Mayor de Blasio stands alone among elected officials in first calling for and sponsoring legislation to stop the closing of our main street mom and pop businesses and saving jobs and ending the unethical and illegal extortion of the mostly immigrant owners. Then later changing his assessment completely on the needs of the small business owners. He has gone from rent gouging and extortion to excessive fines and access to loans as the major problems facing our small businesses. He has done a complete flip-flop from the last election on the issues of small businesses and jobs.
As a councilmember in 2009, running for Public Advocate, he had a reputation as an independent progressive fighter for reform and causes, who would build coalitions to achieve legislative results. While his strength was not in economics, he held government to a high standard and fully accountable to serve the citizens they were suppose to be serving and not be unduly influenced by special interests. This philosophy was important for the city’s small businesses’ stability and survival because of the pro landlord policy of Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s Department of Small Business Services, who had for years been covering up the true Crisis faced by our small business owners, mostly caused by a few greedy landlords.
His legislative focal point was primary on social issues and public affairs: education reform, affordable housing, and environmental protections etc. While candidate de Blasio may not have fully understood the workings of typical small businesses, he understood fully the Crisis they faced and the need for government to take real action in order to keep them in business and save jobs. He not only signed on as a sponsor of the Small Business Survival Act, which was the only real solution to stopping the closing of small businesses by giving small business owners rights during the commercial lease renewal process and allow them to negotiate fair lease terms with their landlords, but Councilman de Blasio became one of the primary advocates for the need to quickly pass the bill.
Running for citywide office, Bill de Blasio went to every major gathering of small business owners, and unlike most of the city’s elected officials, he publicly recognized the crisis these owners faced resulting in many being forced out of their businesses and others to fight to survive in business. In public, he solidly gave his support for the passage of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.
On the issue of the best solution to stop the closing of our small businesses, he has not mentioned the only real solution, the one he sponsored during the last election, the Small Business Survival Act, which has been bottled up in committee for six years. Nor has he put forth any other solution to stop the closing of our small businesses. For that matter, he has not even mentioned the need for government to intervene to do anything in regard to stopping the closing of our small businesses. His assessment of the needs of our city’s small businesses and their ability to create jobs, is identical to that of the Bloomberg Administration, and is totally wrong. Mayor de Blasio can’t claim ignorance as an excuse for not knowing the real problems faced by our small businesses and the real crisis they face to survive in business.
His willful ignorance in formulating his small business and Jobs policy as Mayor does not help our city’s small business owners nor their employees. His small business and jobs economic plan is
word -for- word from the talking points of the 1% special interests. His focus is upon the wrong problems and offers the same meaningless government initiatives, but given new titles. His policy does not mention any real problems which would call for real solutions, like government intervention and regulation of landlords.
Record of Mayor de Blasio’s statements on small business
1. April 18, 2009 at a Policy Forum in Upper Manhattan: “Crisis on Main Street” Solutions to Save Hispanic Small Businesses and Jobs, then Councilman de Blasio gave one of the most passionate speeches supporting the need to pass the bill and protect the mostly immigrant owners from landlord abuses and restore the American Dream to those who came to New York City and invested their life’s savings. This was the first release of large independent study of Hispanic Small Business Owners, which showed a crisis existed. Then candidate de Blasio accepted findings as “shocking”. Then Small Business Chairman David Yassky , attended forum and went on record as the first major Council Member in over 25 years to state publicly a crisis existed and government had to take action . (see video on home page)
2. Aug. 11, 09 at a rally at City Hall calling for an emergency vote on the Small Business Survival Act, a statement was given on his behalf supporting fully the need to take quick action, an emergency vote on the Small Business Survival Act , to stop the closing of our city’s small businesses and the loss of jobs. At this same rally, Chairman Yassky called the Survival Bill the “cornerstone to stop the closing of small businesses”.
3. July 16th, A candidate’s forum was held at Macedonia Church in Flushing, with the topic being “Crisis in Queens, policy to save immigrant small businesses”.
Who will fight to stop widespread extortion of immigrant small businesses?
From Korean press release on 19th 2009
Two candidates for public advocate office, Councilman Bill de Blasio and attorney Norman Siegel attended and gave strong support to Jackson’s Small Business Survival Act, and would use the office of Public Advocate to address the issue of extortion of small businesses taking place in mostly poorer neighborhoods and mostly against immigrant small business owners.
4. August 19, 2009 - His strongest public statement on the need for government to take real action to end landlord abuses was made at the Jetro warehouse in the Bronx. Before a mostly Hispanic audience of immigrant owners, candidate de Blasio pledged, “ if elected, to work hard to fight to end the injustices they face and restore economic equality to these hard working families who have made enormous scarifies to build their businesses and create jobs, they deserved better from their government, “There are certain responsibilities of our government that must be fully and effectively addressed with real actions and real solutions. Regardless of the size of your businesses you are entitled to economic justice in our city.” “If elected Public Advocate,” I would work to stop all the abuses of our small businesses, especially the extortion of money under the table demanded by corrupt landlords.” What had recently been exposed by a major study of Hispanic small business owners was the high numbers of businesses, primarily non English speaking immigrant owned, being routinely extorted for cash by their landlords. Also, more frequently, this long time abuse was coming out in the open, as these desperate owners angrily were speaking out, Bill De Blasio listened to their stories and gave his full commitment to do something to stop it, “It is unacceptable and inexcusable to allow the illegal act of extorting our small business owners to continue.”
Bill de Blasio’s commitment to fight for them and be a strong voice for equality and rights on their behalf was well received and the mostly Hispanic owners showed their trust in him by doing something they never do in elections, get involved. Many put posters in their windows asking their customers to vote for Bill de Blasio because “he was fighting to save my business and your jobs”.
Cifre Photo, 191st Saint Nicolas ave Filex Hardware Store 157th street Bway NYC
Jetro Foods endorsement in Bronx
RtoL Ramon Murphy, President USA Bodega Asso., Candidate Fernando Cabrera, Miguel Peribanez President USA Latin Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Candidate Tony Avella , and Public Advocate Candidate Bill de Blasio
5. March 19, 2010 a meeting was held in the Bronx with Public Advocate de Blasio and citywide advocates for small businesses. The purpose of the meeting was to bring to his attention the Crisis faced by small business owners had gotten worst and the only real solution to ending it and saving the small businesses was the passage of the bill (SBSA) he sponsored as a councilmember. However, in the 11th hour, a vote on the bill was prevented by a false legal claim cooked up by the Speaker’s Office. The advocates were convinced they would never receive justice or a vote on the bill under the Speaker’s leadership. Therefore, knowing the Public Advocates’ awareness of the Crisis they faced and his strong commitments made to fight for economic equality and that a travesty of democracy and injustice had been committed against the small business owners by the actions of our government, that he would help them receive justice.
They were hopeful of PA Bill de Blasio using his office to help them, after all, this was his job as Public Advocate and he stated at the meeting his awareness of the Crisis they faced and the need to take real action to resolve it. Also, the unethical actions of the Speaker’s Office to stop a vote on the bill was a “perfect example” of what PA Bill de Blasio stood against “ he held government to a high standard and fully accountable to serve the citizens they were suppose to be serving and not be unduly influenced by special interests.”
After listening to all the small businesses advocates’ statements of the dire state of our small business owners and that the passage of this bill was their only hope to end their crisis and save their businesses and jobs, he asked, “how can I help you (our city’s small businesses)”. They asked the Public Advocate to establish an impartial legal panel of experts to hear both sides of the legal arguments on the Small Business Survival Act. Away from the influence of the Speaker’s Office, the panel would also conduct their own legal review of the case law on this bill and from the testimony given and legal research, to determine the legal soundness and constitutionality of the bill, and if the bill is found to be unconstitutional, for the panel to make recommendations for changes in the bill which would make it legally sound and constitutional and able to withstand likely court challenges in the future.
Mr. De Blasio was very sympathetic to their request, and commended them for wanting to continue to fight to gain economic justice. Furthermore, he encouraged them to continue and work within the democratic system because he believed the crisis they faced could only be resolved through legislation. Furthermore, he explained to the group that during his years of fighting for reform he to had experienced unfair treatment as a result of the undue political influence of special interests. The legal roadblock put in place to prevent a vote on the bill, he had experienced many times and knew it was commonly used. Most laws involving controversial issues almost always end up in court due to the legal challenges of the strong and well funded opposition. In theory, legislators should do their jobs and the court and judges will do their jobs, and good laws protecting or serving the general public will prevail. He asked the advocates to,” send all the legal documentation to his Policy Director, Ms. Getachew”, who was present at this meeting, and he pledged prompt action would be taken, “you can count on me.”
Month after month went by with no word or response to the many correspondences to Ms. Getachew as to why the delay. Finally, after five months, Ms. Getachew was reached by phone and said, “that after speaking with the Speaker’s legal staff, she determined there were legal grounds for their claiming the bill was unconstitutional.” When asked what was the response from the small businesses’ attorney, Sherri Donovan to these legal grounds, Ms. Getachew stated, “she did not
speak to Ms. Donovan or any other attorney representing the small businesses. Ms. Getachew was reminded of the March Bronx meeting agenda, and her role was not to make a legal judgment on the bill, that would be the role of the Legal Panel. She had no comment; clearly Public Advocate de Blasio had changed his position on the Small Business Survival Act and the plight of the city’s small businesses, and in reality , the small businesses could not count on him.
To the best of our knowledge, the March 19, 2010 meeting in the Bronx with the Small Business Advocates, would be the last time publicly Public Advocate Bill de Blasio would ever use the words: Crisis, landlords’ extortion, rent gouging, landlord abuses, stop small businesses from closing, save small business, save jobs, Small Business Survival Act, or the mention of any laws to regulate landlords in the same sentence with New York City small businesses. Whatever the motivation, Public Advocate De Blasio was not going to use his office to give a voice to the city’s small business community, by correcting an injustice executed against them.
Political Cover- de Blasio creating new talking points for his small business policy as he prepares for run for Mayor. Why would Public Advocate de Blasio conduct a small business immigrant survey shortly after the largest small business survey done on immigrant owners was accepted by Small Business Committee and City Council members including himself?
Much of Mr. de Blasio’s new small business policy comes from interviews conducted by The Fund for Public Advocacy, which is the non-profit affiliated with his office, working with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and ACCION USA. They issued a report based on interviews with 625 immigrant-owned small businesses across all five boroughs.
The report done by Public Advocate de Blasio : Immigrant Entrepreneurs – Paving the way for job creation in NYC , is an example of a government report with charts and lots of figures that sounds great until you read it .
These types of surveys are usually done by government bureaucrats who have never owned a small business, or in some cases never worked in one. Lots of facts and figures from the entire national economic data pool, supporting any position you want. Never critical of other government agencies roles or lack of service given to the small business community.
Some examples in this report:
Stated: New York City has the highest overall number of minority-owned businesses in the country. 403,812 local businesses are owned by minorities, accounting for 42.8% of the total number of city firms. The fact is, NYC has between 180,000 to 190,000 small businesses of which between 65-72% are immigrant owned.
The report recommend pilot projects, which will be contracted and funded to the very same organizations who did the study. The surveys included street vendors and food trucks , who pay no rent or in most cases no taxes, and should never have been included in any responsible small business survey.
The report’s findings:
“We should first address the major concern of small business owners today – access to credit.”
Not a surprise finding considering the agency who did the interviews, ACCION USA, is in the business of giving microloans to small businesses. When the USA Latin Chamber of Commerce reported the findings of the largest study done on Hispanic small businesses, access to credit was not even in the top ten problems of small businesses. After all, every business owner knows when revenue declines the owners cut costs and do not take on any new debt. For this reason, the microloans have been grossly underutilized for decades in NYC . Added to this reality, is that most of the small businesses don’t qualify for the loans and most have leases that are too short in duration to gamble on a loan, banks will not give loans past the length of the commercial lease.
Another biased outcome of these interviews is the statement, “And we also found a huge demand. Four out of five business owners wanted support services including access to capital, legal guidance, and marketing help.” Nothing could be further from the truth for our city’s small business owners. They want their government to do two things , regulate the landlords who are out of control and destroying their American Dream, and stay out of their businesses.
The Report’s findings stated that “ In this time of unprecedented need, the government must take a more active role to prevent more small businesses from closing and thereby undermining our long-term growth potential as well.” While this is an accurate statement , their solution is completely wrong.
Mr. de Blasio said, “We should start by immediately increasing the New York City Capital Access Revolving Loan Guarantee Program. This program, run by the Economic Development Corporation in partnership with local lenders, provides loan guarantees for small business loans.” Mr. de Blasio would be better served by taking a course in Economics 101, and learn that businesses that are failing do not take out loans, businesses that can’t afford their rents or paying their landlords’ property taxes do not take out loans. Businesses whose future is solely in the hands of their landlords, do not take out loans.
Reliance upon these self-serving government agencies and consultants’ reports is a mistake and contributes little to uncovering the real problems faced by our city’s small businesses.
Public Advocate de Blasio would have been better served and saved taxpayer’s money if he would have gone back and taken a closer look at the results of the survey requested by David Yassky of the Small Business Committee. The largest ethnic immigrant businesses population , Hispanic owned small businesses, were surveyed. The USA Latin Chamber of Commerce survey was done right, it went straight to the prime issues and asked the right questions to gain the answers needed to make known the real problems facing our small businesses and the problems affecting the creation of jobs.
Is your business currently at risk of closing (not due to retirement or health issues)?
53%Yes 30% No 17% Unsure
If yes, Please select most likely reason or reasons: RENTS
Have you been forced to lay-off workers, or currently have plans to?
69% Yes 31% No
If yes, Please select most likely reason or reasons : Rents
Do you currently have any plans to expand your business or make major capital improvements?
Yes 14% No 86%
If no, Please select most likely reason or reasons : Rents
Do you currently have plans to expand your number of employees?
Yes 8% No 92%
If no, Please select most likely reason or reasons: Rents
All of the answers to Public Advocate de Blasio’s questions concerning immigrant small business owners can be found in this well done survey. This is the same survey that then Councilman de Blasio accepted when it first came out in 2009.
Public Advocate de Blasio could have saved taxpayer funds on his Immigrant Entrepreneurs – Paving the way for job creation in NYC, by knowing enough about our immigrant entrepreneurs to know that paving the way for job creation would be to keep them from going out of business.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio makes an exceptional presentation of his findings and proposals in regards to the administration’s policy of giving fines to small business owners. Clearly, he has done his homework on this issue and his exposing the anti-small business attitude of the administration in formulating a fine policy which was grounded in viewing the owners as nothing more than “cash cows”. Furthermore, Public Advocate de Blasios’ own policy recommendations demonstrated a completely different positive feeling and appreciation for the small business owners than exists today in many government agencies. We were disappointed that he has made this the centerpiece of his small business platform, when our small businesses face a Crisis and are struggling to survive in business
6. May 3, 2010 , PA de Blasio roundtable in Washington Heights
(New talking points of de Blasio) REBNY approved
LEGISLATIONS AND PROGRAMS TO PROTECT BUSINESS OWNERS
O NO FINE INCREASES/NEW FINES FOR 2013
O BETTER OUTREACH (IN VARIOUS LANGUAGES) AND EDUCATION FOR SMALL BIZ OWNERS INCLUDING PILOT PROGRAM IN SELECT NEIGHBORHOODS
O ELIMINATE OUTDATED/FRIVOLOUS FINES THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH PUBLIC HEALTH OR CONSUMER PROTECTION
O STREAMLINE THE PROCESS TO FIGHT FINES AND GIVE FIRST-TIME OFFENDERS 2ND CHANCES FOR LOW-LEVEL VIOLATIONS
At this business forum, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio made an exceptional presentation of his findings and proposals in regards to the administration’s policy of giving fines to small business owners. Clearly, he had done his homework on this issue and his exposing the anti small business attitude of the administration in formulating a fine policy which was grounded in viewing the owners as nothing more than “cash cows” was made clear. Small Business owners were disappointed that he has made this the centerpiece of his small business platform, when our small businesses face a Crisis and are struggling to survive in business, and our long established mom and pop businesses are closing at record rates throughout the city, as Public Advocate de Blasio experienced firsthand when campaigning for office in 2009. The largest survey of our small businesses ever taken in 2009, USA Latin Chamber of Commerce, showed that 53% of owners were at risk of closing, 69% have been forced to lay-off workers, and 92% had no plans to hire new workers, and they were asked to list the reasons for each, not one listed receiving fines as a reason for closing, laying off workers or not hiring workers.
Public Advocate de Blasio first question came from an African American female business leader who made a statement “one of our small business members came to me asking if I could help her because her lease was up for renewal and the landlord wanted to raise her rent 100% and that would force her to close. He also said that he could cut it back some if she paid a huge sum of cash under the table”. My question is, isn’t there something our government can do to help her stay in business and stop the demand for cash from these landlords?”
Public Advocate de Blasio’s answer, “government can’t regulate a cap on commercial rents “. This statement has not been heard in NYC for over 22 years and then by only two elected officials, former Mayor Ed Koch and former Speaker Peter Vallone.
The real estate lobby had no rational justification to give the elected officials to oppose the bill, so they continued to call the Small Business Survival Act , rent control, and that no other city in America has commercial rent control, even though NYC did for 18 years. Unfortunately, for both Koch and Vallone, no other elected official followed in referring to the Messinger Bill as “rent control”, they realized how ridiculous the statement was and that it would make them appear as little more than “government lobbyist for the real estate industry”.
Public Advocate de Blasio’s response was also shocking considering that as councilmember and candidate de Blasio he was a proud sponsor of the Small Business Survival Act and praised the bill as being fair and a real solution to solve the problems faced by small businesses when their leases were up. Candidate de Blasio had heard directly from small business owners throughout his campaign in every part of the city the same dire situation as described by the Harlem business owner, and then he supported Arbitration legislation to solve the problem, now , today , government cannot do anything because “government can’t regulate caps on commercial rents”.
He does mention that as council member he attempted to do something about the high rents by supporting the Survival bill but it was found to have legal issues and could not be passed. He does not tell the small business owners the real truth, as to why the bill failed to pass.
On the second part of the Harlem businesswoman’s question of doing something to stop the landlords from demanding cash under the table from the tenants, Public Advocate de Blasio had no real comment other than “have the person contact my office.” Council member and candidate de Blasio had plenty to say about this illegal and unethical practice against hard working mostly immigrant small business owners, “If elected Public Advocate, I would work to stop all the abuses of our small businesses, especially the extortion of money under the table demanded by corrupt landlords. It is unacceptable and inexcusable to allow the illegal act of extorting our small business owners to continue.” It appears that as Mayoral candidate it is a little more acceptable to allow the landlords to extort money from the small business owners.
The next question from the small business audience came from the oldest family business in Washington Heights, a florist who complained about having to pay the landlords’ property tax which has risen over the years to such a high amount that after 100 plus years he is thinking of closing.
*The Washington Heights Florist , the oldest business in Washington Heights closed last year due to rent increase.
Again, Public Advocate de Blasios’ answer was a surprise. He was not aware that the business owners paid the property tax separate from the rents, “ didn’t the rent include the property tax?” After several owners explained how it worked and one highlighted the findings of a study of NYC small businesses which listed paying the landlords’ property taxes as the second reason for them to close their businesses, he understood the negative consequences on the small businesses of having to pay the rapidly increasing property taxes of the landlords, plus sky high rents.
What followed next was the most shocking statement of the meeting, and it came from Public Advocate de Blasio himself. Once he became aware that paying the escalating property taxes of the landlord was the second cause for small business going out of business, he asked the small business group, “what was the first reason for small businesses to close?” Public Advocate de Blasio could have asked any New Yorker who has lived in the city for the past 20 years and gotten the same answer. Alternatively, he could have picked up the yellow pages and phoned any business in any boro and got the same answer, the high RENTS. Or he could have remembered the cries for help from the many small business owners whom he met during his campaign in 2009.
What followed next was the typical campaign rhetoric of sounding like government was seriously seeking real actions to address small business needs; looking into zoning changes, tax incentives to landlords to not rent gouge the tenants, recommendations from surveys from lending agencies ( who will likely find that the biggest problem of small business is lack of capital ), and more and more useless programs none of which will address the real problems facing small businesses and offering real solutions to solve them.
8. July 31, 2012 FOSTERING ECONOMIC GROWTH IN NEW YORK CITY
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s speech on economic growth in New York City as prepared for delivery at NYU Wagner’s School of Public Service on.
He views jobs as the key component to both a stable family as well as a stable economy in New York City. Therefore, the government has an important role in supporting the private sector as the primary engine of job creation. One of his earliest heroes was former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia who was not afraid to stand up and fight for economic equality and justice for the average New York citizen. Moreover, like Mayor LaGuardia, Mr. de Blasio has maintained progressive principles in his political life, and strongly believes in fighting economic inequality. Finally, he believes that government, at every level and in every way, had to answer the call of a crisis. Mr. de Blasio is saying all the right progressive words but not taking any of the right progressive actions in regard to our city’s small businesses.
Lessening the burden on small businesses :
Today, for candidate de Blasio the big problem for small businesses has become “excessive fines”.
“The next place we need to focus is something I hear about in every corner of this city—changing the way we assess fines on small businesses. Is there anyone in this room that questions whether the amount of fines and tickets the City heaps on small businesses is driven by revenue?
The endless fees and fines drive people to shut their doors for good. One of our Park Slope institutions—a great restaurant named Aunt Suzie’s—closed on New Year’s Day this year because the red tape became so unworkable.”
Fact Check: Aunt Suzie owned her own building and was president of local BID!!! She retired and it had nothing to do with fines . As president of BID , she could avoid fines and red tape easily.
Candidate de Blasio knows first hand from the merchants themselves and the study done by the USA Latin Chamber of Commerce on small businesses, and the many forums and rallies he attended at the last election, that the prime problem for small businesses is the sky high rents followed by increased property taxes of the landlords and finally the illegal extortion. He uses the one example of Aunt Suzie closing as proving his point that it is the “fines” that are forcing our businesses to close and lay off workers. He picked a poor example to make his case, which was weak and absurd to begin with. Aunt Suzie’s in Brooklyn did close after 25 years, its owner is , Ms. Irene LoRe, who owns the building, announced her retirement after 25 years. Ms. LoRe is also the executive director of the Fifth Avenue BID, she is in a better position than 99% of our mom and pop owners.
The small business owners in New York City know they are in a Crisis which has gotten worse and will cause them to continue to struggle to survive in business unless our government intervenes on their behalf. They also know that the illegal extortion by unscrupulous landlords has only become more appalling. What has changed in our city’s small business environment to have motivated Mayor de Blasio to dramatically change his assessment of the needs of our city’s mom and pop owners is uncertain. He clearly has a bad case of Romnesia when it comes to the needs of our mom and pop small businesses as well as the pledges he made to them to help save their businesses and their jobs. Mr. de Blasio has failed to keep any of the pledges he made in the last election to our city’s small business owners and their employees.