New York, NY – Supporters of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act assembled on the steps of City Hall this week, to call more attention to plight of small business owners citywide – and to share details of the bill they hope will substantially alter the businesses’ odds of continued survival.
Led by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who introduced the legislation in March, the assembled group of co-sponsors and small business owners announced their backing for the Act in advance of a Committee on Small Business hearing on Monday, October 22. The hearing will be a chance for small business owners, elected officials, community organizations and small business experts to offer their testimony on the current dire situation Mom & Pop shops face throughout New York City.
The bill aims to address the shutdown of scores of small stores due to a lack of oversight and transparency with commercial leases. Some of the ways this would be addressed are the right to a 10-year renewal lease term for tenants in good standing, inclusion of all commercial tenants (not limited to storefront/retail), the right to a lease renewal, and binding arbitration to establish a rent increase that is reasonable for both the landlord and tenant.
Rodriguez told reporters that though the bill was first introduced as far back as 1986, “We have [now] achieved a level of crisis, comparable to that of the MTA,” throughout the five boroughs and their respective neighborhoods. “The lack of a fair process is changing communities,” he said. Small businesses “were a way to get into the middle class, to get your kids into college,” but abuses such as extortion and a refusal to grant leases have shut that down. “I have a friend who has a bodega in Brooklyn,” he said. “For 30 years he has had a month-to-month lease only.”
Nick Velkov, owner of Yoga Agora in Astoria, Queens, told his story of how a small yoga studio he had in West Harlem had no heat, dangerous electrical wiring, and a malfunctioning elevator that put tenants at risk. “We reached out to the city – they said they couldn’t help us,” he said. Velkov was told to take the landlord to court to solve the problems; the landlord retaliated by saying he wouldn’t fix the problems, he’d simply evict them. “There was no way to assert our rights in New York City.”
All of the speakers echoed the view that small businesses not only create jobs but make New York City attractive and unique, calling them the “lifeblood” of the city. Councilmember Ben Kallos, one of the bill’s sponsors, said, “Small businesses are what make New York City great; they are why people from all over the world want to come here.”