A Warning to all Immigrant Families in NYC.
The last Hope to Save the American Dream
Will be in Danger with Potential
by Mayoral Candidate Maya Wiley.
If Maya Wiley wins the election as Mayor the likelihood of her appointing her former policy director Lena Afridi to a high economic position in her administration or of Ms. Afridi selected to influence the transition team is great. Ms. Afridi’s dangerous potential impact role in a new Wiley administration calls for an urgent warning to the city’s immigrant community because of her past sadly successful anti-immigrant policy and the dire consequences of her actions already resulting to immigrant families today and into the future.
In my long 37 year fight for justice and rights for immigrant family owned small businesses I have never had to give a warning like this to the immigrant community voters. My warning today is justified by the shameful role Lena Afridi played in denying economic justice to desperate immigrant owners fighting to survive. I do not take this negative critique of Ms. Afridi lightly, but I have a moral and ethical responsibility to expose the truth to the struggling immigrant small business owners fighting to save their American Dream. That truth is, Ms Afidi betrayed all immigrant business owners at a time when they needed an honest voice fighting for their rights and a real lifeline giving them a fighting chance to survive. Instead, she used her position, policies and the dire state of the immigrant families to instead promote only the false narrative of the real estate lobby and to willingly lie to stop the only real honest solution to save them.
Shame on her appalling abuse and use of the suffering of immigrant families by proclaiming that she was speaking on their behalf, pretending to be on their side and their voice seeking rights and justice, but really with a hidden agenda. That hidden agenda was to give misinformation on the only real solution giving rights needed to save our businesses the, Jobs Survival Act, and stall and stop any vote on it.
At the same time, Lena Afridi was promoting a new bill to substitute and kill the Jobs Survival Act forever. She knowingly gave a false narrative of hope to immigrant families even though her bill’s creation was influenced by the powerful NYC real estate lobby. Her new substitute bill gave no rights to the immigrant business owners and was created with the goal to stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act and keep the status quo destroying our immigrant family businesses. In my 37 year advocacy experience, the role Lena Afridi played in harming our struggle to save the American Dream for immigrant families was the most self serving despicable act against our immigrant community of any none elected person in NYC.
My serious charge requires credible evidence, which will be detailed in Part II. But before I give irrefutable proof of her collusion, betrayal, and unethical conduct and before the expected outcry that my warning is grounded only in my support for another Mayoral candidate, let me set the record straight. The Small Business Congress and I do not support any Mayoral candidate. As of this point, none deserve our support, or the votes from the city’s immigrant community. All candidates have small business policies that fail miserably to address the real crisis our businesses face now and will face in the future in NYC. None will be able to “rebuild or restore” our economy on a foundation that has been crumbling for decades. Contrary to the propaganda from the most expensive economic departments of any city in the nation, NYC's small businesses have been declining and unstable for over a decade.
It is impossible to restore the backbone of our economy in the nation’s most anti small business environment. Nothing can be done to restore a vibrant economy until government takes back control of economic policy from the real estate speculators, lobbies and profiteers that have run it into the ground to benefit the few for decades. None of their small business platforms looks to take back their economic oversight responsibility and restore rights and justice for immigrant family owned businesses. The future of our city’s small business owners and their employees will be bleak if history repeats itself and regardless of who wins, the dark money crowd and PACS turn the transition teams over again to the lobbies to hand pick our government. One that will only serve the wealthy at the expense of our immigrant owners and their employees.
Many will conclude from my statement that in NYC it makes no difference which candidate wins because they all owe favors and allegiance to corrupt party bosses and fat cats who will keep the status quo and power. I believe there are degrees of immorality, lack of any ethics, decency or humanity. Therefore, review the facts and you be the judge. But in my opinion as representing immigrant business owners for over 3 decades, I feel any role Ms. Afridi would play in a new government would severely lessen the hope of immigrant families to save their American Dream, and the immigrant voters have an absolute right to know the truth.
Cutting through election year insincere political rhetoric.
The starting point to accurately assess and understand fully the true records, actions or concern of any person for our small business owners and their employees is how loudly and compassionately they stress the true state of our businesses and then demand immediate real solutions to their problems. This principle is only what guided my assessment of Ms. Afridi, and justifies my warning call. For two decades every candidate, lawmaker or agency‘s statements, studies, legislations, or programs dealing with our small businesses contained the words, “ our small businesses are the backbone of our economy and engines for job creation.” A walk down any main street past empty stores where once thriving businesses were, clearly show how insincere our lawmaker’s statement were and still are today.
Background: relevant today to give a true assessment. Any true progressive candidate needs to know this reality if they want to restore a vibrant economy.
For over 30 years the root cause of long established small businesses closing in NYC has been the one sided commercial lease renewal process. This process has produced a battle of rights between the landlords and business owners. The government promoting, sponsoring, and protecting real estate speculation in NYC has wrecked havoc on the city’s commercial lease renewal process. Successful business owners must be able to negotiate fair lease terms that allow a reasonable profit, or they will eventually all close. The hyper real estate speculation combined with banks and chains bidding for prime locations created a new “greed culture” where landlords were no longer satisfied to make a reasonable profit. Therefore they no longer cared if long established good tenants made a profit or closed. Good for the landlords, bad for the economy.
And in NYC where only the landlords had and still have, all the rights to the lease renewal process and tenants had none, landlords made windfall profits while businesses closed in record numbers, creating the empty store blight. As this destructive trend played out in plain site, government agencies mandated to care for the welfare of small businesses failed their oversight responsibilities. Instead of saving our businesses, the SBS, BIDS, Chambers, Council and lawmakers themselves all conspired with the lobbies to successfully cover up the city’s growing small business crisis. At the same time, City Hall put on a lobby orchestrated charade parade of worthless bills, useless studies, countess initiatives and programs touted to help small businesses. A dog and pony show with the only real goal of purposely not addressing the root cause of the crisis, the commercial lease renewal process.
Our city’s small business owners were the collateral damage to keep the real estate speculation’s machine, created by our government’s policies, corrupt party machines and over funded agencies going strong. Our immigrant family owned small businesses, which own the majority of our city’s small businesses (64-68%), were the greatest victims of this out of control speculation producing the out of control greed, abuse and destruction. The outcome of our government doing absolutely nothing to save even one business helped spawn the growth of the greatest small business crisis in every neighborhood of NYC, years prior to the virus crisis. An unresolved crisis still present today and will be after the virus ends. Reviewing candidate platforms on small businesses, no Mayoral candidate seems to know the unresolved decade long small business crisis still exists and was at extreme emergency levels BEFORE Covid!.
Crisis exposed decade ago, ignored!
An existing crisis exposed by an independent study of immigrant small businesses in 2009 should have been the game changer to save mom and pop business owners. In 2009 the largest study * of Hispanic businesses exposed the growing crisis destroying our businesses.
This study produced an instant response by then Small Business Committee Chairman David Yassky who called for a hearing to find a solution to stop the closing of businesses, and end the crisis. Chair Yassky’s opening statement , “I will say right up front there is no option to do nothing …our small businesses will disappear.” The entire committee selected the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Jobs Survival Act, as the best solution to end the crisis. The Jobs Survival Act gives owners the right to renew long term leases, equal rights to negotiate the new lease terms and an arbitration process to protect from rent gouging.
The stage was set at City Hall, the battle for RIGHTS was on, Democracy vs Oligarchy! Ignore the only real lifeline/solution to stop the record closings and ignore the victims of unchecked out of control greed and keep the status quo with all the rights in the landlord’s hands. Or give rights to the small business owners when their leases expired. Rights needed to negotiate reasonable lease terms that allowed a reasonable profit, which would keep owners in business along with the jobs they created. Businesses must make growing profits in order to create jobs. NYC’s commercial lease renewal process had become a “cash cow” for landlords and for businesses and jobs a killing process.
The real estate lobby was not going to have its members give up any rights, even if its members caused the crisis in the first place. They gave millions in campaign donations to flip ambitious unethical lawmakers to their side, and still do today. The first battle was easily won by the lobby when, even with the Jobs Survival Act having 32 sponsors, including the entire committee members, the lobby in collusion with then Speaker Quinn cooked up a scheme to stop a vote on the bill, certain to easily pass.
Next, they hand picked a new Chairman of the Small Business Committee, stacked the committee’s members, flipped once strong supporters of the bill, like Bill de Blasio, MMV, Brad Lander, Corey Johnson and others who withdrew their sponsorship. The lobby won the third battle by hand picking the Small Business Commissioner and having the SBS remain a pro real estate agency, creating more pro landlord BIDS on every main street. The cover-up of the small business crisis as well as the Jobs Survival Act was in full force, successful, and still is today.
The outcome of the rigging and collusion with the lobby was no Council public hearing of the Jobs Survival Act for 8 years, even as the crisis spread like a wild fire. Another outcome of lawmakers remaining silent and complicit to the rigging, while doing nothing to save a single business or job was the empty store blight. Yes, our city’s empty store blight was a result of the failure of a lobby corrupted Democratic leadership to restore democracy to our small business owners.
The extent of the total control over corrupt ambitious lawmakers by lobbies was shown by the Jobs Survival Act's history of going from one week before a vote with unanimous committee approval and 32 sponsors, to 8 years without a hearing or mention, all during a growing crisis. Every battle was being won by the lobbies but the 30 year war would not be won until the lobby created a bill which would be substituted for the Jobs Survival Act. Ms. Afridi would play a major role in promoting the real estate lobby’s bill while opposing the tenant’s bill.
The lines were drawn, which side would Ms. Afridi be on, keeping the status quo with rights of the lease renewal process only for landlords or fighting for rights for the tenants? Would she play a major role in winning the 30 year war for the lobbies by leading the promotion of a substitute bill they helped write?
Ms. Afridi made very clear which side she was on beginning in the last election.
PART II Ms. Afridi betrays desperate immigrant family owners and their employees.
Sung Soo Kim, recognized as the city’s leading small business authority and advocate for over 3 decades. The “Godfather of immigrant businesses” is the founder of the oldest small business service center in NYC, the Korean American Small Business Service Center, and was Chairman of the Mayor’s First Small Business Advisory Board, appointed by Mayors Dinkins and Giuliani. He is co-founder of Small Business Congress and sole creator of the Small Business Bill of Rights. He has spent every working day for 34 years addressing the problems of immigrant small business owners. At its peak, Kim had 17,000 immigrant business owners he served under 8 Asian business associations. He never took a salary from government as Chairman of Small Business Advisory Board nor in consulting on numerous regulations. He turned down offers to run a BID in Queens and turned down government funding for his business service center. In 34 years he has personally negotiated and re-negotiated an estimated 50,000-55,000 commercial lease for his Asian members. He has gone to court weekly for 34 years to fight for his members in court. He personally consulted in the drafting of the original version of Small Business Jobs Survival Act and every version introduced by eight prime sponsors. He organized 11 public hearings over 3 decades on the Jobs Survival Act.