Coin-operated Laundromats are circling the drain in some of Manhattan’s priciest neighborhoods, where steep leases are leaving sud shops high and dry.
Some of the ones that remain are morphing into pricier drop-off and pick-up or delivery services “because you can’t survive in Manhattan without a drop-off business,” said Brian Grell, executive vice-president of Eastern Funding LLC, a major financier of city laundries.
Laundry owners say they can’t make a coin-operated laundry work if forced to pay more than $30 per square foot a month: Some Manhattan rents are as much as $110 a square foot.
The city does not keep statistics on coin-operated laundries, but Grell estimates there are about 125 to 175 in all of Manhattan.
Laundries continue to open and thrive in dense, less pricey areas, but in the past five years, few or none have opened to replace closed ones on Manhattan streets from the 20s to the 80s, said Grell, due to midtown rents he described as “sick.” What comes out in the wash are longer, more difficult schleps of soiled clothes to locations that are often farther away and less convenient.
While leases may be assumed by others and existing laundries re-financed, “no one can afford to build a brand new state of the art Laundromat,” in midtown, said Grell.
Park Poom Watanasuparp, who owns six Manhattan Laundromats (down from 12), was forced to close his Super Wasco Laundromat at 794 Ninth Ave. in December when the landlord refused to renew his lease. He tried to re-open at the Second Wave Launder Center, at 55th Street and Ninth Avenue, which closed the same month, even though the landlord wanted $20,000 a month, figuring he could repurpose existing utility hook-ups.
Watanasuparp planned to make a small coin-operated laundry space, a larger area dedicated to drop off laundry, and also open a wine bar or deli to defray the steep overhead. But the landlord, he said, never returned his calls.
In the mean time, all the washers and dryers have been ripped out as the space is apparently being readied for some other retail use.
Suffering from the fallout are people like Marlene Burgos, who pushed a cart 10 blocks from her home at 61st Street and Amsterdam Avenue to the Super Wasco Laundromat at 51st Street and 10th Avenue to wait in line to wash three weeks of clothes.
Burgos, a movie theater worker, tries to time her visits so she doesn’t have to wait for machines, but is not always successful.
“I wish they’d make more Laundromats,” she said.