On Sixth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, there are plenty of vacant storefronts where a variety of shops and stores used to attract tourists and city residents alike.
It has become an all-too common scene throughout the five boroughs — but where it's a problem for the city, some are taking advantage to commit their nefarious deeds.
Crooks hit famed cigar shop Davidoff of Geneva on Sixth Avenue near West 56th Street on Monday, making off with $60,000 worth of cigars from the high-end smoke shop. According to the NYPD, the thieves made their way in by using a nearby vacant business.
It's not just a midtown problem, or even one plaguing well-off neighborhoods. In Bushwick, thieves cut their way into a cellphone store on Knickerbocker Avenue through the vacant business next door. The culprits made off with dozens of phones and accessories just a few weeks ago.
"I think people are desperate because of the pandemic. They don't know what to do at this point," said cellphone store employee Alex Polanco.
Elsewhere, Dani's Pizza in Kew Gardens was broken into on Monday. The business district of the Queens neighborhood had been using artwork to brighten up the empty windows in numerous vacant stores. But that didn't stop the robbers from getting in.
Over the past few months, the NYPD has reported similar crimes across the city in every borough.
For the crooks, it's pretty simple: Empty stores mean easy access to places doing their best to stay open at a time when estimates show half the city's small businesses have shut down. And the targets become easier with empty neighbors: no stores operating generally means no alarms either.
"They want to do anything to make money," Polanco said. "And I guess this is what they'll do until they figure out what to do."
So far, no arrests have been made in the recent robberies, police said.