Landlords Board Up Stores as Soho Recovers From Looting

Smashed windows and shelves wiped clean puts retailers from Soho to Atlantic Terminal on high alert



The morning after protests turned violent in parts of New York City, landlords across the city boarded up the windows of their retail stores in anticipation of more unrest. 

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On major shopping strips south of 14th Street, big and small retail tenants alike were recovering from vandalism and looting that resulted in broken storefronts and stolen merchandise. Although looters had intentionally targeted major brands, some small businesses saw their windows smashed and merchandise and equipment taken in the early hours of Monday morning. 

In response to the last few nights of fraught protest, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a curfew on Monday afternoon for New York City that will begin tonight at 11 p.m. and go through 5 a.m. Neither the mayor nor the governor have disclosed what will happen to New Yorkers who break the curfew, but the mayor’s office has said that essential workers will be exempt.

Protesters across the country took to the streets last weekend to protest the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, while in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis. On May 29, following the beginnings of a public outcry, the white police officer filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes was charged in the case. Marchers also chanted the name of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black medical worker in Louisville, Kentucky, who was fatally shot by Louisville police on March 13.

In New York City, the protests began near Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Union Square, Foley Square and Bryant Park in Manhattan, but ultimately meandered through both boroughs. While the protests began peacefully, as the night wore on, protesters began to clash with the New York City Police Department. The weekend ended with 430 complaints of police misconduct, according to the New York Daily News, which noted that one complaint involved a police officer who appeared to draw his gun in front of protesters in front of Strand Book Store at Broadway and East 12th Street. The protests also gave way to looting Saturday night, which intensified on Sunday night and into the early hours of Monday, with the bulk of the damage in Soho and Greenwich Village.

On Monday morning, workers were boarding up windows along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, around Union Square, and at the Atlantic Terminal shopping center across from Barclays Center, whether or not they had been damaged. The sight of retail shops being walled off was a jarring mismatch with the optimism spurred by reopening talks for the city, which is set to begin on June 8. 

Commercial Observer hit the streets to view the damage and chronicle the response from store owners and landlords. Here’s what we saw: 

Soho & Noho

On Prince Street, the Coach store at the corner of West Broadway had its front door broken and had been completely wiped clean of its signature purses and other accessories, with only display stands left. 

Further east on Prince Street, the front of a T2 tea store at the corner of Crosby Street was almost completely destroyed, and the large G-Star jeans outpost on the corner of Lafayette Street had no windows or merchandise left. 

On the same block, pricey athletic wear brand NoBull had its storefront and front door broken, and the Dig Inn next door suffered some damage to its plateglass windows. Between Mott and Elizabeth Streets, local electric motorcycle and e-bike store Filipacchi Motorsports saw most of its expensive merchandise carried off over night, including e-bikes, motorcycles, helmets, leather jackets and watches. 

Several major retailers on Broadway near Houston Street were predictably hit. The Noho Urban Outfitters had its door busted in and its trendy clothing displays were in disarray. A Duane Reade at the corner of West 4th Street was missing two of its storefront windows, which workers had attempted to remedy by hanging black plastic bags over the holes. Adidas’ massive flagship at the corner of Houston had a huge hole in its glass facade that had been covered with caution tape. 

The quiet western edge of Soho, where the busy shopping streets bleed into the West Village, seemed to have largely escaped looting. However, Nick Hartman, the owner of take-out sandwich-and-salad spot Olive’s at the corner of Prince and Sullivan Streets, said that people had broken into his tiny storefront around 1 a.m. last night and stolen five electric delivery bikes and a cash register, in addition to breaking the glass on his walk-in refrigerators and display case. 

“This was a targeted, ‘I can break in and take things and steal’ thing,” said Hartman, recounting what he’d seen on surveillance footage from last night. “The people that did this, they were scoping out the neighborhood and stealing. Four guys came, they [broke the front door] and then stood and looked around to see if there was a silent alarm, and then 12 more guys came in.” 

He added that he’d been operating in the neighborhood for 26 years. “The crazy thing about this is that I believe in peaceful protest.”

Union Square

The area around Union Square suffered some damage, and the police presence remained high on Monday morning. Broken windows were visible at Nordstrom Rack on West 14th Street, Verizon at 859 Broadway, and at Anthropologie several blocks away, while many more stores were newly boarded up. 

At a Doc Martens shoe store, at 868 Broadway just north of Union Square, the front door was smashed and an empty cash register drawer lay among the shattered glass. A group of construction workers, there to board it up, said they had started the work at roughly 10 p.m. on Sunday, but riot police told them to leave. 

Doug Dey, the owner of the building, said the construction workers were hired by Acadia Realty Trust, which owns the ground-floor retail condo. Dey, who restored the landmarked building before selling to Acadia, pointed out the window panels, which the looters hadn’t breached. “Thank God, because this is expensive curved glass,” he said. “Very expensive. This is 1849, this building.”

Across Broadway, more workers were boarding up at Verizon, whose doors had been smashed, and a Happy Socks, which appeared undamaged. Around the corner, tens of police officers huddled in groups along West 16th street. 

Midtown

Most of the luxury stores along Fifth Avenue were boarded up, although the vast majority were unscathed, including Versace, Harry Winston, Saks Fifth Avenue and Louis Vuitton.

At Bergdorf Goodman at 754 Fifth Avenue, piles of two-by-fours were lined up near each display window, while workers measured boards to fit them. A police officer standing nearby confirmed that the Bergdorf men’s store, across Fifth Avenue, which was entirely boarded up, had been broken into the night before at around 3 a.m., but nothing had been taken. 

The only other visible damage was at the North Face at West 43rd Street, which was cordoned off by blue police tape, and the interior remained exposed to the street through broken windows. 

Atlantic Terminal 

Workers were boarding up entrances today to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal mall, following a tense standoff on the steps of the multi-story retail center on Sunday night. A large police presence had been stationed in front of the center, and protesters ended up clashing with police on the steps leading up to the mall, leading to physical altercations and arrests. 

Earlier, on Saturday night, the center’s Target had been targeted for looting by protestors, but fellow marchers fended off the raid and formed a human blockade in front of the store, according to cell phone footage captured by a Forbes reporter. 

Down the street, an Apple store at the base of 300 Ashland Place, a luxury high rise, was also being boarded up, as were a handful of stores along Flatbush Avenue and nearby Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. Workers were seen painting over and scrubbing off graffiti on some storefronts and streetside planters. 

Kith, a high-end streetwear apparel line, was among the retailers to board up its shop on Flatbush. 

With additional reporting from Sarika Gangar. 

Update: The story has been updated since publication to reflect that the store at Prince and Crosby Streets is a T2 store, not a Papyrus.