By Noah Manskar
NEW YORK — Natasha Amott used to have three well-known boutiques packed with cooking supplies, from unique cocktail bitters to high-end Japanese knives. Now her Whisk empire is down to a single store.
One closed in April for a familiar reason. Amott's landlord wanted to raise the monthly rent for her Williamsburg location to $26,500 from $18,450 because of how hot the retail market is on the Bedford Avenue thoroughfare. Amott was unable to afford the higher price and the store joined scores of others around the city shuttered by rent hikes.
But a less familiar factor — one partly in the city's control — forced Amott to give up on Whisk's Flatiron location just last month: Rising property taxes.
Amott was on the hook for 30 percent of the annual increase in her landlord's property tax bill under a common provision in commercial leases. That cost started at about $10,000 in the first year of her lease, which she signed in 2012, but ballooned to more than $54,000 last year — a jump she said no one saw coming.
"If it was just the rent, then we would probably be like, 'OK, maybe when our lease is up, we'll look at a different location,'" said Amott, whose remaining Whisk shop is on Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn. "But I think it was realizing in 2017, then again in 2018, that the property tax situation was crazy and feeling like it was only going to continue to increase at a dramatic rate that we said, 'This is not the kind of model that feels very sustainable for us.'"
Amott isn't alone. While policymakers and advocates have focused intensely and vocally on rising rents, property taxes have quietly become a much larger burden for New York City's small businesses over the past decade.
Retail rents, on the other hand, have declined in many parts of the city in recent years.
The city's retail store buildings were billed a collective $1.5 billion in property taxes last year, up about 71.6 percent from just $877 million in 2009, according to data from the city Department of Finance. The average tax bill for a retail parcel jumped more than 68 percent in that time, from about $46,620 to $78,494.
Those figures only capture properties primarily used for retail, but other categories have seen similar trends. Property tax billings for office buildings rose more than 69 percent from 2009 to more than $5.2 billion last year, while large residential rental buildings — which sometimes have ground-floor retail space — saw their total bills jump more than 66 percent to nearly $4.2 billion in that time.