SBC - The Small Business Congress
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Websites: Savenycjobs.org
Media Advisory Contact: Steven Barrison
July 8, 2016
REBNY’s (real estate lobby) point man at City Hall to continue ”rigging the system” against desperate small business owners is
Council Member (CM) Robert Cornegy.
CM Cornegy and CM Levine’s new bill signed into law shows clearly their loyalty to REBNY and not to our city’s struggling
mom and pop owners.
Dateline, NYC July 7, 2016:
What’s easier than making money in NYC real estate? Having NYC lawmakers pass legislation to protect real estate windfall profits. The Cornegy/Levine bill proves this.
June was the 30th anniversary of the most progressive legislation ever before the city council, the original version of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SB Jobs Survival Act). This bill was submitted by perhaps the most progressive council member ever, former councilwoman Ruth Messinger. Why is REBNY celebrating this anniversary while the small business advocates are disheartened? Because even with the vast majority of NYer’s wanting legislation to save their mom and pop businesses, and the majority of lawmakers supporting a real solution like the SB Jobs Survival Act, REBNY’s cronies at City Hall have successfully denied even a public hearing on the bill for the past seven years. Instead of passing real solution legislation to end this crisis, they pass 49-0 useless laws like the Cornegy/Levine bill that keep the status quo.
Thirty years ago, even with a popular and powerful former Mayor Koch and Speaker Vallone, adamantly apposed to Messinger’s bill, the bill had received many huge hearings in the 80’s. Despite pressure from the full weight of both the Mayor’s and Speaker’s offices, like creating a phony small business study committee made up of bank, Wall Street, big business, and real estate presidents, to stall any legislation , they could not stop a vote in committee on the bill.
Yet today, under a self proclaimed Progressive Mayor, Speaker and City Council pledging to end economic inequality, and acknowledging a crisis exists for our city’s small business owners caused by sky high rent increases, the only real solution, the SB Jobs Survival Act still can’t get a public hearing. REBNY has reason to celebrate their growing power and influence over decades at City Hall. When the SB Jobs Survival Act was first introduced the only major problem facing small business owners was rent gouging. Full blown greed, franchise and bank expansions to main street and increased speculation in the unregulated commercial rent market has created immensely wealthy landlords. Also created, other than exorbitant high rents, were three additional major problems for business owners: illegal extortion of cash from mostly immigrant owners when their leases expire, shorter term leases (sometimes month to month leases), and growing property taxes of their landlords which business tenants are forced to pay. As this crisis gets worse and spreads from neighborhood to neighborhood the calls from the public for lawmakers to do something increases. REBNY is happy because in the face of this growing crisis, and with a real solution sitting in committee (SB Jobs Survival Act), so- called progressive lawmakers remain silent and do nothing as the backbone of our economy is being destroyed while landlords are reaping windfall profits.
Adding to REBNY’s jubilance are lawmakers like CM Robert Cornegy and CM Mark Levine who
co -sponsored recently passed legislation which they claim will protect commercial tenants from harassment by their landlords. Their bill looks and sounds like it seriously addresses the growing problem of unscrupulous landlords extorting cash from small business owners when their leases expire. However, in reality this bill does nothing to protect a single small business owner and likely will make the problem worse. It will make the landlords happy because it keeps the status quo with all the power and rights in their hands. The Cornegy/Levine bill is not the first time REBNY promoted legislation supposedly addressing the extortion crisis. In 2009, former Speaker Quinn’s office collaborated with REBNY to successfully cook up a legal roadblock to stop a vote on the SB Jobs Survival Act, certain to pass. Because the increasingly common practice of extortion of immigrant owners was exposed by a study and later testimony and thus out in the open, a bill was drafted by the Speaker’s office with REBNY’s guidance, that claimed to protect the owners from extortion and would be a substitute to the SB Jobs Survival Act they successfully stopped.
The city’s leading small business advocates read the bill and wrote to then Council Member Jackson that the bill was a fraud and likely written by REBNY. A hearing for the bill was scheduled in March 2010, but when small business advocated vigorously protested against the bill, CM Jackson took his name off as prime sponsor and the hearing was cancelled and the bill died until CM Cornegy and CM Levine brought a similar fraudulent version of it back to life. (Below are quotes from just four of the letters) log on savenycjobs.org to view full letters
The power and influence of REBNY is enormous at City Hall. For thirty years, even in the face of a growing crisis that affects every NYer, REBNY’s profits remain a priority for our lawmakers. The SB Jobs Survival Act, a real solution to end this crisis, can’t get a public hearing, while a worthless bill like Cornegy/Levine that keeps the status quo for landlords has a hearing with no opposition and quickly passes 49-0.
A special shame goes to CM Levine for his role in this charade to address a real crisis faced by immigrant owners. The largest study of NYC Hispanic small businesses first exposed the extortion (savenycjobs.org). This study and other testimony from small business owners showed the primary target and victims of extortion were Dominican bodega owners and merchants. CM Levine is fully aware of this reality because he worked for years with small businesses in a large Dominican community. Yet, instead of using his office to demand a hearing on the SB Jobs Survival Act which he sponsored and knew would stop the extortions, he remained silent and kept the Dominican community in the dark that a solution existed pending before the council. CM Levine fools know one when he took a page from the Small Business Services playbook to have the property owners, banks, career bureaucrats who have never owned a small business and REBNY’s friends define small business’s problems, not the small businesses themselves. Next, create a solution to the sham problem and finish with another business initiative or bill that sounds great but does nothing to address the real problem. CM Levine’s cooked up bill is an insult to the hard working Dominican small business owners, and all owners who are being exposed to this outrageous immoral act of being robbed of your lifesaving. Today, for the immigrant owners, the harder they work and the more they sacrifice the more cash they have to pay their landlords to survive in business. That is acceptable to CM Cornegy and Levine and regrettably for to many self proclaimed progressive council members.
From March 15, 2010 letter on Extortion bill sent to CM Jackson
“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% .”
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 worse 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.
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 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.
The New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce letter on Extortion bill sent to CM Jackson March 2010 prior to hearing
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. Unfortunately, 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.
U.S.A. LATIN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, INC.
letter on Extortion bill sent to CM Jackson March 2010 prior to hearing
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.
Korean American Small Business Service Center of New York, Inc. (KASBSC)
Sung Soo Kim, Founder and President
letter on Extortion bill sent to CM Jackson March 2010 prior to hearing
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. 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.