There has been a disturbing trend in New York City over the years where good “mom & pop” business are getting pushed out by rent hikes that are double, triple and even quadruple than what they were paying—or by a landlord who simply denied them a lease renewal. Every month New York loses over 1,000 small businesses, which equates to over 8,000 jobs lost.
For three years, there has been a bill sitting in the City Council called the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA) that would stop the closings by giving rights to small business owners (and anyone else with a commercial lease, like artists and cultural institutions) so they can negotiate a fair lease with their landlord.
There are now 28 Councilmembers who have stood up and co-sponsored the SBJSA. Even though the SBJSA has garnered the support of the majority of the Council, it is being denied a hearing and a vote. As one observer recently wrote, “You’d think a law that would give small businesses a fighting chance against astronomical rents and the soulless chains willing to pay them would be an easy sell for a City Council chock-full of progressives and our supposedly liberal mayor.” But sadly, city elected officials are beholden to the powerful real estate lobby, the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY). As the saying goes: Oil is to Texas as real estate is to NY.
When Mayor Bill de Blasio was a Councilmember he sponsored the SBJSA. When he ran for Public Advocate, he championed it. Now that he is mayor, he is prohibiting the same bill from reaching the floor for a vote and recommends urging landlords to be less greedy.
As we are head into election-year debates, the city needs to know what happened? Why has Mayor de Blasio abandoned his campaign pledges to take this city in another direction from Mike Bloomberg and help our struggling small businesses so they can survive? There are vacant storefronts in once vibrant neighborhoods and affordable grocery stores are closing all over the city.
Why hasn’t the mayor called a public hearing on the small business crisis so New Yorkers can hear all of the proposals to address it?
What are the other candidate’s solutions to stop the closings and save New Yorkers jobs before mom & pops are wiped out into extinction?
Kirsten Theodos is the cofounder of TakeBackNYC.