would have been out of the place there, like a shop on St. Mark's Place that sells marshmallows. 

"The flavor of St. Mark's was counter cultural and anti-mainstream kind of flavor, and when you see a marshmallow shop you see nice and palatable for everybody," Moss noted.

Moss said as gentrification marched through other neighborhoods, the East Village - and in particular St. Mark's Place - held out.

But that's no longer the case - and soon, he says,  the old East Village will largely be gone.

It's not the first New York  neighborhood to begin looking more  like the rest of the country.

But in few neighborhoods of the city has the change been so dramatic.

"I think the soul of New York is on the run, right? It's on the run because developers are pushing it further and further to the fringes," Moss said.

Which, Moss says, is causing it to vanish altogether.

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