The Progressive Caucus holds the fate of the city’s immigrant small business owners and immigrant workers in their hands.
Why did the Progressive Caucus betray the city’s immigrant business owners by siding with big real estate to destroy the last hope to save the American Dream for many immigrant families?
For the first time the new NY City Council has the majority of members from ethnic immigrant backgrounds or representing largely immigrant communities. It is not surprising that many Council Members with immigrant backgrounds are championing the cause of the newly arrived undocumented immigrants to NYC. Many members are showing great empathy for their dire plight and are eagerly committed to serve their needs. Also not surprising is that many Council Members are calling for NYC resources to be funded and used to support these new immigrants on a pathway to achieving their American Dream.
However, what is also surprising is that many of these same Council Members have betrayed our city’s immigrant business owners and their employees. Betrayed them by allowing our city’s immigrant business owner’s American Dream to continue to be destroyed while they remain silent. Betrayed them by allowing the last hope to give them the rights they need when their leases expire to have a fighting chance to survive, make a reasonable profit and save their American Dream.
Those Progressive Caucus members touting their compassion for the new immigrants and promising to assist them now and later on their road to the American Dream are creating the greatest irony in the Council’s history. Their sponsorship and promotion of the lobby’s Commercial Rent Stabilization bill, CRS, will cause more immigrant businesses to close and more jobs lost in NYC. NYC has for hundreds of years been the gateway for “immigrant entrepreneurs” to come to achieve their American Dream. NYC had the greatest economic foundation established for immigrant communities of any city in the nation. In NYC an estimated 64-68% of small businesses are multi generational immigrant family owned. In many neighborhoods in NYC the percentage of immigrant businesses is over 80%.
Yet, for well over a decade the Council has allowed this vital immigrant foundation to be destroyed, abused, ripped off, and robbed by greedy landlords demanding only windfall profits when a commercial lease expires. The Council’s leadership in collusion with lobbies has rigged the system to deny any economic justice to desperate immigrant business owners. The Council Members have looked the other way as the city’s immigrant owners are treated as second class citizens and only viewed as “collateral damage” to keep the real estate investor’s profits as the only priority.
Why won’t the Progressive Caucus members show their own immigrant business owners and employees the same compassion, respect and commitment they show the new undocumented immigrants?
The Progressive Caucus members had the opportunity to end the injustice against immigrant business owners and their workers. They had a choice to sponsor the Jobs Survival Act and give every immigrant business owner the right to renew 10 year leases and negotiate fair lease terms. Regrettably, the Progressive Caucus members chose to side with special interests and sponsor their CRS bill that kept the status quo favoring only the landlords.
There lies the irony of these Progressive Caucus members. On the one hand they have sincere sympathy for the dire plight of the new immigrants and are willingly helping them to advance to achieve their American Dream. But at the same time they have no empathy for the dire plight of the city’s immigrant business owners struggling to keep alive their American Dream. The Progressive Caucus members are refusing to give immigrant owners the rights needed to survive or make a fair profit when their leases expire and instead want to give only their landlords all the rights.
The Progressive Caucus members are promising the new immigrants assistance towards their American Dream. They are being dishonest with the new immigrants because the pathway towards achieving their American Dream, like most new immigrants, is through the jobs of the city’s immigrant businesses. And the Progressive Caucus is helping to destroy the only pathway for many of the new immigrants. The newly arrived immigrants may someday gain their American Dream but, for most, it will not be in NYC. The Progressive Caucus siding with the special interests will assure that the pathway will be gone in the future. The Progress Caucus also has put in jeopardy the jobs of all the immigrant workers now working in all small businesses every time a business's lease expires.
The outcome of the Progressive Caucus’s bill, CRS will guarantee few jobs for the new immigrants because their bill is a job killer for immigrant business owners. This is what the Progressive Caucus’s bill will continue if passed: the status quo of a destructive one sided grossly unfair commercial lease renewal process.
When any immigrant business owner’s lease expires today in NYC this is the outcome to their workers, their customers, their community, and to their American Dream. The landlord has all the rights so the landlord has the right to issue a 30 day notice to vacate the premises to the business owner. If the landlord decides to keep the tenant then the negotiation of new lease terms is simple, the landlord tells the business owners, “this is what I want, take it or leave.” If the business owner signs the new lease this is the outcome: the owner will work longer hours and make less profit, prices will rise sharply, workers will be laid off or hours cut back, all plans for growth and job creation stopped, or the business closes. Likely, owners first doing all four of the above then the business closes and the store is left empty for sometimes years. Today’s NYC commercial lease renewal process, inhumane insane economic insanity tp the extreme.
Why would any true Progressive promote such a destructive bill?
If the Progressive Caucus members who sponsor and promote the lobby’s CRS bill had any integrity or decency they would at least be honest with their desperate immigrant business owners and their employees they pretend to speak for or care about.
These Progressive Caucus members would go into the immigrant businesses and look the owners in the face and tell them the truth for a change. Tell them that they had a choice to give them rights to restore their American Dream or choose to keep the status quo favoring their landlord. That truth that should have been spoken to the immigrant owners would be: the Progressive Caucus members have decided the immigrant owners do not deserve the right to renew 10 year leases and do not deserve the right to negotiate fair lease terms. The immigrant owners seeking only reasonable profits do not matter. Instead, the Progressive Caucus determined the immigrant owners deserve only the right to pay their landlord’s property taxes, to become involuntary indentured servitude to their landlords when given month to month or one/two year leases, pay only higher rents and never reducing the already sky high rents, can be robbed of their life’s saving by unscrupulous landlords demanding cash when their leases expire, and when their lease expires should immediately vacate their businesses whenever the landlord issues a 30 day vacate notice.
The response from the immigrant business owners should also only be the truth: Council Member, a proclaimed progressive at election time, was elected by the immigrant voters to serve them and you betrayed them by serving special interests, therefore, you do not deserve to be re-elected. You also do not deserve to be called a true progressive for betraying your own immigrant small business owners and their workers, for your own political career.
When would saving NYC’s immigrant business owner’s American Dream matter to the Progressive Caucus members?
The Progressive Caucus’s CRS bill is the most anti-immigrant bill in Council history.
21. Can you remain in business by continuing to pay your rent and landlord’s property taxes? Yes _18%____ No__82%_____
The late Dr. Martin Luther King stated, “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” For the Progressive Caucus that time has long since passed. Their sponsorship and giving birth to the lobby’s CRS bill was March 2022 and yet they have never held a hearing on the bill. Even though our business owners face two crises at once, the long “forgotten crisis” and recovery from the virus crisis, no effort has been made by the Progressive Caucus to seriously address the “root cause” of long established businesses being forced to close when their leases expire. Also, no effort was made to pass a real lifeline to save even one business or job in NYC.
The first legislation sponsored by the majority of the new Council Members, who are also the majority of the Progressive Caucus, was the lobby created Commercial Rent Stabilization Act, CRS. This lobby created bill was written to deny any rights to small business owners when their leases expired. The CRS bill discriminates against the majority of NYC’s small businesses who are owned by multi generational immigrant families. It was a shameful lobby conspiracy grab of legislation to keep the status quo favoring only the landlords in the commercial lease renewal process. What is disgraceful in this special interest bill is that it killed the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Jobs Survival Act and replaced it in the new Council.
The Jobs Survival Act, authored by true small business advocates to give every business owner the right to renew long term leases, rights needed to negotiate fair lease terms that allowed a reasonable profit for all parties. The oldest Council legislation and only real lifeline to save the city’s small businesses would be killed by the majority; the Progressive Caucus members.
Why would the new Council Members choose a lobby created bill, CRS, that gave no real rights to their merchants over the Jobs Survival Act that gave them the right to renew long term 10 year leases, equal rights to negotiate fair lease terms that allowed a reasonable profit and protection from rent gouging and paying their landlord’s property taxes?
There is no plausible explanation for any true progressive to sponsor legislation that will give business owners no right to renew their leases, no rights to negotiate the lease terms, tenants continue paying the landlord’s property taxes, only the landlord decides the length of leases (even month to month or one/two years), illegal extortion of “cash under the table” from targeted immigrant owners would continue unabated, and the dreaded 30 day vacate the premise notice to business owners when a lease expires.
With the majority of new Council Members coming from social experience backgrounds of immigration, education, housing, healthcare, and not for profits, it is understandable that most would have a profound ignorance of the workings of small businesses, especially the commercial lease renewal process.
The rich property owner BID boards, wealthy developers Chamber boards, the grossly overpaid and lobby controlled SBS and EDC all champion the CRS bill and want to keep the status quo that made them all wealthier. All disingenuous in claiming they speak for small business owners, none do.
Who says the CRS bill is a terrible unjust bill for immigrant owners and will cause many more businesses to close? Mr. Sung Soo Kim, the author of the original version of the Jobs Survival Act and all seven amendments over 32 years. Mr. Kim was recognized as the city’s leading small business authority and advocate for over 3 decades. The “Godfather of immigrant businesses” was 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 (for one year only). He was the co-founder of the Small Business Congress and sole creator of the Small Business Bill of Rights. He had spent every working day for 34 years addressing the problems of immigrant small business owners. At its peak, Kim had 17,000 immigrant business owners he served under 8 Asian business associations. He turned down offers to run a BID in Queens and turned down government funding for his business service center. In 34 years he has personally negotiated and re-negotiated an estimated 55,000 commercial leases for his Asian members. He has gone to court weekly for 34 years to fight over 7,000 times for his members in court. He organized 11 public hearings over 3 decades on the Jobs Survival Act.
From the original bill in June 1986 to every amendment the one vital factor in the Jobs Survival Act that never changed was giving the business owners the right to renew long term leases. From this critical right the owners would level the playing field to negotiate fair lease terms.
Villager, June 4, 2015 Mr. Kim, “In my thirty years of advocating for small businesses and dealing daily with their problems I can state with confidence this reality, the absolute essential component of any law to stop the closing of businesses is giving the tenant the “right to renewal of the lease,” without which all proposals will fail and all independent owners in New York City will eventually be forced to close.” The city’s empty store blight proves his prediction was right.
On the other side of the debate to regulate the commercial lease renewal process is the real estate lobby.
Interview with Village editor Lincoln Anderson: Steve Spinola, then president of the Real Estate Board of New York, a major landlords' group. When asked about the Jobs Survival Act, Spinola, “In general, as REBNY members see it, the S.B.J.S.A.(Jobs Survival Act) would put way too much power in the hands of retail tenants.”
That is what is at stake for the fate of every business owner in NYC, RIGHTS. Rights equal power in the commercial lease renewal process and the landlords do not want to give any rights (power) to the tenants. Therefore, the Progressive Caucus members agree with Spinola and the real estate lobby because the bill they promote gives no real rights to the tenants.
The Progressive Caucus members who sponsored and promoted the lobby’s destructive CRS bill should be ashamed and embarrassed for their betrayal of their immigrant business owners, workers, and the immigrant voters who trusted them enough to vote into office. Their support of the CRS bill is indefensible due to the destruction it will cause to the immigrant businesses, jobs, and community.
The Progressive Caucus members are committed to promoting the Council’s BIG LIE, that the CRS bill will save our small businesses. Even though everyone knows that without the right to renew, the bill will not save one small business owner or one job unless the landlord wants to keep them in business. And even then, only under the terms of the landlords which always only makes the landlord’s profits the only priority.
To the city’s immigrant community do not believe the Progressive Caucus’s promotion of the “Lobby’s Trojan Horse” bill CRS.
Don’t fall for the Progressive Caucus’ big lie that doing a little is doing enough to save the American Dream for our immigrant business owners and their worker’s jobs.
This CRS bill does not do anything, it only makes a crisis worse.