March, 15, 2010

 

Councilman Robert Jackson

751 West 183rd

New York , NY 10033

 

Re: Response to your 2 new bills

 

Dear Councilman Jackson:

The Bodega Association received your two new bills for us to review and comment. Both bills are very relevant to the vitality and survival of our members, especially the bill dealing with the extortion of merchants during the lease renewal process. Surveys of Hispanic small businesses, public forums on helping Hispanic businesses ,  and testimony before the city council,  all exposed for the first time, the extortion of many small businesses in our city, as a common practice, especially against the newer immigrant owners.   Therefore, the need to pass a law to end this unjust practice is long overdue. But a careful review of the bill you propose would not begin to seriously address this problem, and in fact would make it worst by hindering the passage of good legislation with the goal to stop the extortion of hard working small business owners by greedy landlords.

 

Before explaining why this bill will never help any of my merchants, I must set the record straight on the extortion problem. The survey results and testimony imply that approximately 30% of the merchants are routinely extorted by the landlords. From my personal 30 years owning a Bodega and working with hundreds of Bodega owners, the percentage of Bodega owners who are extorted is closer to 90% . A strong case can be made that the number one victims of extortion in NYC are the Bodega owners, who are mostly newer immigrants with a large majority being Hispanic. I need to remind you of your two visits to Jetro in the Bronx where the rooms was filled with only Bodega owners and how angry and fearful most became when the topic of extortion was brought up. Also, when you asked for a show of hands of all those who had ever been extorted, that every hand went up.  Therefore, you can realize how desperately the Bodega owners need a law passed to stop the extortion of our members.

 

We are surprised and disappointed in you for presenting this new bill to address the serious problem of extortion, when it is clear upon reviewing this bill that it will do nothing to change this terrible unjust act being committed routinely against hard working families.  Firstly, and most importantly the bill offers no protection to the tenants who notify the authorities that they are being illegally extorted by their landlords. Without some protection given the tenants when they go to renewal their leases, the landlords (who are not regulated in any manner) can punish the owners for causing them to be investigated. Knowing my members well, I can state with absolute certainty, that not a single Bodega owner will ever complaint to the authority against their landlords under this law.  They would be risking an end of their businesses if they did so.  The greatest victims of extortion, the Bodegas, will never benefit from this law because the law does not give them any protection or rights when they renewal their leases. On the other hand, the merchants supported your Small Business Survival Act because it gave them rights and protection during the lease renewal process. It is during the lease renewal process that most of the extortion of tenants occurs.

 

The Bodega owners are confused that you would work so hard to support the passage of a bill which would not impact nor help a single victim of extortion by the greedy landlords, when you know first hand the hardship and suffering resulting from this illegal practice by the landlords. The old bill we fought for was far superior in addressing the problem of extortion and offered a “real  solution” to stopping it.  If this new bill passed , the greedy landlords would rest easy knowing their freighted immigrant tenants would never jeopardize their hard working businesses.  The greedy landlords know what they are doing is immoral and illegal and they do it anyway because they know their tenants have no rights. They know that every time a lease is up for renewal they hold in their hand the absolute power to destroy the tenant’s business, they and they alone make the decision if a business survives or not.  If the worst landlords were to be asked to meet and write a law dealing with extortion , they would produce something very similar to what you are proposing. The hardworking families of small business are asking you to

put this bill in the trash basket where it belongs and focus instead upon the Survival Act which would end extortion in NYC once and for all.

 

Concerning the second proposed new bill, this does less than nothing to assist the tenants in gaining real rights and protection during the commercial lease renewal process. My members avoid at all costs any contact with government, whenever possible.  When they see government employees it usually means fines, fees, and forms etc.  Like the first proposed bill, this bill will not be utilized by a single store owner. Without rights or protection all of the decisions concerning commercial lease renewals are decided solely by the landlords. Until the tenants have some rights under the law or the landlords are regulated , bills like this one are worthless and assist no small business owner. Like the first bill, the landlords would love a bill like this which does not regulate them in manner, keeping all the rights in their hands.

 

Again, we call upon you to not waste your time on bills that do not seriously address the problems faced by our small businesses and instead focus upon “real solutions” to help the small businesses survive, like your Small Business Survival Act .

 

Sincerely,

 

Ramon Murphy

President

 

 Korean  Small Business Service Center of New York, Inc. (KASBSC)

 

 

March 16, 2010

 

 

Honorable Robert Jackson

Councilmember

751 West 183rd Street

NY NY 1033

 

Honorable Council Member Jackson:

With an extremely upset feeling, on behalf of Korean American Small Business Service Center of New York, Inc. (KASBSC) and of Small Business Congress, Inc. (SBC) with its 75 member trade organizations, I am responding to your request for my assessment on those two proposed bills addressing small business lease problems.

 

These two bills are duplicates of the ones presented to members of Coalition To Save Small Businesses at the November 2009 meeting with Speaker's staff. At that meeting, our collective response was that neither bill was valued as a substitute to Intro #847A, the Small Business Survival Act. Later, three out of 34 Council Members cosponsoring Intro #847A withdrew their names from the bill and the Motion to Discharge scheduled to be voted on December 9, 2009 was disbanded. These two bills are now presented to us once again when City's small businesses are crying for reintroducing the Small Business Survival Act. I am upset about this political climate to discourage the Small Business Survival Act.

These two bills are logically committing to Fallacy of Inputism. These two bills, crafting a legal system to punish extortion by unscrupulous landlords and providing a consulting service to tenants in face with lease renewal, intentionally overlook how to rectify conditions/situations that breed extortion and take it for granted tenants are securely provided for lease renewal opportunities.

Crafting a legal system that guarantees tenants Rights for Lease Renewal is a mandatory prerequisite for protecting tenants from extortion. The Small Business Survival Act is that solution.

The bill dealing with extortion is a craft of Impracticability. For the past thirty years, I have seen extortion and threat of not allowing the extension of a lease as a commonly practiced feature of doing business. Extortion does not necessitate any written document or action but is communicated to the tenant only through eye contact. A tenant is now victimized by greedy landlord's extortion, but he/she can not produce evidence nor dare to do it while the tenant is fearful of the landlord's reaction not to allow even a negotiation over the lease renewal. Protecting tenants from landlord's extortion can be eventually guaranteed as long a tenant's right of lease renewal is legalized, the core element of Intro #847A of 2008, Small Business Survival Act.

The Small Business Survival Act is a fundamental solution to overcome small Business Crisis. For the past twenty years, 1988-2007, 142,738 commercial tenants were evicted. 80% of these evicted store owners have minority and new immigrant backgrounds. Over 120,000 new immigrant families were kicked out of New York. Over 600,000 workers lost jobs. New York is ranked No. 48 by Small Business Survival Index as one of the least friendly public policy environments for entrepreneurship.

Besides these economic sides of the crisis, new immigrant small businesses have been under a psychosomatic mood: They are losing a sense of belonging, they are not proud of themselves being New Yorkers. They find no place where their dignities are respected. They are losing confidence in expanding their businesses and hiring more employees. Legal protection of the tenant's Right of Lease Renewal is a sure, fundamental and secured solution to overcome this multifaceted small business crisis.

KASBSC and SBC are thus recommending Council Member Jackson and other Council Members not to introduce these two bills but instead to proudly reintroduce the Small Business Survival Act, Commercial Lease Binding Arbitration Bill. We are beseeching the City Council reinstates its conscience to bring in protection, security and confidence to small businesses in New York City.

 

 

Sincerely yours,

Sung Soo Kim

President

Korean American Small Business

Service Center of New York

cc: Members of the Committee on Small Business

Other Council Members

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 17, 2010

 

Honorable Councilman Robert Jackson

200 Broadway

New York, NY 100007

 

Dear Honorable Councilman Robert Jackson:

 

The New York Women's Chamber of Commerce is an organization that represents more than 10,000 women business owners in the City of New York.  The majority of these women are minorities, a lot of them Latino women who have not only empowered themselves economically by creating their small business, but who have also empowered others by creating thousands of jobs that feed millions of families. All of those jobs are soon going to disappear if we do not act quickly and save these women owned businesses.

 

The New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce has direct contact with these women business owners throughout the city. They know we advocate for their interests whenever possible, and because we have gained their confidence due to the fact that we work directly with them providing business development assistance, they have made us aware of the problems they face when dealing with their landlords, and how they fear these landlords are going to put them out of business.

 

The two bills presented to me for my remarks, deal with two of the major problems faced by our members and most women entrepreneurs in our city when it comes to commercial rentals:

 

The first bill wants to address the serious problem of extortion of small business owners.

I have become very sensitive to this problem because one of the more vulnerable victims of this crime, are minority women owners. The mostly male landlords feel free to extort illegal monies from hard working women owners. They do not care that these women owners are a major employer of minority families in the city, and the extortion likely will result in the loss of much needed jobs for our families. Unfortunaly, this bill will do little to stop the suffering caused by extortion. It has no real deterrent to these immortal landlords and the way the bill is written would place the victim in a very vulnerable position if they sought justice under this bill.

 

The landlords can do anything to the business owners as retaliation, including forcing them out of business and the loss of all their employee’s jobs. Many women owners look upon their employees as family and the threat of friends and family losing their jobs is a strong motivator for them. Knowing the makeup of the city’s women business owners and their justifiable suspicions of the system to protect their rights, I believe very few, if any  women owners would take such a great risk to report being extorted, therefore I could not recommend this bill.

 

The second bill tries to address the problems faced by small businesses during lease renewals. This is the biggest problem faced by successful women business owners in our city. I receive constant requests for help from women owners because of the unjust and unfair lease renewal process in our city.  As I commented, upon first reading this bill during a meeting at the Speaker’s office in late Nov, 2009, this bill is an insult to hard working small business owners who need help”. Everything in this bill is already being made available by several programs and agencies, including my own organization. As I also mentioned during that meeting, it is obvious that those who put together this bill did not bother to do research on what was already being offered to the business owners.  Likely not, no effort was made to seriously research this bill. I do not recommend this bill because the services being proposed are already being provided and the central problem of “leveling the playing field” for the small business owners during this critical lease renewal process is not being addressed in any real way.

 

I do not doubt the Speaker of the City Council has the best intentions when it comes to helping save the small businesses and the thousands of jobs they provide, however the two proposed bills are not going to do that. Those of us that work day by day helping the small business owners already know that, and I am hoping that everyone at the City Council can finally understand it if they truly care about saving the small businesses.  

 

I hope my remarks are useful, and I hope on behalf of all women business owners that you continue your efforts to make laws which will stop the extortion of the small business owners and make the process of lease renewal a fair and just one for both parties.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce

1524 Amsterdam Avenue • New York, NY 10031 • Phone: 212-491-9640 • Fax: 212-491-6019

Email: qabreuwcc.org

www.nywcc.org

 

 

 

Sincerely,

Quenia Abreu,

President

 

 

 U.S.A. LATIN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, INC.

 

 

 

March, 15, 2010

 

 

 

 

orable Robert Jackson

NY City Council

751 West 183rd Street

New York , NY 10033

 

Re: Overview of bills sent to the USA Latin Chamber of Commerce for comments

 

Honorable Councilmember Jackson:

 

The two council bills sent us are similar to the ones presented to us at the Speaker’s

meeting last November 2009.  At that time our response upon reading the bills was, “neither bill was  adequate as a substitute to the Small Business Survival Act in addressing the serious problems of the extortion of small businesses by unscrupulous landlords and lack of any rights for small businesses during the commercial lease renewal process“.

 

At that time our criticism of these bills was shared by all the people present who represented the interests of small businesses in NYC.

 

It appears that the constructive criticisms of these bills given to the Speaker’s staff were totally ignored.  It is clear from the language in these bills that no effort was made to change these bills to make them seriously address the problems faced by our city’s small businesses; to effectively stop the extortion of small businesses and to make the renewal of commercial lease process more fair by bringing back “bargaining in good faith” to arrive at reasonable lease terms, and only by giving tenants some rights would this ever happen. 

 

We will give the same arguments against the first proposed bill (extortion) as we did at the Speaker’s meeting. The bill does nothing to stop extortion and the bill does nothing to discourage extortion against the primarily small immigrant owned businesses. This bill was written by lawyers who have never operated a small business and likely never shopped in a small neighborhood bodega.  There is a complete lack of understanding of the makeup of the small business owners most likely to be extorted.  The biggest victims of extortion are non English speaking immigrant owners who are fearful of government agencies.  They work hard and try to keep to themselves due to excessive government regulations, fines and red tape for permits etc. They are between a rock and hard place every time they have to renegotiate their leases, having no rights or say in their futures, and no support from their government, who view them mostly as cash cows to be fined and taxed.  This bill will never be used to stop extortion because no small business would “risk” being thrown out of business by an angry landlord if the tenant exposes the extortion of the landlord. The bill offers no protection to the highly vulnerable tenant who uses this law.  It will not stop the landlords because they don’t care about minor fines, when the under the table cash being extorted is tens of thousands of dollars per store and most owners have multiple building with dozens of stores. The landlord know for a certainly, none of the immigrant small businesses would ever report the extortion and risk the certain loss of their businesses.

 

The USA Latin Chamber of Commerce conducted the city’s first real survey of Hispanic small businesses and added a question on extortion to its survey.  Till this survey, the extortion of small businesses was a secret known only by all small business owners in the city.  Our survey showed extortion of  31% of the Hispanic small businesses. Other business organizations who represent primarily Hispanic small businesses, believe the percentage extorted to be much higher.  We agree, and understand that the extortion of mostly immigrant small businesses in mostly poorer communities is a common practice which must be stopped.   Unfortunately, the bill you are considering would not stop extortion nor discourage this terrible practice.  Therefore, the USA Latin Chamber of Commerce recommends that major changes in this bill are needed if the desired goal of the bill is to help stop the extortion of many of our city’s small businesses.  If you compare this bill to your own Small Business Survival Act as to effectively stopping the extortion of small businesses, your bill is significantly superior over this bill in every way.  Why the need to focus upon a weak bill with no impact upon the problem of extortion and ignore a better bill which would “stop” extortion immediately?  I will end this comment on extortion by speaking for my members only, the Hispanic small businesses, “that not one Hispanic small business owner in NYC will ever benefit or use this bill”.

 

Commenting on the second bill, “this bill does nothing to help any Hispanic small business owner during the commercial lease renewal process”.   I confess, to being confused by the purpose of this bill?   Informing the small business owner that they can phone someone in government who will provide a list of arbitrators or other data which they can obtain on their own, does not begin to address the real problem of giving them rights necessary to have a say in the decision of the new lease terms.   Nothing in this proposed bill benefit’s the small business owners in the lease renewal process!!  It keeps everything the same, totally in favor of the landlords.   Again, I can state “not one single Hispanic small business owner will ever use this bill”. Again, why put forth a weak / worthless bill which does not help any small business owner when your Small Business Survival Act will immediately help them in a real and meaningful manner by giving them rights during the lease renewal process.

 

In conclusion, the two bills you sent us have two identical themes: do not regulate the landlords and do not give rights to the tenants. It is for that reason I and others opposed these bills at the Speaker’s meeting and all present were unanimous is stating to you our belief that these two bills in no way begin to replace your Survival Bill in giving rights to our city’s small businesses and offering “real solutions” to the real problems faced our city’s small businesses.   Whoever wrote these bills are not a friend of small business regardless of what they may claim.

 

Sincerely,

 

Fernando Fernandez

 

Fernando Fernandez

Executive Director