BIDS BETRAYAL EXPOSED!
TRUTH COMES FROM DESPERATE IMMIGRANT MERCHANTS!
In Part II* of our BIDS series we laid the foundation for the reasons for the unprecedented historic closings of long established businesses occurring year after year, citywide in NYC (pre virus crisis). Many of these businesses were iconic to neighborhoods and hugely successful for decades. The reason for our city’s successful businesses closing in record numbers* was the outcome of City Hall’s economic policy being controlled by special interests. Controlled only for their own benefit with no regard for the investments of other businesses nor negative consequences to society.
* NYC Courts warrants issued for evictions of commercial premise.
In our one party Democratic city, ambitious career politicians took the easy pathway to advance their careers, if elected they would abdicate authority to their biggest campaign donors and corrupt party bosses. In NYC elections the power is with lobbies, with the biggest being the real estate lobby. Lobbies and political power players control our city’s economic policy by hand picking all government agency heads and Council Committee Chairs mandated with oversight responsibilities of our city’s businesses.
The Economic Development Corp, EDC, took the lead in promoting NYC as the premier profit potential city for real estate investment. Build a “field of dreams” and they will come, and EDC did, and still does today. The government promoted and protected real estate speculation at the same time as big banks and national chains bidding for prime main street locations produced exorbitant and unprecedented rent demands. Such insane rent demands that made it impossible for smaller established businesses to survive or make a reasonable profit. Regardless of how long or how successful a business was in a neighborhood, in this greedy rental market environment, when their leases expired every business was in jeopardy of being forced to close. The business owner may be satisfied with making a reasonable profit but their landlords only wanted windfall profits in this pro real estate environment.
There was no debate that the majority of established main street businesses could never pay these speculation created rents. The survival of the “backbone of the economy” depended upon government intervention. NYC ‘s main street economy was in total disarray caused by the wrecked rental market. Mayhem on main street with long established businesses closing in record numbers, new businesses going in and out in a rapid turnover rate never before seen. Main street businesses were collapsing in plain sight and what was City Hall going to do to stop the closings of its best established businesses?
City Hall lawmakers were going to commit to seeing that the landlords would continue unregulated and unchecked to reap windfall profits. Lawmakers would protect the failed economic policy that was destroying our small businesses, while making their campaign donors rich. In the face of the greatest challenge for the backbone of our economy to survive, City Hall lawmakers would conspire, collude, and rig the system to keep the status quo favoring special interests, and they still do today.
The grandest charade was created by the real estate lobby and carried out by their crony lawmakers to cover up the crisis our small business owners faced. Schemes created by lobbies of disinformation campaigns to rig the system to stop a vote on any legislation that would give business owners rights when their leases expired. The city’s grossly unfair and one sided commercial lease renewal process was the root cause of our established business closing. In NYC commercial businesses have no rights whatsoever when their leases expire. Landlords have exclusive rights to all the terms of a commercial lease. Therefore, the mass closing of our businesses was predictable in the economic environment created only for the rich. NYC’s small businesses future did not matter, they were expendable “collateral damage.”
A major player used by the lobbies to cover up the main street crisis, keep the status quo, give political cover for corrupted lawmakers and stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act, was the creation of BIDS on every main street. BIDS, whose majority board members by statue must be property owners. A lobby created Trojan horse on every main street ruled by the very identity that helped to create the crisis was City Halls’ answer to stopping the closings. Who is fooled that the property owners were to regulate themselves and make a priority to see that business owners receive fair lease terms that allowed them to make a reasonable profit that would keep them in business?
Progressive lawmakers at City Hall should have immediately called for a vote of the Jobs Survival Act and stopped the closings immediately and end the city’s small business crisis. Instead, the same politicians put into office by the real estate lobby sat on every BID board and allowed this shameful charade of pretending to care for and wanting to help small businesses with endless distractions by useless programs which continue today. A despicable mockery, anti democracy, and anti immigrant act by the BIDS that in time would turn out to make the city’s small business crisis much worse and lead to the city’s empty store blight.
The BID property owners helped put small businesses on “life support” now more BIDS were put in place to actively join the rigging to help pull the plug.
Collusion and Rigging by BIDS exposed by Immigrant Owners
In November 2008*, at a Jetro Grocery Wholesale warehouse in the Bronx, the truth was exposed that our small business owners were victims of City Hall’s economic policy. The event was a presentation by then Small Business Committee Chairman David Yassky speaking to over one hundred mostly Hispanic bodega owners. After Chairman Yassky made his standard political statement on how important the businesses are to job creation and our economy, he gave a list of Small Business Services and BID resources and programs to assist businesses to start, manage and grow and to continue to thrive. Opening the floor for questions and comments he would be surprised and taken aback by the anger of his audience, generated by his remarks.
*An overview of the entire translated interactions is paraphrased, but accurately stated.
The audiences’ angry mood would be set by the first bodega owner’s response. He did not ask a question but instead made a statement to Chairman Yassky, “ what city do you live in that you think our businesses are thriving? You have never been to our neighborhoods or you would know your remarks insult our desperate business owners.” Chairman Yassky, was stunned by the remark and replied something to the effect, ” as Small Business Committee Chairman I have been to many neighborhoods walking the streets with BID and Chamber members and listening to many store owners.” The bodega owner relied, that “the BIDS and Chambers are no friends of small businesses and they lied to you if they told you they were helping us deal with our problems by using their programs and resources. He continued, “they have no respect for immigrant businesses and don’t care about anything but making money.”
Chairman Yassky became defensive and wanted to make clear that he was on the business owner’s side and would eagerly listen and wanted to learn about their problems. For the first time in NYC, his statement would opened the door for the truth of how our businesses’ real problems have been willfully ignored and covered up by the very government agency and organizations mandated to serve them. That these government agencies were allowing blatant discrimination and abuses against our mostly immigrant family owned small businesses.
Jetro Immigrant Bodega Owners Give the Truth!
A husband and wife bodega owners told Chairman Yassky of working day and night for years to save for their twin daughter’s college. But four months before their lease expired an agent for the landlord came and demanded $50K cash be given in 48 hours or they would be thrown out in four months. They were shattered and begged him to take less but he refused and they had to give their life’s savings to him. Chairman Yassky could not believe his ears and asked if they called the police. When translated, the entire room erupted with sarcastic laughter at him.
Ramon Murphy, then President of the USA Bodega Association standing next to Yassky, whispered in his ear that no owner can ever call the police because the business owners have no rights when their leases expire and the landlord would throw them out. And if the landlord was fined and paid it, when the tenant’s lease expired the landlord would demand 10 times the fine be repaid to him in cash before he would grant a new lease. Chairman Yassky looked startled but nodded that he now understood the audience’s response to his question on calling the police.
Two other merchants told their story of being extorted for cash to stay in business and feeling helpless and hopeless of their future. After Chairman Yassky had gotten over his initial shock of hearing about merchants in NYC being extorted for cash, more abuse stories followed. A merchant told of being in business for 18 years and a new landlord would give him only a month to month lease. At the beginning of each month he or his brother had to take cash to his landlord to pay that month’s rent. When others spoke up of being given one year leases or month to month, again Yassky was surprised.
One merchant explained to Chairman Yassky that many business owners start off very small with one store and with their family’s working to build up to owning two and then three with the goal to sell all and eventually own one of the big Supermarket Association stores. But today’s shorter leases make that impossible, you cannot sell a business that has less than a 5 year lease. And if you need a long lease the landlord becomes your partner and wants 40-50% of your selling price. Everyone in the audience nodded in agreement to this appalling reality stated by the merchant.
Chairman Yassky came prepared to hear complains about high rent increases, and several did complain but Yassky did not expect to hear about the other problems. For the first time as Chairman he would hear from several merchants their rage of being forced to pay their landlord’s property taxes. This landlord abuse produced more angry outcries from the audience that day. Several owners spoke about not being concerned about paying their landlord’s property taxes when they first opened, but today the tax burden had grown so fast and so large to cause them to think about closing their businesses. One owner shouted at Yassky that in the last two years because of the rise in rents and increases in his landlord’s property taxes that he actually lost money even working 15 hours a day seven days a week. As the stories were being told the room became out of control with built up emotions of anger. Two women owners could not finish their stories due to breaking down in tears.
Chairman Yassky listened to the angry owners and was speechless. He turned to Miguel Peribanez next to him. Miguel was the founder of the new USA Latin Chamber of Commerce. Chairman Yassky was apologetic as he made clear he had no idea of the mistreatment of the merchants taking place in NYC. He said that this was the very first time he had ever heard of any of these problems. That the SBS officers regularly issue reports to his committee of their programs to address merchant’s needs and the state of our small businesses. Never once had any of the problems stated today by the merchants been expressed by either SBS or the BIDS that he regularly visited.
Ramon Murphy of the Bodega Association asked him to stay to listen to just a few questions he wanted to ask all the owners. Chairman Yassky agreed and Murphy asked all to raise their hands if they personally had given money to landlords to remain in business or if a member of their family had. All hands were raised but three. Chairman Yassky just shook his head. Murphy then asked the merchants to raise their hands if they had a 10 year lease or more, four hands raised. Next, he asked hands up for 5-10 year leases, 17 hands were raised. Next 2-5 year leases, 43 hands raised. Next, 2 years or less, 41 hands went up.
Then Murphy surprised Yassky by reminding the merchants of what Yassky first stated about the SBS and BIDS and resources they offered to help business owners. Murphy asked the merchants to raise their hands if they have ever heard of the SBS or BIDS. Seven hands of the over 100 merchants were raised. When the seven were asked if any asked for the services, 3 kept their hands up. Those three were asked what services they asked for. One asked for free rat poison but given another phone number to call. Another asked for help to gain food stamp approval, with no help given. The last asked where to gain a liquor license, and was helped.
Chairman Yassky had heard enough, he turned to Miguel Peribanez and asked if his organization could do an independent survey. A survey of not just Bodega owners but of all types of Hispanics owned small businesses in NYC. Miguel was founder of a new organization and welcomed the challenge and agreed right on the spot to do it.
As Chairman Yassky finished being interviewed by two Dominican TV programs and merchants were leaving, Ramon Murphy asked Chairman Yassky if he could ask just one final question of the merchants before they leave, a question he felt would help make sense to Chairman Yassky of what he had heard today. Chairman Yassky agreed and Ramon stood on a chair to gain everyone attention and asked, “raise your hand if you know who your council-member is.” As Chairman Yassky and Ramon looked around the room not a single hand was raised! Ramon Murphy stepped down and went to Chairman Yassky and said out loud, all the bodega owners are in trouble because all their landlords know who their council-members are.
Chairman Yassky knew what Ramon Murphy meant. The SBS and BID representatives had been giving Chairman Yassky’s Committee a steady diet of misinformation on the success of their programs and resources for our businesses. While covering up the true state of our city’s small businesses. But today at Jetro the SBS and BIDS had lost control of the narrative of the true state of our businesses under their useless programs and watch. At Jetro, Chairman Yassky was not listening to bureaucrats giving disinformation and a false narrative to him and he was not looking at pie charts, reports on outcomes of initiatives, or needs assessment statistics on projections of new resources for small businesses. He was looking into the faces of “real people” experiencing real problems who needed real help. Today he learned first hand the truth from real small business owners who risked their life savings, worked long hard hours and made major scarifies to achieve their American Dream.
Yassky left that event knowing the truth but would wait for the results of the survey to confirm the truth as being given by the small business owners and not the disinformation from grossly overpaid bureaucrats protecting the windfall profits of the wealthy and who never took the risk of being an entrepreneur in NYC.
The first true study of small businesses in NYC*
Miguel Peribanez was founder of USA Latin Chamber of Commerce and was a very successful insurance broker for Hispanic businesses in NYC. To do this survey right he hired 40 agents and made connections with other insurance brokers and tax preparers who would recommend their Hispanic business owner clients to take the survey. Surveys were scheduled only with the business owners and all identities were confidential and not to be disclosed. Government agencies could never do a survey like this, with the highly skeptical immigrant owners. Besides, most immigrant business owners do not trust government agents. Few in government have ever owned or managed a small business and could never relate to the hard work day to day workings of the mostly immigrant family owned businesses. The successful Hispanic owner Miguel Peribanez was the perfect choice to do this survey. His being next to Chairman Yassky at Jetro would have a monumental influence on the futures of our city’s immigrant small businesses.
The public release of this survey took place on April 18, 2009 at a Policy Forum in Upper Manhattan: Crisis on Main Street” Solutions to Save Hispanic Small Businesses and Jobs. Then Small Business Chairman David Yassky, attended the forum and went on record as the first major Council Member in over 16 years to state publicly a crisis existed and government had to take immediate action.
David Yassky, “What alarmed me most about the survey was the loss of our job creators, our small businesses, that is what is at stake here, if we don’t keep our small businesses we are not going to keep those jobs.
. “Franklin Roosevelt, when he was President said, try something, if
it does not work, try something else. But you have to try something.
The one thing we cannot do in the face of this Crisis is nothing”.
Notice over Yassky’s right shoulder is then CM Bill de Blasio. As a candidate for Public Advocate, CM de Blasio was the biggest champion for the Jobs Survival Act. He spoke at this forum giving a passionate speech of why the bill must be passed into law. Later on August 19th he would go to Jetro to gain the bodega owners endorsement and many owners would put his poster in their windows. On Aug 11th at a rally for the Jobs Survival Act , his statement was given, “ I call for an immediate vote on this bill by the Small Business Committee so that the full Council can quickly pass it into law and begin stopping the closings of our city’s small businesses.” His championing the Jobs Survival Act and committing to the immigrant community his pledge to fight for its passage would later, once elected, make his betrayal to our city’s immigrant business owners even more despicable.