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Faneuil Hall Landlord Relents After Walsh Pushes To Defer Merchants' April Rent

Street guitarist Matty X plays to an empty Faneuil Hall in late March. Faneuil Hall retailers have been pushing for a reprieve on April rent after last month's shuttering of non-essential businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Street guitarist Matty X plays to an empty Faneuil Hall in late March. Faneuil Hall retailers have been pushing for a reprieve on April rent after last month's shuttering of non-essential businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
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The New York-based real estate firm that operates the iconic Faneuil Hall has reversed course and will allow retail merchants to defer April rent payments, following a conversation between Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the firm's owner, Ben Ashkenazy.

Walsh said on Twitter that he had asked Ashkenazy, whose net worth Forbes values at $3.5 billion, to provide the merchants "immediate relief."

"I thank the Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. for agreeing to defer April rent for local merchants, as well as assist merchants applying for federal and local relief funding," Walsh wrote. "We know this may need to be extended and we will continue to work with Ashkenazy, like we are doing with landlords across the city, to support these important small businesses during this challenging time."

Faneuil Hall retailers had pushed for a reprieve on April rent after last month's shuttering of non-essential businesses. But Ashkenazy Corp. still expected payments, a column in the Boston Globe reported Tuesday.

"I'm afraid that I'm not going to make it," Linda DeMarco, president of the Faneuil Hall Merchants Association and owner of Boston Pretzel Bakery, told the Globe.

Faneuil Hall, which is owned by the Boston Planning and Development Agency, is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. Due to the coronavirus pandemic — and the city's subsequent business shutdown and stay-at-home advisory — its merchants felt they wouldn't make rent, "never mind any payroll," they wrote in a letter to Ashkenazy dated March 30.

"We are asking for your patience and help with rent and payments," they said in the letter. "We are in this together and we want to make sure we can count on you to help to bring the Marketplace back to its bustling self again."

Ashkenazy had earlier responded: "We want you to know that we are not in a position to relieve you from your lease obligations."

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Elie Levine is a freelance digital producer for WBUR.

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