SUNG SOO KIM
Battle of the Two Bills Begins.
The Small Business Jobs Survival Act vs Commercial Rent Stabilization Act, in reality the Tenants vs Landlords, Democracy vs Oligarchy, Developers vs Community, Capitalism vs Speculators, and the Job Creators vs Job Destroyers
Soon a hearing will be scheduled in the Council on a new bill, Commercial Rent Stabilization (CRS), being touted as saving small businesses by putting a cap on commercial rent increases. The pitch for the bill is simple, everyone knows sky high rents are forcing long established businesses to close, therefore having a rent guideline board limit the rent increases will stop the rent gouging and thus stop the closings. Sounds good right? WRONG!
After reading the “fine print” and the intent of the CRS it is crystal clear to small business advocates that this law will not save a single business in NYC. Furthermore, the law was written for the sole purpose of stopping the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, (Jobs Act) and keeping the status quo which for decades to come, while making the landlords richer. On the other hand, the Jobs Act was written with one purpose to give rights to business owners when their leases expired, rights that would stop the rent gouging, rights needed to negotiate fair lease terms, rights to stop the landlord abuses like extortion, end short term leases and stop paying the landlords’ property taxes. The Jobs Act is without question the best and only real solution to end the small business crisis in NYC.
Many citizens upset by their favorite mom and pop closings and have followed the fight to pass the Jobs Act, may be confused by the sudden appearance of the second bill, especially after the Oct 2018 hearing on the Jobs Act where Speaker Corey Johnson repeatedly pledged to make changes to the Jobs Act and move it to a vote. Over fourteen months since the hearing and where are the changes? And where is the vote? Simple changes on who the bill covers that would take days to make, end up on another bill 14 months later. That is called rigging.
Since the original version of the Jobs Act was introduced June 1986, the advocates have experienced the betrayal of ethics by many lawmakers seeking political ambitions. We know firsthand what collusion by a powerful lobby and the Council’s leadership looks like in rigging the system to stop the Jobs Act and deny rights and economic justice to business owners.
The new CRS bill is a disgrace to good government and appalling for all the lawmakers who abandoned the desperate small business owners by promoting this worthless bill and all should be ashamed. Those same lawmakers who repeat year after year “our small businesses are the backbone of our economy” but then remain silent for 10 years and do nothing as our businesses are being destroyed. Now they raise their voices to support a REBNY Trojan Horse that will only keep the status quo. They claim to want to save our small businesses from the high rents. Does that mean for the past 10 to 20 years with rents skyrocketing and businesses closing they did not want to save them?
Why for the past 10 years did the best solution to save small businesses (Jobs Act) sit bottled up in committee without any call for a hearing or vote? CM Lander and CM Levin, for 10 years where was the petition to save small businesses by supporting the Jobs Act? The sponsors of this fake bill (CRS) are joining in the rigging to deny economic justice to small business owners who seek and need only the best legislation to survive today in NYC.
The supporters insincere rhetoric on this new bill is the height of hypocrisy. Sponsors like CM Lander, CM Levin, and CM Van Bramer are saying “we support the CRS to save small businesses but we do not want to give small business owners any rights needed to be saved.” By promoting the CRS bill over the Jobs Act, all sponsors are switching from a Tenants Rights bill to a Landlords Rights bill. And creating a new commercial rent government political taxpayer funded bureaucracy.
Nobody who believes in justice for all, especially for people facing a crisis, should be fooled by this poorly disguised charade orchestrated by REBNY to stop the Jobs Act. In the long 30 year battle over legislation covering commercial lease renewals, not once has two bills been in play at the same time. Today, we have two bills only because of the lack of political will of lawmakers to stand up to the real estate lobby. These lawmakers with blind political ambitions are willing to sacrifice their progressive values and ignore a full blown small business crisis and go against the will of the people to serve their own interests and the real estate lobby. In any government, in any democratic nation in the world this new bill (CRS) would not exist. Instead, lawmakers would hold hearings and make amendments to get the best legislation until enough support was gained to pass into law. They would not rob support from a real solution bill to give support to a fake solution bill.
Some activists who do not own a small business may be fooled into believing the false narrative that the CRS will save small businesses, or assume the new bill must be better than the Jobs Act. Why else in the face of a growing crisis would anyone create a new bill that was not better to stop the closings than an existing bill which has 29 sponsors?
Which bill is the best to save small businesses? Comparing two bills
The new CRS bill is so inferior to the Jobs Act I will spend little time comparing the two. Will the CRS stop the growing illegal extortion of mostly immigrant owners by unscrupulous landlords? NO! Will the CRS end the shameful short term leases of sometimes month to month or one year? NO! Will the CRS stop the tenants from being forced to pay their landlords’ property taxes? NO! Does the CRS offer arbitration to resolve disputes between the parties? NO! The Jobs Act is YES to all!!
And the JOBS ACT keeps the government and politics out of the process plus it costs taxpayers not one cent!
The CRS keeps the status quo with the landlords having all the rights and the tenants get none. Even the claims that the tenant is protected from sky high rents is a fraud. The rules are made by a real estate friendly board who will set the base rent year to be the market rate. The same “fair market rate” manipulated for over 20 years by hyper real estate speculation which destroyed long established businesses. You want to see the outcome of the “fair market rate” walk down any main street and see the empty stores. CRS is a reward to the landlords and big real estate! Its passage would end any hope or future for small businesses in NYC.
Over a period of 34 years I have negotiated and renegotiated over 55,000 commercial leases for my immigrant owned business members. I understand the most important document impacting the future of every business is the commercial lease terms. The most important factor of the commercial lease is the tenants’ right to renewal clause. Yes, more important than the rent because without the right to renewal for the tenant, there is no negotiation leverage and all decisions for the renewal lease terms are solely up to the landlord, including if the tenant can remain in business. Without the tenants’ right to renewal of a commercial lease all proposals or laws will eventually fail and the business will close.
The obvious question to all sponsors of the CRS bill is why don’t you want the tenants to have rights when their leases expire? Why would you switch from a bill (Jobs Act) that gives all tenants rights to one (CRS) that gives tenants NO rights? The second question would be why would you sponsor a bill that empowers the future of businesses into the hands of Mayor de Blasio(and every Mayor after) who is the undisputed puppet of big real estate? Under the new law the Mayor hand picks the board who will set the guidelines for the annual rent increases. A Mayor on record opposed to the Jobs Act or any law regulating landlords. The last question to the sponsors is why would you wait 14 months and not once pressure Speaker Johnson to keep his pledge to make the changes to the Jobs Act and move it to a vote? After all, only one sponsor of the CRS ( CM Lander) is not also a sponsor of the Jobs Act which has 29 sponsors and will do what the new bill claims it will do, stop rent gouging, plus much more?
Shouldn’t the goal of good government be to seek only the best solution to a crisis impacting the entire city and the “backbone of our economy”? Obviously the sponsors of the new CRS bill do not practice good government policy nor always seek the best solutions to the real problems even in the face of a growing small business crisis. It is a sad day to see the blind supporters of this phony, do nothing, destructive CRS bill. If they succeed in pushing this sugar coated cancer of a bill through, small businesses will not get a fair lease renewal opportunity again for generations to come, and REBNY will have won with a government backed guarantee of their bogus artificially high rents in NYC.
* Sung Soo Kim, recognized as the “godfather of immigrant businesses” and major advocate for over 30 years. He 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 30 years addressing the problems of immigrant small business owners. 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 30 years he has personally negotiated and re-negotiated an estimated 50,000-55,000 commercial leases for his Korean/Chinese members. He has gone to court twice a week for over 30 years to fight for his members in court.