OP ED

Mayor de Blasio is No Hero for Saving One Small Business 

 while Doing Nothing for six years and Joining the Rigging to 

Stop legislation to   Save 200,000  

Last week Mayor de Blasio stepped in at the 11th hour to save one Queens business, Neirs Tavern. While some cheered him as a hero for saving this old iconic tavern, others who know his record on small businesses blame him for putting Neirs Tavern and every business owner’s future in jeopardy of closing when their leases expire.  The Mayor can no longer use his administration to cover up or distract from a shameful record of betraying our city’s small business owners. 

 How can anyone cheer Mayor de Blasio as a friend of small business after they walked down any main street in NYC and see empty stores where once thriving businesses were?  Most of these empty stores happened under Mayor de Blasio’s watch and therefore, he is fully responsible for never once even attempting to find a real solution to stop the closings.  Mayor de Blasio should be ashamed for continuing the failed economic policies of former Mayor Bloomberg. A policy rolling out piles of his SBS driven programs that absolutely ignore the closing crisis and will not save one business.  A policy favoring big real estate interests and his continuing the disgraceful collusion with the real estate lobby REBNY to use his administration to join the rigging to stop the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Jobs Act, or any legislation giving rights to business owners.  

A bill, the JOBS ACT, has been bottled up for his entire term and would have prevented the majority of business closings.  The Jobs Act  gives rights to business owners, like Neirs Tavern owner Loycent Gordon, when their leases expire. Rights needed to remain in business for a long time, rights to equally negotiate fair lease terms and rights to an arbitration process if mutual agreement cannot be reached.  If Mayor de Blasio allowed democracy to work at City Hall and kept his pledge to promote progressive legislation like the Jobs Act, business owners like Loycent would not need or want anyone’s help nor be forced to beg his landlord to keep their business alive. And over 700,000 jobs lost on main street across NYC for the last six years would still be there.

 Mayor de Blasio had the opportunity to bring his progressive values to fruition and set the benchmark for economic justice, fairness and integrity for our desperate small business owners. Instead, he abdicated the futures of every business owner for REBNY to determine.  The shameful outcome of this abandonment of progressive principles to promote only his political career is: * NYC Court issued 31,737 warrants to evict commercial businesses. How shocking is this fact? Because of the growth of empty stores, many empty for years (which means fewer evictions each year), and the growing number of shorter term leases, some for month to month or one/two years, and the huge cost of litigation in NYC, the majority of small business owners do not spend their money to fight in court where the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the landlord.  From my 30 years experience, I feel approximately at most 20%-25% of business owners may fight in court.   A conservative estimate of the number of small businesses that have closed under Mayor de Blaiso is 90K-100K with an estimated 700K-800K jobs lost.   Mayor de Blasio only steps up to save one business because of the news generated, while “doing nothing” for six years to save 200K.  A shameful record. https://www.savenycjobs.com/nyc-court-evictions-

 

 In my 34 years of advocating for versions of the Jobs Act I can state with confidence the lawmaker who had the greatest change in policy to supporting legislation giving rights to business owners was Mayor de Blasio. As a candidate for Public Advocate he was the outspoken champion of the Jobs Act. At every public opportunity, then councilman de Blasio, was a strong voice to highlight the findings of the largest immigrant business study ever done,* which he followed with the urgent need to pass the Jobs Act and end the crisis.  I will confirm just those public gatherings which I was eye witness to his strong commitment to the Jobs Act, as well as his acknowledgement of the real problems facing owners and his call to giving small business owners justice and rights.

 * LATIN CHAMBER STUDY | savenycjobs

April 18, 2009, Fort Washington Collegiate Church a Policy Forum “Crisis on Main Street”

Solutions to Save Hispanic Small Businesses and Jobs. This was the first public forum where Councilman de Blasio made a strong statement proclaiming his sponsorship of the Jobs Act and sending a direct message to the mostly Dominican merchants attending.  De Blasio , “ the bill ( Jobs Act) is a fair and reasonable solution to address the crisis….government must respect and protect the investments made by immigrant owners in building stable businesses and creating jobs in NYC.” 

 On July 16th, 2009 my organization sponsored a candidates’ forum in Queens with the topic: “Crisis in Queens, who has the best policy to save immigrant small businesses”. Then Councilman Bill de Blasio gave strong support to Robert Jackson’s Small Business Survival Act, and pledged , ”I would use the office of Public Advocate to address the issue of extortion of small businesses taking place in mostly poorer neighborhoods and mostly against immigrant small business owners.”

 Aug 11, 2009 , Rally at City Hall to End “Crisis on Main Street”

Chairman Yassky, “The cornerstone foundation for stopping the closing of our small businesses is the Small Business Survival Act.”  Councilman de Blasio had a statement read on his behalf ….. "I urge the Small Business Committee to promptly vote the Bill (Jobs Act) out of committee so the entire City Council could vote it into law and begin saving our valued small businesses.”

Aug 19, 2009 Jetro Warehouse in Bronx where bodega owners met to decide to support strong pro small business candidates in the upcoming election. Councilman de Blasio listened to their stories and gave his full commitment to do something to stop it.  De Blasio, “There are certain responsibilities of our government that must be fully and effectively addressed with real actions and real solutions. It is unacceptable and inexcusable to allow the illegal act of extorting our small business owners to continue.” After listening to Councilman de Blasio, many of the Hispanic owners did something they never had done before in New York City, participated in an election. Many grocery store owners, at their own expense, had posters made with a picture of de Blasio and put them in their windows and asked their customers to vote for him, the posters read: Vote for Bill De Blasio he is fighting to save my business and your job.

 Upon being elected to Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio knew our city’s small businesses faced a crisis to survive and immigrant owners were targets for illegal extortion by unscrupulous landlords. PA Bill be Blasio strongly supported the Jobs Act as a fair and rational solution to stop the closing of small businesses.  He knew that the Jobs Act was fully constitutional and that the claim made by the Speaker’s legal department to stop a vote on the Jobs Act was nothing but an often used  bogus legal roadblock that he himself had experienced several times as a Councilman.

  At a March 19, 2010 meeting in the Bronx with citywide advocates for small businesses, PA de Blasio, stated “I am in full agreement with you (the small business advocates)  that the crisis will get worse without legislation.”  He spent the next half hour of the meeting telling stories of Speaker Quinn using bogus legal roadblocks to stop his legislation.

 At the end of the March 2010 Bronx meeting a “tale of two de Blasio’s” began.

After the Bronx meeting until today, Bill de Blasio would never support or mention the Jobs Act as a solution to stop the closings of small businesses. Never once would he mention that  small businesses faced a crisis to survive and therefore needed legislation. He would empower real estate with the opening of more BIDS. He would further empower real estate with the appointment of political hacks and big real estate loyalists to run SBS and EDC. He would maintain intact Bloombergs’ anti small business economic policy favoring and serving only big real estate. He never once offered a solution to stop the illegal extortion of the mostly immigrant mom and pop businesses. No longer did the Mayor call for economic justice and rights for business owners. Mayor de Blasio would base his small business economic policy upon: willful ignorance, deceit, cover-up, and outright false statements, all making the small business crisis worse under his watch.

 He abandoned his campaign pledges and progressive values and willingly joined the collusion with REBNY to rig the system to stop any legislation giving rights to business tenants when their leases expire.  For the “other de Blasio” the small businesses no longer had a crisis, their problems were, "burdensome fines and over regulatory rules.” 

No longer did they need legislation to save them, they needed programs to help,  start, operate, and grow their businesses. To remain in business, under de Blasio that would still be up to the landlord. 

 Under Mayor de Blasio, the greatest travesty of Democracy occurred when the Jobs Act finally got a public hearing. His choice for Speaker Mark Viverito, refused to give the Jobs Act a hearing. This was the first time in over 30 years that a Speaker did not give a hearing to the Jobs Act.  When Speaker Johnson agreed to a hearing on Oct. 22, 2018 this travesty occurred.  Even in the face of a growing small business crisis, business owners would not get an honest hearing, one seeking real solutions to their real problems.

  Instead, the hearing was a sham orchestrated by REBNY to give disinformation on the Jobs Act and distract away from any solution to stop the closings.  SBS Commission Gregg Bishop got center stage and came into the hearing with no intention of presenting any solutions to save a single small business. Instead, he only gave REBNY talking points and opposed the Jobs Act on ridiculous grounds, like arbitration would be a burden on small business owners.  What was appalling in his disgraceful testimony was his lack of any legal facts supporting his,  Mayor de Blasio, and several REBNY Cronies’ claim the bill had legal issues.  When asked by a Councilmember, "there has been much debate about the bills’ legality,  did he (Bishop) think the bill was legal and did he bring documents on its legality?  Bishop only responded, “ the legal department told him it had legal issue but he has no documents.  When pressed,  why not, he said the “legal department would furnish the legal papers AFTER the hearing!!”   Fourteen months after the hearing and where is the legal proof the Jobs Act is illegal? It does not now or ever existed. 

 For over 30 years I have witnessed repeatedly our government’s failure to stand up for Democracy and end “economic inequality and injustice ” for our small business owners. I have witnessed countless useless Trojan Horses created by REBNY as substitutes for the Jobs Act, like the newest one "Commercial Rent Stabilization."   Fake bills and initiatives created behind closed doors at City Hall by the real estate lobby, the SBS and Speaker’s office and bureaucrats seeking high salaried private jobs when they leave government.  

 These Trojan Horses have one purpose only: do not regulate the commercial landlords and keep the status quo making the landlords wealthier.  Mayor de Blasio’s excuse for no longer supporting the Jobs Act, is “it has legal issues and would not stand up to a court challenge.”

He knows this statement is an outright lie and he should be ashamed every time he is forced to make it.  On June 10, 2010 the USA Latin Chamber of Commerce invited PA de Blasio to sit on a special legal review panel with the sole purpose of reviewing all the legal arguments surrounding the Small Business Survival Act, and issuing a report on what, if any, changes to the bill should be made to make it legally sound legislation. He refused to respond and Bronx President Rubin Diaz Jr. organized this Review Panel which issued a final report showing the Jobs Act was fully constitutional and would stand up to any court challenge. 

This final report was sent to him to review and comment, which he refused to do, in fact, to this day he will not acknowledge the Legal Review Panel’s results.

 Small business owners know they are in a crisis and it’s getting worse. They fear the virtual end of the American Dream unless government intervenes on their behalf. I don’t know what changed in de Blasio’s ‘Tale of Two Cities’ small business environment to motivate the change in his assessment of the real problems and needs for small businesses. Nor in his lack of desire to find a solution to save small businesses.  I do know, when it comes to economic policy, Mayor de Blasio has failed to keep any of his pledges. It seems the real tale is of two de Blasio's, one in public in front of media and the other behind closed doors in front of real estate lobbyists. 

Only the will of the people can overcome the lack of political will of our elected officials to save our businesses and our economy.

   *Sung Soo Kim founded the Korean American Small Business Service Center, the oldest small business service center in NYC; co-founding the New York City Small Business Congress and Coalition to Save New York City Small Businesses; creating the Small Business Bill of Rights given to elected officials since 1991; and was chairman of the Mayor’s First Small Business Advisory Board, appointed by Mayors Dinkins and Giuliani. He consulted on many of city’s small business regulations. For over 30 years Mr. Kim has worked daily in addressing the problems of small business own