Sung Soo Kim

Godfather of Immigrant Small Businesses

36 years fighting for immigrant rights 

and serving small businesses

 

 Open Letter

to

Speaker Johnson

Councilman Rodriguez

 

Give 48 Hours to Save the Future of Our City’s Small Businesses and Prevent an Economic Tsunami.

 

Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez

250 Broadway

New York, New York 10007

 

Re: Urgent Request for 48 hour deliberations to determine a fair compromise to the Small Business Jobs Survival Act which would allow it to be voted on immediately by the full council.   

 

Honorable Speaker Johnson and Councilman Rodriguez: 

I am deeply disheartened by the dire state of our city’s small business owners caused by the coronavirus.  As the Speaker and Councilman were well aware of long before the virus was in NYC, our small businesses already faced a crisis to survive and needed government intervention to stop the closings. As shown clearly by then Councilman Johnson's statement, “I believe that the small business loss we are seeing in the Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen and all across the city is a crisis. I want to reiterate, crisis.”

 Today’s pandemic virus crisis has only made our city’s small business crisis worse, likely speeding up the record closings already occurring. For over 36 years I have advocated for legislation to give small business owners rights needed to stop the closings and survive. For the first time in that long fight, the catastrophe of the virus upon small businesses causes me to feel legislation may even be too late to save the backbone of our economy. But I must at least try, desperate hard working owners and their employees deserve my giving every effort to the end. In these depressing times with grave challenges I am inspired by the statements of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, “ It is never to late to do the right thing,” and “Silence is Betrayal.” 

Therefore, in the face of now two crisis challenging our small business owners, I propose Speaker Johnson, Councilman Rodriguez and myself meet alone within 48 hours to work out a compromise of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, the Survival Act,  in order to immediately move it to a vote by the Small Business Committee and the full city council.

 

The Survival Acts’ passage would mean an immediate signal to all the city’s desperate small business owners that they now have a future in NYC with 10 year leases and real rights when their leases expire, and an end to rent gouging. There is a sense of urgency in my request because unlike other city’s small business owners, prior to the virus crisis too many NYC small business owners were just hanging on caused by high rents and growing taxes etc.  For many small business owners just barely making a profit and not knowing what their future would be, may decide it is not worth the anguish to go back into business and face a crisis when their leases expire in the next 12-24 months? 

 

Why just focus upon only the Survival Act?  Because it has had 12 hearings over 30 years and been amended 7 times to give tenants enough rights to address the root cause of business closing, as well as fairly addressing the primary factor determining the future of every small business, the commercial lease renewal process.  What good is any legislation or initiative if the business closes? The Survival Act also has for over 30 years and 8 sponsors a majority sponsorship of the city council supporting it.  Today’s Survival Act has 29 sponsors.  In 2009 the entire Small Business Committee including its Chairman David Yassky selected the Survival Act as the best solution to stop the closings of small business, making 32 sponsors of the bill.  The majority of New Yorkers want their small businesses saved and the Survival Act is the only real option to accomplish that goal.  An example of Council support, then Councilman Johnson, “I am a proud co-sponsor of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which would give tenants a right to lease renewal, a right to arbitration by a third party if fair terms cannot be reached, and restrictions to prevent landlords from passing their property taxes on to small business owners. The importance of these measures cannot be overstated. This bill would give mom-and-pops a fighting chance.” 

 

This is the goal of the meeting, to pass the Survival Act and give our small businesses a "fighting chance."

 

 I have not invited anyone else to join this compromise meeting. The reason is clear, the real estate lobby has never wanted to compromise to give a single right to small business owners or to recommend any legislation to save a single business or job.  They only serve their members and have no regard or respect for anyone else, especially our city’s immigrant community.  Their members have made windfall profits from the hard work of small business owners for decades, some have extorted cash from mostly immigrant owners to stay in business, others given oppressive short term leases of month to month or one year. And the majority of landlords pass on their growing property taxes to their tenants to pay. In reality the real estate lobby's influence over lawmaker is the problem not the solution to save small businesses. In the face of a decade growing crisis, to restore democracy and decency, it is passed time for true progressive lawmakers too take back the role given the real estate lobby to make and influence economic policy to address our small business crisis.  The real estate lobby has never have nor will they ever serve the best interest of our small businesses, employees or society.  

 

 Please give my sincere request your serious consideration because I fear the last opportunity to save our small businesses will be this compromise meeting.

 

Best Regards,

 

Sung Soo Kim

Founder SBC – Korean American Small Business Service Center