Lobby Takes Control of City Hall for
Over a Decade!
SBS and BIDS Expand while Mom and Pop merchants close in record numbers, result
“Empty Store Blight”!
In Part V* of our BID series we exposed the lobby’s control of the Speaker’s Office. Weeks prior to a certain easy vote to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Jobs Survival Act, the real estate lobby colluded with then Speaker Quinn to cook up a bogus legal claim to stop the vote. Her anti democratic act prevented a real solution, and only lifeline, to stop the closing of our long established businesses. Once a vote was stopped, and to assure that the city’s power brokers remain in full control of our global “real estate money” economy, they would “double down” on their control and influence of the Democratic leadership in NYC.
In our one party city, all pathways to political success and power ran through our city’s lobbies and party bosses. To stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act, or any law that would regulate commercial landlords’ complete control of the “commercial lease renewal process”, the greatest network of unethical lawmakers were bought off. These ambitious lawmakers eagerly were taking power brokers campaign funds and would pledge to follow only the false narratives created by the lobbies. The city’s agencies, committees, and government funded organizations mandated to serve our small business owners were instead now ordered to serve only the real estate lobby’s playbook. Rights, economic justice, and the future of our small business owners did not matter, only preserving the windfall profits of NYC’s real estate speculation, mattered.
The lobby’s network of the: Mayor, Speaker, Committee Chairs, SBS, EDC, BIDS, Chambers, fake business coalitions, pro real estate business organizations, funded community groups loyal to lawmakers, and real estate friendly media and unions, united together and were successful in the lobby created distraction and disinformation campaign. A decade long campaign to use City Hall cronies to cover-up the destruction of our small businesses resulting from hyper real estate speculation. A campaign also to stop any vote on the Jobs Survival Act. This lobby orchestrated campaign was so successful that in the face of a growing citywide small business crisis, the Jobs Survival Act with 28 sponsors, could not even get a hearing for 9 years. So successful, that no government agency or lawmaker even attempted to find a real solution to stop the closing of even one business in NYC. The outcome of this successful betrayal of progressive values, democracy, and immigrant/small business families, by the Democratic leadership was responsible for the creation of our city’s “empty store blight.” Yes, so reprehensible that a lobby’s corruption of our Democratic leadership is responsible for our “empty store blight.”
* Part III https://www.savenycjobs.com/bids-part-iii
Democratic leadership’s decade plus, of Conspiracy, Collusion and Rigging at City Hall
The largest and longest propaganda network created by a lobby to keep power and stop legislation produced countless sham acts. It would not be an exaggeration to claim the rigging at City Hall for the lobby produced hundreds of insincere worthless actions in the face of a growing crisis. Useless actions such as: fake studies, sham hearings, political task forces, workshops, lobby created legislation and programs, SBS expanding and creating more BIDS, countless worthless reports, and even fake bills to substitute of the Jobs Survival Act.
BIDS PLAY A MAJOR ROLE IN COLLUSION!
I will give just a few examples of the outcome of the over a decade long corruption of our Democratic leadership by lobbies. And in all these cases, BIDS played major roles in covering up the corruption, even knowing this corruption would mean the continued destruction and landlord abuses of countless BID businesses. The decade long rigging to deny economic justice to small business owners would have failed without the BIDS’ full complicity.
First example: The disgraceful act by Speaker Quinn’s legal department to prevent a vote on the Jobs Survival Act was knowingly meritless. The Speaker’s legal department knew their claim that the Jobs Survival Act had legal concerns that would be challenged in court was a contrived baseless claim meant only to stop a vote. The real estate lobby picked the right Speaker and the right department to carry out their scheme. Both are void of any ethics and integrity.
The Jobs Survival Act is the oldest legislation in Council history, first introduced in 1986. It is also the most legally scrutinized bill ever.* In fact, the original version had a special hearing in 1988 just on the legality of the bill. After being found fully constitutional, the Council’s Economic Development Committee voted on the first version in Dec. 1988.
The bill was amended several times, twice by recommendations of the very same legal department that made the false claim. The bill has had 8 prime sponsors over the years and been reintroduced after review by the same legal department many times. Even at the 2009 hearing on the bill, the real estate lobby with its many lawyers did not even challenge the bills’ legality. Yes, we can confidently state that this last minute claim made on behalf of the real estate lobby was a ridiculous and desperate act.
In 2010, then Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. organized a Legal Review Forum on the Jobs Survival Act. He invited the Speaker’s legal department to attend and make the case for their claim. They refused to give testimony or even submit written case law or legal reviews supporting their claim. The panel of respected legal experts issued their report which found the Jobs Survival Act fully constitutional and would be upheld in any court. With the bogus legal claim soundly debunked by both the legal panel review and the abundance of past court rulings and legal case law, any ethical legal department would reassess their claims. Not the Speaker’s legal department, they refused to make any comment on the Legal Review findings. To this day, this disgraceful department has never once commented on the legality of this bill. Could it be due to the grossly high salaries given out by the Speaker?
The “lie” that the Jobs Survival Act was unconstitutional would live at City Hall for the next decade, and still lives on today by several lobby loyalists. This NYC's Big Lie would live on in order to allow corrupted politicians to hide behind as an excuse to “do nothing” to stop the closings of our businesses. On every BID board sits the local Council Member, as well as, citywide elected officials. Never once in over a decade, by even a single BID, has the request been made to their elected board members to request proof of this baseless claim against the Jobs Survival Act. A claim that prevented a vote on the bill. Request legal proof so that the bill can be either amended or moved to a vote and begin saving BID businesses. Why did no BIDS ever want resolved the legality of the bill? Because the BID property owners do not want the Jobs Survival Act voted on, and still do not today.
Second: In 2015, Queens lead all the Boroughs in Court evictions of commercial businesses, up over 90%. The unchecked small business crisis had spread to every neighborhood in Queens. Lead by the Queens Civic Congress(QCC) a petition* was signed by 87 community organizations asking their elected officials to take immediate action to preserve Queens’ businesses and jobs and vote on the Jobs Survival Act.
Rarely has such a large borough wide community plea for action occurred. But as the petition made clear, the high rents were forcing businesses to close all over Queens in record numbers. It was a simple message to all Queens lawmakers, that Queens merchants faced a crisis caused by high rents and if you want to preserve our Queens businesses there was only one real solution, vote the Jobs Survival Act into law.
Not one single Queens lawmaker responded to this urgent borough wide community request from the QCC!
Not a single BID in Queens bothered to respond, even to give support to this communities’ borough wide request. It was the BIDS merchants that were being evicted and forced to close that the Community united as a single voice pleading for action to preserve them. The communities and BIDS are on opposite sides when it comes to stopping the closings of long established small businesses on main streets. The voice of the community does not matter to BIDS boards, the majority being property owners.
Third: Year after year, as the Council and Mayor did nothing to save even one business, their non action made the crisis worse as it spread to every main street. The real estate lobby’s dog and pony shows were no longer going to cover up what was happening “in plain sight” to our businesses on main street. Therefore, they called upon then Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to partner with the lobby’s hand picked Small Business Committee Chairman Robert Cornegy to cook up a fake substitute bill for the Jobs Survival Act and pass this phony bill in the Council. This charade was to give the business owners the illusion of hope that their government was finally going to take action to save them.
What these two lawmakers schemed up will be viewed as unconscionable acts and a blatant betrayal of our small businesses and of democracy.*
Using their offices, both pretended to be seriously committed to finding a solution to stop the closings. They claimed to be doing extensive investigation and in-depth research with business advocates on finding that much needed solution. To justify the need for another bill, with the Jobs Survival Act still bottled up and having the majority of Council already as sponsors, MBP Brewer knowingly lied about the legality of the Jobs Survival Act, as well as the history of support for the bill. She purposely made the false claim, that the bill was illegal and had been sitting collecting dust for 30 years, going nowhere with no support. She purposely omitted the truth of the 2009 hearing and its outcome with 32 sponsors, in which she was one of the sponsors.
After a year and half of promising their new legislation was being written, MBP Brewer launched a massive media campaign. She proclaimed that she had the lifeline to stop the closings and end the “crisis growing with a fury.” But upon reading the fine print of her report and recommended solution, it was shown to be a total fraud. The long list of her so called small business advocates and experts she interviewed turned out to be mostly BIDS, SBS or government funded community groups. None of whom ever supported the Jobs Survival Act or any law regulating commercial landlords. In fact, none had any record of calling for legislation to save even one business.
Not one BID in 10 years made any effort to find a solution to stop the closings of BID merchants.
The real shocker from her report was her recommended legislation. That too was a total sham of this year long plus charade to fool the public. MBP Brewer recommended a law that in truth was written by the real estate lobby 30 years ago to stop a vote on the original Jobs Survival Act, and kill it!! Her bill was not a new creation springing from her research. Shamefully it was disguised and was word for word of a recommendation written by the real estate lobby! A Landlord’s bill intended only to keep the status quo giving no rights to business owners. Luckily for our merchants a few older true advocates were still alive to expose this appalling act. After a few OP ED pieces attacking her bill as a lobby creation 30 years ago, MBP Brewer was forced to drop her bill. In any other city in America her fraudulent action and reprehensible bill would have been a major scandal calling for her to resign. But, when the real estate lobby colludes to discriminate against citizens or conspires to deny justice and is caught, likely the corruption will never make even the back pages of NYC media.
What is relevant to this lobby orchestrated charade is the major roles the BIDS and SBS played. To fully appreciate the failure of the BIDS and SBS to stand behind our small business owners in their time of crisis, a review of MBP Brewers’ bill is needed. Her long touted lifeline to save our businesses was giving business owners the right to mediate the new lease terms with their landlord. That is, if the landlord wanted to keep the owner in business and only on the landlords’ terms. Her bill had no final arbitration, which made only the landlord’s terms final. The tenant's still had no right to renewal the commercial lease and no rights to determine the final lease terms. If that was not enough to insult every business owner, the main point of her bill was that the business owner received a one year extension of the lease and at a 15% increase in rent, time to look for a new location to move. This was MBP Brewer’s “lifeline” or better description “noose” for our businesses and reward for the landlord.
Every BID should have immediately protested against this shameful “do nothing” bill that would not save a single BID merchant. But none did, and instead worked with Brewer to produce “small business forums/workshops” to give credibility and promotion for this disgraceful bill. BIDS eagerly supported her bill even knowing if passed it would have resulted in countless BID merchants having no rights or no future in NYC.
The SBS operates an imbecilic business policy of discrimination against our mostly immigrant owners. Even with the SBS favoring only property owners and having a profound ignorance of how small businesses are run, especially immigrant owned, they should have known how unfair and unworkable her bill was to addressing their BID merchants’ crisis.
Citizens do not want their favorite mom and pop businesses to move. Business owners spent years, many decades, building up loyal customers and investing in their locations. Move where? The unresolved crisis had produced sky high rents on every main street in NYC. Her bill, a so called lifeline, was an insult to every hard working business owner and to the community who wanted their established businesses to remain and be able to pay a fair rent that would allow a reasonable profit. Business owners wanted and needed only legislation that would give their businesses the right to long term leases and rights to negotiate fair lease terms and protection from rent gouging or landlord abuses. What the BIDS and SBS wanted was the opposite. Their collaboration with MBP Brewer in trying to pawn off legislation written by the real estate lobby intended to keep the status quo proves beyond any doubt their complicity to the rigging and collusion to keep the status quo destroying our BID businesses.
Four: Former Speaker Melissa Mark- Viverito
As Speaker, even when facing a growing citywide small business crisis, she was the only Speaker in the long 30 year debate and battle on the Jobs Survival Act to never hold a hearing on the bill! Nor any hearing seeking a solution to stop the closing of our businesses. An estimated 1,200 to 1,400 businesses closed each month in NYC while she was Speaker.
The majority (64%-68%) being owned by multi generational immigrant families. These immigrant families were the major targets of landlord abuses: illegal extortion of cash to remain in business, shorter leases of sometimes month to month or one year, and forced to pay their landlord’s property taxes. Under her watch, rent gouging and landlord abuses against immigrant owned businesses were acceptable.
She was also the first Speaker to sponsor the Jobs Survival Act and later withdraw her sponsorship and attack the bill. MMV’s withdrawing sponsorship is likely one of the top requirements of the real estate lobby for lawmakers to become Speaker.
Why is her act so relevant to showing the decade long lobby rigging to stop the Jobs Survival Act and cover up the destruction of a crisis of our small businesses? It is relevant because dozens of other once proud progressives would follow her lead of betraying their progressive values and stop supporting the Jobs Survival Act. Then Councilwoman Melissa Mark- Viverito attended the June 2009 hearing to testify in favor of voting on the Jobs Survival Act!
COUNCIL MEMBER MARK-VIVERITO: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I want to thank all of those that have testified. I'm very proud of the fact that we're having a hearing on this legislation. I'm very proud of the fact that Robert Jackson has introduced this. I've signed on as a sponsor, as many of us here have…. We obviously have intent on passing this. We're (Council) are going to be very firm and very strong. As a Council we have a responsibility to represent all sectors in this city and not just a select few, which I believe is what has happened with this administration. We are here to also represent the tenants, to represent the small business owners and to do what we can to preserve this vital backbone in this city.
Once becoming Speaker of the Council she takes the leading role in the collusion and rigging to stop any vote on the Jobs Survival Act. A bill she was once “a sponsor and proud that a hearing was held on the bill”.
With the Village district losing its iconic businesses in record numbers, Lincoln Anderson, then editor of the Villager, met MMV at a Village event and asked her if she was going to have a hearing on the Jobs Survival Act. MMV said yes, but only after the Council’s legislative process was competed on the bill. MMV knowingly lied to Anderson. She never intended to ever hold a public hearing on the bill, even with businesses forced to close on every main street of the city. Many months later, as part of the Villagers’ ongoing series on saving small businesses, Anderson emailed the Speaker to find out why the delay in scheduling a hearing on the bill. He never received a reply to his inquiry. Even after reminding the Speaker that she had personally promised him that the bill would get a hearing.
MMV allowed the real estate lobby to hand pick Chairman Robert Cornegy and to stack the Small Business Committee with the majority members from Queens (5 of 9), in fact, even though MMV represented parts of the Bronx where the vast majority of small businesses are immigrant owned and the real estate speculation had spread, the Small Business Committee for the entire term of MMV had NO member representing the Bronx! Not surprising, the Small Business Committee never called for a hearing on any legislation dealing with the store closings or sky high rents.
Low point for Speaker MMV legacy !!
The Speaker was enthusiastically supporting and participating in the fake Cornegy and Brewer’s “round-tables/workshops” and giving their “ life line” bill, proposed to substitute for Jobs Survival Act, credibility and likely assuring easy passage in her council. Was Speaker MMV finally using her office to take action to stop the closings of our businesses and end the crisis. NO, she was continuing what former Speaker Quinn had started, using the Speaker’s office to rig the system for a lobby.
Who is really responsible for our city’s “empty store blight”?
A decade of our Democratic leaderships’ playing key roles in the real estates lobby’s grand Machiavellian scheme to cover up the destruction and abuses of our businesses while protecting the profits of those responsible, created our city’s “empty store blight.” One honest public hearing, like the last one held in 2009, would expose this lobby orchestrated charade and the corrupted Democratic leadership, and the many dire consequences to society. Over the past decade, none of our city’s long established businesses would have been forced to close if our Democratic leadership had allowed good government to work, even once.
Due to the dramatic increase in empty storefronts, remaining empty for sometimes for years, on every main street, a public hearing was announced by Speaker Johnson. Finally, after remaining silent for 9 years during a small business crisis, the SBS and BIDS will be forced to make public statements of where they stand and who they stand for. Finally, after nine years the Jobs Survival Act will be shown again as the only real solution to stop the closings and end the crisis. But did the SBS and BIDS want to stop the closing of our city’s small businesses? One honest hearing would give the truth.
In this long overdue honest hearing the small business advocates planned to challenge any lawmaker, agency or organization to produce a better solution to stop the closings of our businesses than the Jobs Survival Act.
Small business advocates plan to make the same commitment that former Chairman Yassky made at the last hearing on the Jobs Survival Act. Chairman Yassky, “I will say simply as an opening statement that I believe that we absolutely have to do something, period…… It's not an option to do nothing. The mom and pop stores on the commercial strips in our neighborhoods are the heart of the neighborhood. We cannot allow them to be pushed to the point of disappearance, which is what is happening now.. The one thing I just want to put right up front with the administration witnesses here is we have to have some solutions to offer.”
Chairman Yassky’s prediction became true with our government “doing nothing” and our businesses disappearing. At the hearing, when the same bad actors, SBS, BIDS, and EDC produce no solutions to stop the closings, then we planned on calling out both the SBS and BIDS for their responsibility in creating our small business crisis, “doing nothing”, and then covering it up. We had planned to follow this shameful exposure by showing the roles both played in the rigging of our government leading to our empty store blight. Based solely upon the actions or non actions of the BIDS to refuse to commit to stop the business closings and end our city’s small business crisis we would call for either the complete shutdown of all BIDS or change the statute to make the retail merchants the majority board members. Finally we would call for the resignation of SBS Commissioner Bishop and a overhaul of SBS. Passing the Jobs Survival Act, reform the SBS, and disbanding the BIDS were the only hope to save our businesses and prevent an economic catastrophe in the future.
PART VII Real estate lobby high jacks hearing. Biggest sham hearing ever in Council’s history is orchestrated by the real estate lobby.