Thomas Beller considers the rising number of bank branches and drug stores replacing small local businesses in Manhattan’s Upper West Side and the subsequent push for new zoning laws to limit the amount of storefront they’re allowed to occupy: http://nyr.kr/NyS93s
I had no doubt about what would replace [the local H & H bagel shop]. It’s almost like when you break up with someone and are sure they are going to get together with that one perfectly awful person. And they do. It would be a bank, surely, or maybe a drug store, though the space is too small for what “drug store” now connotes. I find that the proliferation of Duane Reade and CVS and Rite-Aid makes the city much uglier, but I do use these places and am sometimes even grateful that some are open twenty-four hours, as H & H used to be. Bank branches have no such redeeming qualities. They are the new urban blight.
It turns out the explanation is quite simple: they appear to be banks but they are actually billboards, obliged to put on the show of being functioning institutions. A bit like the gambling den in “The Sting,” or the Old West town in “Blazing Saddles”—two movies I saw at the movie theatre on Broadway between Eight-third and Eighty-fourth.
But “financialization” isn’t a sufficient word—it’s the nationalization of Broadway; Manhattan as a high-profile arena where national brands marshal a divide-and-conquer strategy to drive out all local competition and then split the market amongst themselves, as Sears and Wal-Mart once endeavored to do with the rest of the country.