BIDS PART VII
LOBBY HIGH-JACKED BILL AND ORCHAESTRATED A SHAM HEARING!
DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP ALLOWS WORST CASE OF
COLLUSION AND RIGGING
Of A HEARING EVER IN THE COUNCIL!
In Part VI* of our series on BIDS we showed the huge unprecedented network created by the real estate lobby to stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act, and keep the status quo. The city was in a full blown small business crisis with sky high rents forcing long established businesses to close in record numbers. Yet, for over a decade nothing was done to find a solution to save even one business or job. At election time, after buying off the progressive leadership at City Hall, the lobby created network led by the SBS, BIDS, Chambers, and Small Business Committee, carried out a disinformation and distraction campaign. This lobby controlled network acted with one voice and with one purpose. To promote only the lobby’s false narrative and their playbook to distract from the crisis. City Hall’s grandest display of rigging was successful in covering up the victims of our growing small business crisis. As well as, stopping any vote on the only lifeline ( Jobs Survival Act) to give our businesses rights and a fighting chance to survive.
City Hall politics had never experienced such a citywide degree of collusion and rigging to serve a lobby’s interests as happened during our city’s small business crisis. NYC Courts** were issuing warrants to evict on average 484 businesses each month, with as estimated 1,200-1,400 businesses closing without court action each month. FOR 9 STRAIGHT YEARS!!
This travesty of injustice against small business owners was allowed to continue because of the undue influence of lobbies at election time in a one party City. Also, because of the complicity of self proclaimed progressive lawmakers lacking the political will and courage to stand up to the real estate lobby.
Destruction of our small businesses was happening in “plain sight,” yet no lawmaker ever called for a vote on the Jobs Survival Act, sitting in Committee. This editorial by OUR TOWN in 2014 is just one example showing lawmakers loyal to the lobbies remaining silent.
Editorial: Saving Small Business
Written by Our Town on October 1, 2014
It’s Time for Action on Small Business
What is it going to take to finally get people to pay attention to the small business crisis in New York City?
It began as a drip of closings a few years ago, as rents for mom and pop companies came up for renewal. Dozens of them were forced to close their doors because they couldn’t afford the exorbitant rent increases demanded by their landlords.
Neighbors bemoaned the loss of beloved local institutions, the culture of our neighborhoods began to change.
As rents in the city have continued to soar, that drip has since become a torrent. As many as 1,000 small businesses a month now close their doors in New York, according to an estimate by the Small Business Congress.
Most of the past year, this newspaper has been working to highlight the problem. We began by devoting increasing space and energy to stories about the issue, all running under the banner “Saving Small Business.” Many of those individual stories are cataloged in the pages that follow, in our tally of closed businesses called “What We’ve Lost.”
Enough dithering. Again, we ask: What is it going to take to finally get people to pay attention to the small business crisis in New York City?
Four more years after this Editorial a hearing is finally granted!!
The lobby orchestrated charade to cover up the dire consequences of the crisis, as well as silencing the only real solution to end it, was a huge success. Every mom and pop business and most small BID merchants were in fear of their futures when their leases expired. Yet, the BIDS managed to keep their merchants in the dark of the very existence of the Jobs Survival Act. Also shamefully, no business owners were ever aware of the roles the BIDS played in this successful lobby conspiracy to deny economic justice to their BID merchants. The success of this lobby created scheme to protect real estate profits, resulted in stopping a vote on the Jobs Survival Act. With the help of ambitious politicians, the lobby’s success also produced our city’s “empty store blight.”
Yes, the by product of a conspiracy, collusion and rigging by our own Democratic leadership to stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act, resulted in the creation of the city’s “empty store blight.” If so called progressive lawmakers would have raised their voices and allowed democracy to work even once and voted the Jobs Survival Act into law, then prior to the virus crisis, there would have been few, if any, empty storefronts on main streets. Also, with owners having the rights to long term leases and protection from rent gouging the majority of our small businesses would then have been far less vulnerable to closing during the crisis.
Yes, the action or non actions of our own government resulted in making our long established businesses less likely to survive the virus crisis. The virus crisis only greatly speeded up what was already happening to our businesses in NYC for the past decade.
For the past decade, the power and greed of the real estate lobby had gone too far. Most businesses were long past the tipping point of survival with the insane rents and oppressive lease terms being demanded. This produced a demand for a hearing on the Jobs Survival Act. Nine years after the last hearing where the Jobs Survival Act was chosen by 32 Council Members, as the only real solution to stop the closings. Finally, the truth would be exposed showing the corruption of our Democratic leadership by a lobby, and the dire consequence to society. At long last the platform for true progressives to demand a vote on the Jobs Survival Act, to end this crisis would be this honest hearing.
** court evictions
October 22, 2018 Council hearing on Small Business Jobs Survival Act *
Video and written testimony
Even with the iconic Village businesses closing in record numbers, then Speaker Corey Johnson abandoned all his progressive values and was not going to allow an honest hearing for our desperate small business owners. Nor was he going to allow his own Council Committee to fulfill their responsibility of oversight for the benefit of New Yorkers. Instead, he abdicated this critical hearing to the real estate lobby to control. The very same lobby whose members were responsible for creating our city’s small business crisis, responsible for rigging City Hall to stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act, responsible for building a network to hide the crisis and dire consequences they created, and responsible for controlling lawmakers who did absolutely “ nothing” for a decade to stop the closings.
This hearing will go down in Council history as the most disgraceful anti democratic sham hearing ever held. A disgrace to good government and one that every true progressive lawmaker should be ashamed and embarrassed by. Because the vast majority of our small businesses are multi generational immigrant family owned, it is accurate to state the hearing was also the most anti immigrant act sanctioned by the Democratic leadership. The reality that a lobby was orchestrating this hearing in plain sight at a time of a citywide small business crisis, and there were no outcries from lawmakers, clearly shows how much this lobby had corrupted our government. As well as, how very little lawmakers really care about the survival and futures of their own merchants.
To fully grasp how a lobby could completely control a hearing on legislation they had successfully stopped for 9 years, which was the only real solution to save our businesses, it is first relevant to understand what occurred just prior to planning this hearing. The truth of who really controls City Hall!
The Jobs Survival Act is the oldest legislation in the Council, first introduced in 1986. As such, it also has had the most public hearings, with 11. At every past hearing the small business advocates first met with Committee staff to put forth true business advocates who, based solely upon their own experiences and who they represent, would make strong arguments for the bill. Many of the Council’s largest hearings in the 80’s were on our bill. Not only did we win the debate on the bill at every hearing, we “slammed dunked” these hearings to the point the real estate lobby did not even bother to testify. Why testify, when there was no rational reason for not giving business owners rights when their leases expired. Everyone knew that business owners lacking any rights in the commercial lease renewal process was the major cause of long established businesses closing. At all those 11 hearings, few ever opposed the bill. In fact, at all prior 11 hearings on the Jobs Survival Act, never once did the Speaker show or even comment on the hearing. No lawmaker, Chamber, BID, or business organization ever testified in opposition to our bill! Not even one time in 30 years! That trend would change dramatically in hearing number 12.
Based upon the past 30 years of hearings, the small business advocates were confident that the supporters of our bill would give compelling arguments for its immediate passage. Testimony made easier during a decade long unchecked growing crisis. We were also confident because in our hands was the only real solution to stop the closings: that gave rights to renewal long term leases and rights to negotiate fair lease terms that allowed a reasonable profit for business owners. Also, the bill offered real protection from rent gouging. Our bill was selected by the full Small Business Committee members at the last hearing as the only real solution to stop the closings. If the hearing is honest. like all previous 11, and nobody testifies having a better solution to offer to save the businesses, then the committee would have no choice but to vote it into law.
We were aware that the real estate lobby had hand picked the Small Business Committee Chairman Mark Gjonaj. We were not yet alarmed because this hearing would be in “plain sight” even with Gjonaj’s disgraceful history of favoring real estate and his outspoken opposition to our bill.
Upon CM Johnson being voted as the new Speaker, through a Villager OP ED* article we purposely directed to him, we stressed the reality that the future of every Village business owner would be in the hands of the new Chairman of the Small Business Committee. A plea was made to Speaker Johnson to select an independent Chair who was only committed to the well-being of our small business owners and not influenced by special interests.
Villager: the future of every business and every neighborhood was in the Speaker’s hands on who he choose as chair. Mr. Kim listed several lawmakers who would make a good Chair and hold honest hearings and find a real solution to stop the closings.
We believed CM Johnson became Speaker by allowing the lobby to hand pick the new chairman of the Small Business Committee. Also, once becoming Speaker, to withdraw his sponsorship from the Jobs Survival Act which as Councilman he had championed. Finally, the Speaker had to actively join in the rigging to stop any vote on our bill. His selection of CM Mark Gjonaj was indefensible, an insult to ever business owner and a betrayal to every citizen who believes in good government. CM Mark Gjonaj was without debate the most pro landlord lawmaker in NYC government, likely ever. A glaring conflict of interests, as he owns his own real estate company and his family is into the real estate industry. A wealthy real estate owner who’s on record favoring big real estate policy, which is well documented. He is on record stating he is opposed to the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and any legislation regulating commercial landlords. The real estate industry rewarded Gjonaj by donating the largest funds to any Council candidate, possible ever. And an opportunity for an honest hearing took a giant step back with his appointment by Speaker Johnson. Corey Johnson had clearly thrown his small business owners and democracy under the bus to become Speaker.
As the authors and advocates of the Jobs Survival Act, like before every past hearing we requested a meeting with the Chairman’s staff to plan the list of the best advocates to testify for the bill. On September 27, 2018 we wrote a letter to Chairman Gjonaj* asking for a meeting to plan for the hearing. Mr.Kim notified Gjonaj that he was in the hospital but would send representatives with a list of our best speakers. What was significant about this letter was it would spell out to CM Gjonaj what was needed to have an honest hearing with the best outcome of finding a true solution to stop the closings.
Kim, “My letter to you is of my judgment on what will be essential actions needed for a fair and productive hearing. The dire situation faced by our small business owners, especially Korean and immigrant owners, presents for me, a moral obligation to do all in my power to see they receive justice at this long overdue hearing. My reasoning will be based solely upon my 34 years experience advocating for small businesses and fighting daily to solve the problems of immigrant small business owners in NYC.”
Kim, My Two Actions:
I. To resolve all the outstanding alleged legal concerns/issues/claims of the Jobs Survival Act prior to the hearing. This must be the top priority of the committee because of the long term impact and influence the alleged legal claims has had on the fate of the bill and democracy at City Hall for our small business owners.
2. To follow the successful democratic act and oversight responsibilities of former Small Business Committee Chairman, David Yassky in stating at the opening of the last hearing on the bill, that the sole goal of the hearing is, “to find a real solution to stop the closing of the small businesses and save jobs. There was no option to do nothing or our small businesses will disappear.” He called upon the administration to “give the committee solutions,” while other committee members made clear they were not interested in hearing all the programs of the SBS, but instead wanted solutions to save the businesses and solutions to stop the illegal extortion of immigrant owners growing in NYC.
Two very reasonable recommendations considering the growth of the small business crisis caused by the “non action” from City Hall. For the first time in over 30 years the Chairman of the Small Business Committee refused to respond to our request to meet. Reprehensible and appalling, that a hearing is scheduled on our legislation and the Chairman refuses to meet with the authors and chief advocates of that legislation! The advocates and true voices for our city’s small business owners for over 30 years and yet the Committee staff refuses to even ask us who we want to represent our bill. The integrity of the Small Business Committee had hit a new low under Chair Gjonaj. The real estate lobby would hand pick and coach those claiming to speak for small business owners supporting our bill.
*Letter to Gjonja to arrange hearing: https://www.savenycjobs.com/kim-letter-to-chair-gjonaj
We immediately notified Speaker Johnson’s Office of this mockery of justice by CM Gjonaj. Speaker Johnson’s staff did not return our request to meet nor to even discuss our grievances over the phone. We were forced to communicate our mistreatment through OP ED articles in the Villager. Our biggest issue was the failure of the Speaker’s legal department in resolving, prior to any hearing, any legal concerns they had with our bill. We had no intentions of again allowing, after a hearing, the lobby to scheme and cook up another bogus legal claim. A baseless claim only made to justify unwarranted changes ( water down) to the bill. The Speaker’s legal department had 9 years to recommend amendments to our bill that would satisfy them. Yet, not a single comment or response from the legal department has ever been made since their bogus claim to stop a vote in 2009. A committee hearing is where valid opposition to legislation is to be put forth and debated. Not behind closed doors after a hearing.
We learned that the Speaker’s staff had put together so called small business advocates to speak for our city’s business owners and speak for the bill. Outrageous rigging in plain sight with political cronies who never owned a small business, never read the Jobs Survival Act, and represent no or few small business owners. The reality was these so called advocates were just shills to protect Speaker Johnson’s reputation and image for what he was about to do, betray and screw his own Village merchants.
After 34 years of fighting against the corrupt machine and powerful lobby we knew what to expect at this hearing. The authors of the Jobs Survival Act and true advocates would be shut out of this hearing. The lobby did not want to hear our simple message , “if you're serious in wanting to end this crisis and stopping the closings of our businesses then give rights to business owners when their leases expire.” Regulating commercial landlords was off the table at this hearing. This lobby orchestrated sham hearing would be void of any empathy or respect for the dire plight of our small business owners. The lobby would forbid any lawmaker at City Hall from proclaiming that the council had a moral obligation to save our small businesses and jobs. Forbidden also was any lawmakers calling for the Council to make a priority to save our businesses and jobs. Our goal was to have a real solution to stop the closing of our businesses, while the lobby’s goal was to stop any law regulating commercial landlords, and keep the status quo.
We would get to speak, but only for three minutes late in the afternoon before empty Council chairs. The hand picked fake advocates would have already spoken in “prime time” before the full committee. These phony lobby coached advocates message would be that the businesses needed legislation to survive but the Jobs Survival Act needed amendments. And who would make these amendments? The real estate lobby after the hearing with their loyal cronies approval.
As the authors of the bill and lead advocates for decades, we had no choice but to call for a boycott of this disgraceful sham hearing. In all conscious we could not in any way validate this sham hearing or give this lobby charade any credibility.*
Boycott hearing: First time in 30 years!
Sung Soo Kim, Today, we call for a Boycott of the
Oct 22 hearing.
Our “deprived social class”, desperate small business owners, long denied a voice in government, their futures jeopardized or destroyed, deserves economic justice, a government that works for them not for a real estate lobby. The evidence is overwhelmingly compelling. This hearing, orchestrated by a powerful real estate lobby, will be a sham and rigged.
The purpose of this hearing will not be to find the best solution to stop the closing of small businesses, save jobs, or end a crisis. Instead, it will be “political theater” for elected doing nothing for nine years to save a business or job to give disingenuous statements on how important our small businesses are. Then promote “other measures” or useless initiatives created by and favoring only landlords. This array of proposals/measures, have nothing to do with any real solution to the real crisis facing small businesses upon leases expiring. Measures created by the real estate lobby meant to keep the status quo protecting the windfall profits of landlords, not to save small businesses or jobs. Another purpose of the hearing will be to lay the foundation for changing and watering down the bill after the hearing to keep the status quo for the lobby’s landlord members.
Any citizen that believes in democracy and good government; holds progressives values; knows our small businesses need rights to survive in this hyper real estate speculative market…
the message is simple: we reject “business as usual “at City Hall. No longer is it acceptable that lawmakers pledging progressive values to voters on Main Street - then abdicate all responsibility to a real estate lobby or political machine at City Hall. No longer can they remain silent and complicit to injustices and the rigging by a lobby over serving the will of the people. If a lawmaker votes for legislation that takes away rights of small business owners to survive or make a reasonable profit that lawmaker will be held fully responsible for all businesses closing and jobs lost in their district. With the corrupt political machine collaborating with a greedy lobby to destroy both our economy, neighborhoods and democracy in New York City, Enough is enough! We ask all community activists to not give one ounce of credibility to this lobby sham and rigged hearing. It’s an insult to every desperate small business owner and their workers in their time of crisis.
Sung Soo Kim , Founder
Steven Barrison, Spokesperson of SBC
Part VIII The most disgraceful hearing in Council history!
BIDS Play Major Role in Shameful Anti Immigrant Hearing!
** Villager article on Speaker’s need to resolve legal issues of Jobs Survival Act
Beginning on April 10, 2018 the SBC sent two letters to Speaker Johnson respectfully requesting that he use the full power of his office to once and for all resolve fully, prior to a hearing on the bill, the legal claims made 9 years ago against the Small Business Jobs Survival Act
Legal lie called out