SBC - The Small Business Congress
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Media Advisory Contact: Steven Barrison
March 20, 2017
Queens lawmakers refuse to protect Queens’small businesses, their
“do nothing” policy allowed the City’s Small Business Crisis to
accelerate spreading throughout Queens.
NYC Court Commercial Eviction rate for Queens soars up 90%
highest Borough increase in NYC and highest in 25 years!
Queens lawmakers ignored pleas from Queens Community and Civic Groups to take real action to protect and save Queens’ businesses from
out of control real estate speculation causing sky high rent increases and landlord abuses like extortion and short term leases.
Queens political machine chooses protecting big real estate profits over saving the American Dream for Queens’ immigrant business owners.
Dateline: NYC March 20, 2017
Last year’s NYC Courts Commercial Warrants issued to vacate were released and showed Queens leading all the boroughs with a shameful 90% increase over the 2015 evictions rate. Every month the courts issue warrants to evict on average 81 Queens businesses, mostly immigrant owned. Sung Soo Kim, the Godfather of Small Businesses recognized as the city’s leading authority on small businesses * estimates each month between 300-350 Queens businesses are forced to close and 2,500 to 3,000 Queens jobs are lost. (see attached for 2016 and 2015) This increase in evictions was no surprise to the Queens mostly immigrant owned businesses, many of whom were forced to flee the other boroughs years ago. They moved to Queens to escape the sky high rent increases and sharply rising landlord’s property taxes they were forced to pay and could not and still make a profit. Unchecked, the real estate speculation has spread to Queens making cheaper rents and long term leases a thing of the past. Queens small business owners know they are in a severe crisis and it’s getting worse. They fear the virtual end of the American Dream unless government intervenes on their behalf.
When a businesses’ lease expires in Queens their futures are threatened because they have no rights in the lease renewal process. There is no longer bargaining in good faith with the landlord to arrive at reasonable lease terms, it is “take it or get out”. For many mostly immigrant owners unscrupulous landlords or their agents are extorting cash from them to remain in business.
The exploding crisis for Queens small businesses to survive is also understood by most Queens Community/Civic groups. They witness first hand the growing numbers of long established businesses forced to close, due only to exorbitant rent increases, and the increased warehousing of empty storefronts on every main street in Queens, sometimes for years. These community groups realize the small mom and pop businesses can’t compete with big banks and big chains for locations on main street, and they are victims of the real estate speculation frenzy sweeping NYC. If Queens businesses are to survive, the government must intervene in the failed, manipulated and mostly unfair one-sided free market.
Unlike many Queens lawmakers, the Queens Community groups wanted something done to stop the business closings and protect all Queens businesses and the jobs of their employees when their leases expired. Lead by the Queens Civic Congress, MinKwon Center, and the Small Business Congress a press conference was held in March 2016 in Flushing with the theme: Queens Community and Business groups call upon Lawmakers to “Achieve a real Solution to Save Queens Small Businesses”. (see attch press release below). A special panel of small business advocates and civic representatives discussed the four proposals being considered to address the high rents and business closings and they reached a consensus to recommend to Queens lawmakers to enact.
In April 2016, The Queens Civic Congress sent a petition signed by over 80 Queens Civic groups to all Queens Council Members stating the dire crisis faced by Queens businesses and calling upon them to
“find a real solution quickly, one which will level the playing field for our businesses …support the Small Business Jobs Survival Act which was the only real solution ….... to give them at least a possibility of survival. (see attached petition with signatures)
The response from the Queens lawmakers to this plea for help on behalf of desperate Queens businesses was unanimous. NO response from a single lawmaker, not even the token political comment like, “our Queens businesses are the backbone of our local economy’. Instead, a continuation of all lawmakers remaining silent and doing nothing as this crisis worsened.
One person not surprised by Queens lawmakers ignoring both the crisis and plea from civic leaders to take real action to save Queens businesses is Sung Soo Kim, recognized as the city’s leading small business authority. Kim, “ former Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg created a big business Republican Trickle Down economic policy which marginalized the vital role small businesses plays in building our economy and creating jobs. They rigged the system by shutting out any voice by small business owners, especially immigrant owners, in making economic policy or being able to state their real problems to government. Bloomberg’s policy created an anti-small business environment where a handful of real estate investors made windfall profits and in many cases literately robbed the city’s entrepreneurs of their wealth and future. Regrettably, these wealthy landlords shared some of their ill gotten gains with corrupt lawmakers who abandoned their progressive principles for political influence and campaign funds. Mayor de Blasio broke his campaign pledge to take the city in another direction from Bloomberg and fight to restore economic equality. He and other self proclaimed progressives failed to keep that promise and as a result the destruction of our city’s immigrant owners has grown worse. The landlord abuses have grown to the point where our immigrant owners have no future in Queens and every lease renewal is little more than an indentured servitude agreement to serve the landlords. What is troubling is the many Queens Council Members who either willingly joined REBNY in continuing rigging the system to stop any legislation giving immigrant owners rights to survive in business or those who remain silent and complicit as REBNY cronies like Councilman Cornegy work behind closed doors to promote REBNY created proposals that will keep the status quo and not save a single Queens business or a single Queens job”
When Kim was asked, Do immigrant owners have a future in Queens?, Kim responded, “the Queens political machine is anti immigrant and controlled by powerful real estate interests. The only hope for survival of Queens immigrant businesses and to save immigrant jobs is for the immigrant communities to RUN their own candidates for public office. They must fight for and fully support their own candidates who will only represent the best interest of the immigrant community and not the special interest that are destroying it. “
* Except in Queens, the actual number of court evictions citywide fell in other boroughs in 2016 by 18% due to three factors :
1.Trend of increased warehousing of storefronts for longer periods of time by landlords waiting for deep pocket tenants to rent to. Many big landlords are in no rush to rent and can keep some stores empty for years if needed, and thus artificially inflate the rents.
2. Trend of shorter term leases which discourages tenants with short leases from spending large sums of money to fight in court. What business, on a month to month or one/two year lease is going to spend
hard earned money they need on lawyers. With 30 years experience weekly in court, Kim estimates the number of businesses that fight eviction when their leases expire is 1 in 6, and declining each year.
3. Combining of small stores to make one larger space for big chains. Trend is landlords taking whole groups of businesses and put them on short leases waiting to rent to huge stores. Not uncommon today to see side by side empty storefronts ready to become one big store.
The eviction rate is predicted to decline in future years, even as the crisis worsens
2016 NYC Commercial Warrants issued by country
2015 Citywide numbers of commercial warrants issued in 2015 by county.
* Sung Soo Kim, is 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. He is co-flunder of Small Business Congress and sole creator of the Small Business Bill of Rights. He has spent every working day for 30 years addressing the problems of immigrant small business owners. He never took a salary from government as Chairman of Small Business Advisory Board nor in consulting on numerous regulations. He turned down offers to run a BID in Queens and turned down funding for his business service center. In 30 years he has personally negotiated and re-negotiated an estimated 50,000-55,000 commercial leases for his Korean members. He has gone to court over 5,000 times to fight for his members in court.