The coin-operated laundromat is one of those New York City staples, like the bodega, the deli counter, and the pigeon swarm. But in recent years, the footprint of those beloved washeterias has been shrinking. What’s that thanks to? Say it with me now: the rent is too damn high. Now that you can outsource your laundry, via startups like Cleanly and FlyCleaners, laundromats are being squeezed out of expensive areas. Where will you have your meet-cute with a stranger now?
As of February, the number of coin-operated laundries in the city was 2,750, according to numbers from the Department of Consumer Affairs that Crain’s New York parsed. That may sound like a lot, but it’s a ten percent drop from a decade ago, and its falling. In areas where rents are high, laundromats are disappearing at an alarming clip: There are just 400 of them now. Many of the old do-it-your-self shops have been replaced by wash-and-fold services, which charge much more but are far more convenient, as anyone who has lived in a building without a laundry machine will tell you.