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Will the true progressive Council Members find their moral compasses and finally stand up to the real estate lobby, REBNY?

Will those true progressive Council Members who believe they have the moral obligation to save their small business owners and their worker’s jobs finally stop the economic injustice against small business owners and give business owners the rights needed to have a fighting chance to survive in business when their leases expire? 

If true progressive Council Members, CMS, are sincere in saying their small businesses are the “back bone of their local economy and engines for job creation,” then why have they refused to seriously address more than a decade long city’s unresolved small business crisis? Why have they not made a priority of passing legislation to address the root cause of their long established local businesses being forced to close and jobs lost when their leases expire? Why would any true progress Council Member, CM, willfully refuse to protect the life’s investment of their small business owners and the jobs of their workers?

For over a decade the destructive one sided and grossly unfair commercial lease renewal process, a “take it or leave” process, has been the root cause of long established successful businesses being forced to close when their leases expire and the owners having no rights. For far too long in NYC, it became an accepted common scene and the “new norm” when good established business owners, even with a growing loyal customer base, were being forced to close only because they could not negotiate fair lease terms where their profits matter. 

When will progressive CMS stand up and be a strong voice for their merchants and their workers? A voice demanding honest hearings with the only goal of finding a real solution giving the business owners the rights needed to have a fighting chance to survive and make a reasonable profit when their leases expired. Legislation that will finally put an end to the over decade long purposely ignored “forgotten small business crisis” where pure greed and profiteering rule the commercial lease renewal process in NYC.

When elected, the fate of every local business owner’s future survival and potential for making a reasonable profit, growth and job retention and creation is in the hands of each Council Member, CM.

But beginning in August 2009 and continuing until today the stability, profitability and futures of every business owner and their workers has been put solely in the hands of the real estate lobby, REBNY, by the City Council. If left unchallenged, the corruption of the ambitious Democratic leadership by a lobby will result in the continued destruction of the American Dream for our business owners and a future economic catastrophe for society. True progressive Council Members must find the political will and courage soon to stand up to the lobby and take back the responsibility for the futures of their small business owners and their workers.  

Why would any true progressive CM abdicate to a lobby their own responsibility over the welfare of their small business owners and their employees? Especially putting the well being and futures of the “backbone of their local economy” solely in the control of a lobby at a time of an unresolved decade plus long citywide small business crisis. A lobby whose very members were responsible for creating our city’s small business crisis in the first place. A lobby who has opposed any effort to find a real solution to end the crisis.  A crisis caused when the city’s commercial rental market broke down into total havoc as a result of big banks and national chain’s insane bidding for prime locations on main streets.

Also, NYC’s badly broken and manipulated commercial lease renewal process has become the most destructive business process of any major city in the world!  Shamefully true, that for a long-established successful business owner, whose lease expired, NYC is the worst city in the world to be in. And to just survive! After the 2008 national economic collapse, every major city in America’s main streets began to recovery over the next decade. But not NYC’s main streets where once thriving businesses were forced to close and many remained empty creating the only “empty store blight” in America during an economic boom!

Why is it important for Council Members, business owners, workers and the public to understand the workings of the commercial lease renewal process? Because this process has been the most important factor for influencing established businesses’ potential for increasing profits, for growth and job creation opportunity, for stability on main streets, and for survival.  In NYC for more than the past decade this process also has been the main reason for forcing good businesses to close when the owners cannot negotiate fair lease terms.

The devastating consequences of this broken lease renewal process, that created our city’s unresolved small business crisis, that lead to NYC’s “empty store blight,” has impacted every New Yorker. Regrettably, the City Council has been complicit to the real estate lobby’s collusion with City Hall leadership to use pro lobby shill’s to cover up this small business crisis, as well as, the dire consequences to Society of the slow destruction of the “backbone of the local economy and major job creator.”

Besides the obvious heartless forced closing of popular businesses, by far the most severe consequences of this destructive commercial lease renewal process has been the destruction of jobs and limiting the potential for job creation. Over the last decades, there has been no more economic event that has caused more New Yorkers to lose their jobs, or threaten their job security, than the commercial lease renewal process.

The present commercial lease renewal process is the most anti-jobs* process for small business owners.  This grossly unfair process can instantly take a successful business owner from being highly profitable, paying good wages and planning for growth and job creation to being destitute and out of business.  The unfair process punishes the job creators while protecting the windfall profits of the landlords, the main destroyer of jobs.

* https://www.savenycjobs.com/crs-bill-anti-jobs

Council Members have been fooled for too long by the real estate lobby’s game plan to take control of economic policy without any regard to the dire consequences to neighborhoods. What is affordable housing when you lose your job? A lobby’s economy with the outcome of neighborhoods with giant cranes building giant building that put a giant shadow over main streets filled with empty stores.

Almost inconceivable to believe that any true progressive CM who claims to understand the needs of their community could, year after year, walk down their main streets past empty storefronts that they once frequented and be willfully ignorant of why their successful  long established businesses were forced to close.  CMS maintain even more ignorance of the working of their small businesses by actually believing or repeating, the utter nonsensical statements of the SBS and some Democratic leaders that the biggest problems faced by business owners are:  too many fines, too much government over-regulation, “red tape”, or a lack of affordable loans.  Yes, ridiculously lame distractions from the truth, only fake talking points coached by the lobby, and insulting to merchants!

With the vast majority of our city’s business owners being multi-generational immigrant family owned, it is indefensible for those CMS who represent large immigrant communities or are from immigrant backgrounds to purposely refuse to be a strong voice demanding justice and rights for their own immigrant small business owners. Demanding an end to the cruel short term leases of sometimes month to month/one and two year leases typically given immigrant owners. Demanding an end to immigrant owners being targeted to be extorted for “cash” to remain in business.*  Demanding an end to immigrant owners being forced to pay their landlord’s growing property taxes.*

*Two independent surveys of only immigrant small business owners. The first done in 2009,* the second in 2021*.

https://www.savenycjobs.com/latin-chamber-study

https://www.savenycjobs.com/2021-immigrant-business-survey

The 2009 showed 31% of immigrant owners had been extorted for “cash” in order to remain in business.

The 2021 survey showed 41% of immigrant owners had been  extorted.

The 2021 survey showed that 82% could no longer remain open paying both the high rents and growing landlords property taxes.

Shockingly, the first legislation sponsored by the majority of newly elected CMS in March 2022 was the Commercial Rent Stabilization Act, CRS. Legislation inspired by the real estate lobby to replace the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Jobs Survival Act, and keep the status quo denying any rights to immigrant owners* when their leases expired!  Reprehensible, that for these CMS to side with the real estate lobby to betray their own small business owners facing a growing crisis, by sponsoring the lobby’s bill that would continue to put in grave jeopardy the future of every immigrant owner and their workers when their leases expired.

The Jobs Survival Act, would give every business owner the right to renew 10 year leases, equal rights to negotiate fair lease terms under the guidance of non-binding mediation, and a binding arbitration process to encourage bargaining in good faith and fair rents when mutual agreement could not be reached. What true progressive CM could be against that? Unless you support destroying whatever small businesses still remain in your district, or do not care?

The status quo commercial lease renewal process has for decades been destroying the American Dream for many immigrant family owners and their workers. Why would any true progressive CM be a strong voice to continue it?  Clearly, many self-proclaimed progressive CMS have based their loyalty, voice and support on their personal ambitions and not on their progressive principles.   

In any other democratic government city in America where good government was practiced the Jobs Survival Act would have unanimously been voted into law long ago. But not in NYC where the powerful real estate lobby, REBNY, would never allow its commercial landlords to be regulated.  In Aug 2009, two weeks prior to a vote on the Jobs Survival Act, with its 32 Council sponsors, the lobby in collusion with then Speaker Quinn’s legal department cooked up a bogus legal roadblock to successfully stop a vote on the bill.  The lobby was not going to allow good government to work for small business owners. And today they still refuse to allow the City Council to do its job in seeking a real solution to address the decade old city’s small business crisis.

Every CM has the choice to make on behalf of the futures of their small business owners and workers. That is if they take that responsibility away from REBNY. Each one must choose between three options:*

 

Link to greater details of each option.

 

The first is to continue to remain silent and complicit to the lobby's collusion and rigging the system and do absolutely nothing to seriously address the root cause for the past decade’s unresolved small business crisis. A crisis where CMS’s successful long established businesses had no rights in the lease renewal negotiation process and many were being forced to close when their leases expire. While others struggled to make ends meet in order to remain open. A 2021 survey* of only immigrant owners showed 69% were facing a crisis prior to the covid crisis. The covid crisis only greatly sped up what had been taking place over the past decade in NYC.

 

Commercial Rent Stabilization Act, a mockery of democracy.

Choice two: Sponsor the Commercial Rent Stabilization Act, CRS, a lobby inspired bill to keep the status quo by giving CMS’s business owners no right to renew their leases and no real rights in the negotiation process and no arbitration process to encourage compromises and fairness for all parties.  The CRS bill is a scam bill that was cleverly contrived to disguise its false claim that it addressed the high rent increases.  In reality, under the CRS bill the annual rent rate increases would only go up and never down from the decades of insane greed and speculation levels. Unlike the Jobs Survival Act where every business owner was treated on a case by case bases, under the CRS bill all businesses are treated the same. Yes, absurd when a small Bronx mom and pop owner pays the same rent increase rate as a Wall Street firm! 

And the final choice would be to reintroduce the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Jobs Survival Act.  A bill written by the true small business advocates giving every owner the right to renew a 10 year lease, equal rights to negotiate the new lease terms under the supervision of non-binding mediation and an arbitration process based on a case by case guidelines to assure fair rents for all parties in every neighborhood of the city.

For any true progressive CM committed to being a strong voice for the rights of their merchants and workers this should have been an easy choice to make. But at City Hall where power-brokers, lobbies, and party bosses, through their campaign funding and government appointments and funding, have undue influence, has made this easy decision much more difficult.

If the merchants themselves, their workers and the public were given the choice of which legislation would give the merchants the rights needed to remain in business and make a reasonable profit, 100% would have chosen the Jobs Survival Act. But the real estate lobby through their collusion with the Council leadership would hide the truth from them. Instead, the lobby would have their loyalist and complicit lawmakers make the choice on behalf of the business owners, the wrong choice.  

The only hope for our city’s small business owners to have a real future in NYC will rest only if the true progressive CMS can find their moral compasses, political will, and courage to stand up to the real estate lobby. Time is running out to pass legislation that will give real rights to the merchants in the critical lease renewal process.

What the small business owners, their workers and the public want, need, and expect from their CMS in making this critical decision on the futures of mom and pop owners is obvious. For a change at City Hall: the truth, respect for the merchants and workers, decency, empathy for their dire plight, respect for democracy and some compassion. Not blind loyalty to the real estate lobby, REBNY.

The Jobs Survival Act’s passage would stabilize the backbone of our economy. Furthermore, it would offer the business owners the best potential opportunity for more growth and job creation.  The truth for the Jobs Survival Act is that 100% of the small business owners, workers and loyal customers would want their favorite mom and pop businesses to have rights when their leases expire. What the real estate lobby’s shills and loyalist have hidden from the business owners and public for many years is that the real legislation protection against rent gouging has always been only the Jobs Survival Act with its arbitration process to assure fair rent increases on a case by case basis.

 The Jobs Survival Act, and not the Commercial Rent Stabilization Act, is the real “guard rail” legislation to check unjust high rent increases! In fact, in those neighborhoods with empty stores for sometimes years, where once thriving businesses were, the rents would be LOWERED!! Lowered back to reasonable levels prior to the insane bidding between banks and chains for prime locations on main streets.  Why do you think the real estate lobby has had their shills attacking arbitration? Because they know from the empty stores on vibrant streets and the closings of even banks and national chains that the manipulated windfall commercial rental market is wrecked and destructive to every established business owner and will be to every smart future business owner.

The lobby is also afraid of giving business owners the right to renew because they know if they had this right the landlords could no longer demand their tenants pay their growing property taxes! Nor could some greedy landlords continue to target immigrant owners demanding “cash” to renew their leases. The tenants having the right to renew would end the cruel policy of landlords giving shorter leases, sometimes month to month to mostly immigrant owners. Shorter leases so that the landlord could wait for deep pocket renters. The Jobs Survival Act would put an end to the dreaded 30 day vacate notice given by landlords.

The last chance to save their small business owners is solely in CMS's hands.

The last point for CMS to consider is the reality that ignoring the growing small business crisis year after year has placed the majority of our city’s small business owners way past the “tipping point” of struggling to survive and make a reasonable profit.  The heavy burden on owners of being forced to raise prices, lay off workers, cut hours, working harder while making less profits in order to deal with the sky high rents, NYC’s rising operating costs and paying the landlord’s growing property taxes has reached the limits for many business owners wanting to continue in business.

Three times over the decades:  Aug 2009, Nov 2018 and March 2022, CMS should have easily voted into law the Jobs Survival Act, with its majority CMS sponsorship.  But the lobby’s hijacking democracy and their “Machiavellian schemes” at City Hall stopped good government from working each time.  In plain sight and unprecedented in Council history, the lobby’s orchestrated charade of political theater of fake studies, useless initiatives, distraction legislation, and sham hearings, all pretending to help small businesses, stopped CMS from doing their duty and therefore stopped any vote on the Jobs Survival Act.

When will CMS stop viewing the real needs of their small business owners through the rose colored glasses of the property owner BIDS, Chambers, or pro real estate lobby SBS and EDC?

When will the life’s investment of small business owners matter to the City Council? When will the stability of the “backbone of the local economy” and major job creators for the neighborhoods matter? When will giving rights to hard working business owners when their leases expire so they can negotiate fair lease terms that allow a reasonable profit matter?

The central question every Council Member should be asking when scrutinizing potential legislation to stop the closing of their own local businesses is this: will the legislation being proposed stop the forced closings of those long established good businesses with a large growing loyal customer base who are willing and able to pay a reasonable rent but the landlord will not allow them to negotiate fair lease terms that allow for a reasonable rent or to make a reasonable profit?  

 

If a Council Member supports legislation that does not protect their very best established businesses when their leases expire then every business in their community will continue to be in grave jeopardy of being forced to close when their leases expire. If a CM cannot stop the closing of their very best established businesses, then their local economy is doomed to decline.

 

It is also long past time that CMS should stop taking advice from the pro lobby groups who have gotten rich from the sky high rents, or have grossly overpaid bureaucratic jobs and those who benefited by the city’s real estate speculation. CMS should stop trusting the pro lobby shills: property owner controlled BIDS, developer friendly Chambers, the lobby’s hand picked SBS and EDC heads, and lobby loyal lawmaker’s politically funded groups. All opposed to any legislation giving rights to the merchants and none offering any real solutions to save even one business or job and none wanting to end the small business crisis.

Instead, take the advice from the true small business advocate and original author of the first Jobs Survival Act, Mr. Sung Soo Kim. Mr. Kim was highly respected as the “Godfather of immigrant small businesses.” Mr. Sung Soo Kim’s testimony at hearings and advice to Council Members, “based upon my decades of daily addressing the needs of my immigrant business owners, I can say with absolute certainty that any legislation that does not include giving the business owners the right to renew their commercial leases and does not give some rights to the business owners in the negotiation process and an arbitration process that would encourage reasonable bargaining in good faith by both parties, will ultimately fail. Also, any commercial lease renewal process that favors only the profits of one of the parties is also doomed to failure.” 

For over a decade in the City Council the one group that has been repeatedly discriminated against and denied democracy and fair treatment has been small business owners. The city’s 210K plus small business owners have been denied economic justice and any degree of fairness by the City Council.  Instead, they have been the most “deprived social class,” being treated only as second-class citizens who are considered as expendable collateral damage to the government promoted and protected real estate speculation machine that has taken priority over our city’s economic policy.

The late Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “it is never too late to do the right thing.”  The last chance to save our small businesses and restore their American Dream is in the hands of the true progressive Council Members. But if they continue to have no empathy for the dire plight of their merchants or feel no moral obligation to save them but instead continue to serve only the special interests and put their own political careers over their responsibility to be a strong voice for justice and rights for their business owners, then the real estate lobby, REBNY will continue to have their knee on the neck of every business owner when their leases expire. Each day more businesses owners can breathe no more. What are you waiting for?

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