Manhattan's streets are awash with empty storefronts after retail asking rents climbed to untenable levels and tenants started to push back. But the sheer number of vacancies on the Upper East Side is alarming: The Real Deal counted 82 empty storefronts along Madison, Lexington, Third and Second avenues between 57th and 96th streets during an afternoon in late July.

Over on Third Avenue, asking rents average $283 per square foot, and experts in the area said the avenue's shops are geared more toward chain apparel stores and national brands due to the kinds of large retail spaces that line the avenue. The struggles faced by national retailers, therefore, are having more of an impact on storefronts on Third Avenue than they would on a tony strip like Madison, brokers said.

"Third [Avenue], I think, is the first market to really struggle with some of the difficulties we're seeing with national soft goods retailers," Cushman's Steven Soutendijk said. "They're the ones that are struggling in malls across the country."

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