MBP Brewer to NYC professional business owners and art community: you do not matter!
In Part III* I detailed that MBP Brewer’s so called lifeline to save small businesses and end their crisis was nothing but a charade orchestrated by special interests. It was an exact replay of a 30 years ago lobby scheme that created a substitute bill for the original Jobs Survival Act. The farce did not work 30 years ago when the entire city’s business community soundly rejected it, as nothing but a Landlords Bill, and MBP Brewer’s "landlords" bill fooled nobody today.
When I first read MBP Brewer’s long awaited study’s front page,* I knew immediately that she had betrayed our small businesses, especially professional businesses and the arts. The title was Small Business Big Impact Expanding opportunity for Manhattan’s Storefronts. Her purposely narrowing the scope of her study and therefore the potential solutions is exactly the playbook and goal of the real estate lobby for over 30 years. It is also in direct conflict with the goal of the small business advocates, which also has not changed in 3 decades. We wrote the original version of the Jobs Survival Act to never discriminate against any business owner in NYC who invested their money, worked hard, and made scarifies to build their businesses and create jobs. No business owner, regardless of their size or type should ever be ripped off by greedy landlords because they have no rights.
What is so disheartening in her study was knowing that in the beginning of the fight for our legislation and rights, then COS Brewer was the strongest voice to include all the city’s business owners in our bill. Then prime sponsor CM Messinger’s district included the most diverse businesses in the city, possibly in the nation. I personally was in many planning meetings for the many hearings where Gale Brewer stressed the need for every type of businesses, especially the art community to speak and petition their grievances. Never once was there any discussion of limiting which businesses receive rights when their leases expired! Every business mattered because every job mattered! Because economic justice for all mattered.
Prior to the Dec.1, 1988 vote on our bill, and after we got confirmation of a Queens Committee member’s swing yes vote, the real estate lobby sought a compromise. We thought we had enough votes to pass our bill in committee and so did the lobby. What they proposed was to limit the coverage of our bill to retail businesses of relatively small square feet in space. Everyone rejected this compromise including Gale Brewer as being discriminatory, unjust and unacceptable.
For the next 26 years in our struggle to pass the Jobs Survival Act, never once did we discriminate or limit its coverage and never once did the real estate lobby challenge our full coverage, it was a non issue. The shameful truth of MBP Brewer’s study was that MBP Brewer was the first lawmaker in 26 years to voluntarily limit the coverage of businesses who would receive protection under a law when their leases expired. Who would she exclude from having any rights when their leases expired? Whom would she unilaterally decide to omit giving any rights too? MBP Brewer was throwing under the bus all professional businesses above the ground floor and all art and Not for Profits with commercial leases. As Borough President of the largest number of professional, arts and NFP leases in America, it is unconscionable she would willfully exclude them of any rights in a time of a growing crisis.
In her study’s executive summary she claimed: The Manhattan Borough President’s Office (MBPO) produced this report to help more small businesses thrive and grow.
Was MBP Brewer unaware that the very same hyper real estate speculation crisis that was driving up rents and property taxes and destroying our small businesses on main street in record numbers was also wrecking havoc upon our professional businesses? Why would any lawmaker purposely exclude 70-75% of the businesses under their jurisdiction and care? In Manhattan the vast majority of businesses are above the ground floor, why didn’t Brewer know this? Did she think that they don't matter?
In the early years of our bill, then COS Brewer lead the organization of huge public hearings on the out of control rents destroying all types of businesses in NYC. She was WITNESS to the repeated testimony of every type of business owners pleading for legislation to save them, including all those located above the storefront ground- floor. MBP Brewer knew every business above the storefront ground floor was in jeopardy of closing or laying off workers when their leases expired, because they had no rights. Yet, today she would do nothing to throw them a lifeline to survive or even have a fighting chance to protect and save their investment.
How in all conscience could MBP Brewer sound the alarm of our small businesses facing a growing crisis to survive caused by sky high rents and yet at the same time totally ignore her professional and art business owners who were facing the very same crisis, in many cases caused by the very same greedy landlords? Her statement from her study which gives her recommended solution to save businesses is an insult to every hard working professional /art /nfp lease holder in Manhattan.
(study) That despicable action is: We need to pursue all possible avenues to help new storefront businesses survive and existing ones strengthen their foothold in Manhattan neighborhoods. What about the survival of professional/arts/NFP? Why don’t they matter to MBP Brewer?
MBP Brewer will lead the charge at City Hall to narrow the limit of who received protection from legislation, that is if it ever happens. The first part of her career was fighting to expand protection for all business owners. Today, she is instead fighting to limit the protections of business owners. A sad fall in progressive values and integrity. MBP Brewer conducts a year long study narrowly limited to just retail storefronts, like the real estate lobby’s Limousine Commission limited to Retail, like the Limousine Commission recommends the same word for word option which like the Limousine Commission option would not save a single business or job. Same outcome with both lobby influenced substitute bills rejected. Yet, in spite of all the political theater and charade, MBP Brewer does not acknowledge that this is obvious rigging in the open for all to see.
Due to MBP Brewer’s years of direct involvement and experience with the struggle of the Jobs Survival Act, she should be both embarrassed and ashamed of using the power of her office to deny economic justice and rights to her professional and art community. Why after years where she listened at hearings to countless professional/art owners detail their suffering at the hands of their landlords would she today purposely allow their futures to be solely still in the hands of their landlords?
A tip to voters in this important election to clarify where candidates really stand on saving small businesses and jobs. Anytime you read or hear the word RETAIL in any proposal or law, it is always a real estate lobby created source. Anytime a proposal or law is targeted to be send to Albany it is always a stalling/distraction tactic with the real estate lobby behind it. For over 30 years in our battle to pass legislation to give rights to business owners not once has any lawmaker or agency ever recommended sending the issue to Albany. Main Street’s crisis belongs only on the shoulders and responsibility of
the local councilmember first to find a real solution.
Today, with our businesses facing two crises, one from the decade long unresolved rent crisis and the other today’s virus crisis, every proposal is either temporary or sent off to Albany or Washington to resolve. So much for a progressive Council promoting progressive legislation, total hypocrisy. Forget the newest buzz words “rent relief”. The commercial rents in NYC will come down in the future because they were extremely excessive to the point even banks and chains were closing. What will be more important to the future survival of small businesses will be the growing property taxes which the landlords pass onto the business owners to pay. Any candidate who is sincere in wanting to save our small businesses will demand a vote on the Jobs Survival Act giving owners rights to renewal long term leases, equal rights to negotiate fair lease terms and an arbitration process to protect owners from rent gouging and forced to pay their landlords' property taxes.
The real estate lobby and party machine candidates will never mention the Jobs Survival Act! Never mention regulating commercial landlords. Never make a priority to save our small businesses.