NYC Hospitality Alliance and

Andrew Rigie, Executive Director,

Do Not  Speak for Small Immigrant

Family Owned Restaurants.

 

In fact, Andrew Rigie Played a Role in Denying Economic Justice to All Immigrant Family Owned Small Businesses, and still does today.

 In October 2009 former Speaker Quinn colluded with the real estate lobby to stop a vote on what would have been the certain passage of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Jobs Survival Act (32 sponsors). This scheme was the most anti democratic and anti immigrant act ever committed at City Hall, and every business owner is now suffering and paying or has paid for it today.  The Jobs Survival Act would give rights to business owners when their leases expired and was truly the only real lifeline to save them, and still is today.  But no vote would ever be taken because of the political power of real estate at City Hall and the unethical lawmakers being elected and backed by the corrupt party bosses, and still are today. This total betrayal of democracy would trigger an over decade long lobby orchestrated charade of rigging our government to deny economic justice to our desperate small business owners, and it is still happening today!

From my own personal experience of over 30 years fighting for the rights and justice for immigrant family owned small businesses, I can state with absolute certainty, the biggest victims of this government promoted, sponsored and protected hyper real estate speculation frenzy were our immigrant family owned small businesses in NYC, and they still are today.  Multi generational immigrant families own the majority of our small businesses (64-68%).

Even though the council’s own past small business committee acknowledged the growing crisis and unanimously selected the Jobs Survival Act as the clear and best solution to stop the closings and end the crisis, for over a decade our government conspired with a lobby to cover up the crisis and stop the only real lifeline, Jobs Survival Act, from moving to a vote, and this collusion still exists today.

Our immigrant family small business owners were victimized twice by the Democratic leadership when the real estate lobby ordered their ambitious lawmakers, who they put into power with their campaign funds, to rig the system to deny economic justice to our desperate business owners. The real estate lobby put their heavy foot down on to their crony lawmakers, by ordering them to protect only the lobby’s members’ windfall profits and throw the small business owners under the bus.  Lawmaker’s attitude was clear; so what if mom and pop owners are collateral damage to the world’s greatest environment for speculators and profiteers, it's good for my political career? For over a decade, as a real solution to end our businesses crisis sat bottled up in committee, not one lawmaker called for a vote. Every lawmaker at City Hall did absolutely nothing for a decade to save even one small business or job, and they still do nothing today. NOT ONE! 

This conspiracy of lawmakers with a lobby is appalling and despicable, but very true. For more than ten disgraceful years, the message from City Hall was clear: the hard work and scarifies made by immigrant families seeking their American Dream does not matter. Their vital role and contribution to our economy does not matter. Our immigrant family businesses’ future does not matter. Rights, Justice and Democracy for immigrant families does not matter. But in campaign stops, or campaign ads, or campaign rallies, or media interviews our beloved small businesses suddenly matter.

You may question, how is it possible with a progressive council that an unresolved crisis causing long established businesses to close in record numbers, has not had one hearing in over 10 years to find a real solution?

Even more puzzling is that the reality the backbone of the economy is being destroyed and a real solution, Jobs Survival Act, sits in committee with 28 sponsors for 11 years.

In a liberal progressive Council how and why can a crisis destroying the backbone of our economy be ignored for over a decade without any effort to find a real solution?

The "why" is easy to understand. Our City Council is not liberal nor progressive and not even democratic. City Hall is run by lobbies who serve oligarchies. The most powerful oligarchy in NYC does not want its members regulated, even if it is their greed that is responsible for destroying our economy.

The “how” is also easy to understand. The lobbies who give campaign funds to unethical candidates for Mayor gain control of economic policy and the agencies that are suppose to serve small businesses, but never do. Lobbies and corrupt party bosses pick the Speaker. Who in return allow lobbies to hand pick chairs, stack committees, and promote only the oligarchies agenda.

The outcome of the disgraceful discrimination against mostly immigrant families caused by the rigging to cover up the crisis and prevent a vote on the Jobs Survival Act was: in fact making a crisis worse, 473 court evicts of businesses each month for over 10 years, 1,200 to 1,400 businesses closing each month, empty stores on every main street, and the most anti small business environment of any major city in the world.

The collusion and rigging against mom and pop desperate owners was a low point of humanity, decency and ethics at City Hall. Everyone who profited from the hyper real estate speculation eagerly and willfully joined the cover up by giving disinformation on the Jobs Survival Act, giving legitimacy to lies, and credibly to fake studies and worthless programs.

What is upsetting to true advocates seeking a real lifeline to save our businesses are those so-called advocates who corrupt lawmakers rely upon as sources of advice whenever introducing substitute useless legislation for the Jobs Survival Act. Advocates who have no empathy for the dire plight our business owners face.  Fake advocates whose goal is to promote only themselves by following only the real estate’s playbook of keeping the bottom line; the status quo for landlords and never giving business owners any rights.

In the past few years a new voice has emerged at City Hall as advocating and speaking for businesses. One used more frequently by some lawmakers promoting a new proposal or bill claiming to help small businesses. This new rising voice is Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of NYC Hospitality Alliance. The Voice on radio and media used by the pundits as "knowing" the small business story.

Nobody knows more about small business advocates than I do. I have spent over 36 years fighting for the rights and justice of immigrant family business owners in NYC. The last and only true advocate for immigrant owners in NYC is the Small Business Congress. We wrote the original Jobs Survival Act in 1986 and have never stopped fighting for its passage.

Having first hand knowledge of Rigie’s statements and actions on the Jobs Survival Act, as well as the policies he promotes in the name of restaurants and indirectly, all small businesses, I do not believe he is a friend of immigrant family small businesses. In fact, due to his role in promoting disinformation on the Jobs Survival Act, lack of commitment to find a real solution to stop the closings and his ignoring the most serious and damaging problems facing all businesses, Rigie has willingly played a role in denying economic justice to our city’s immigrant family owned businesses.

I will detail the facts of Rigie which lead me to my conclusion that immigrant family owners should be warned to not trust Andrew Rigie.

He is also no friend of community advocates. If he has a hidden agenda and if he is a front for another lobby, that is never good for the welfare of communities.

These are the facts on Rigie that I feel the public need to know. Facts that will allow you to reach your own conclusions of who Rigie really speaks for and serves. Is Rigie helping the future of businesses or hurting any chance to survive?

Andrew Rigie first came to my attention with his relationship with Manhattan President Gale Brewer. She was on a campaign to stop the Jobs Survival Act and substitute her own bill in its place.*

https://www.savenycjobs.com/part-iii-brewer-fails-to-kill-jobs-

 Her campaign, in partnership with CM Robert Cornegy, Chair of Small Business Committee was nothing but one big scam cooked up by the real estate lobby (see above link).

Rigie gave Brewer’s campaign credibility and he followed her everywhere to reinforce her scheme to kill the only hope to save our businesses.

 

For Brewer’s scam to work, she first had to justify the need to substitute another bill for the only real solution to save businesses in NYC, Jobs Survival Act.  To achieve this deception, Brewer willfully lied and Andrew Rigie gave validity to her lies. Brewer said the Jobs Survival Act had been collecting dust for over 30 years, and going nowhere.  When she knew the truth that the bill had 32 sponsors, including herself, ready to vote it into law in 2009.  Furthermore, she again lied by claiming the bill was illegal and would be overturned in court. Brewer was present in 1988 when the original version of the Jobs Survival Act was found fully constitutional by the City’s Corporate Council and a vote was taken on the bill in Dec. 1988. 

 

Andrew Rigie’s first public exposure as a voice for businesses was shameful.  The largest number of businesses in NYC are restaurants. Likewise, the greatest number of business closings across NYC were restaurants. Why would Andrew Regie be supporting Brewer’s effort to kill the only real lifeline to save restaurants? Why didn’t Rigie want NYC restaurant owners to receive the right to renewal 10 year leases, equal rights to negotiate fair lease terms that allowed a reasonable profit and protection from rent gouging and being forced to pay the landlord’s property taxes? Why would Regie instead support Brewer’s bill that gave no rights to restaurant owners and keep the status quo with landlords having all the power over the future of restaurant owners? Brewer’s bill was an insult to every business owner who invested huge sums of money and time to build a successful business and under Brewer’s bill would be given one year to move to a new location.

 

The greatest crisis for NYC restaurants to survive and yet, Rigie is purposely ignoring the root cause of their closings to peddle the ridiculous claim that the main problems facing small business are to many fines and to much red tape. Nonsense!  Yet, even today he is still promoting this absurd reason for businesses closing.  

 

For over 30 years I had dealt daily with the problems facing immigrant small business owners. I know that not one long established business ever closed due to tickets or regulations. Andrew Rigie also knows what ever New Yorker knows, the truth that it was the insane rent increases and owners unable to negotiate reasonable lease terms that caused the majority of restaurants to close in NYC. Yet, he refuses to address the root cause of restaurant closings, and still refuses today.

 

Why I feel Andrew Rigie does not speak for business owners is in his response to Gale Brewer’s substitute bill for the Jobs Survival Act.  After proclaiming she had done an extensive year long investigation on saving small businesses, Brewer launched her bill to address the small business crisis. Proclaiming it was the lifeline to save businesses she did a huge media campaign promising help for our businesses was on its way.  The "help" turned out to be one giant fraud.

 

Her bill was not the product of extensive study and listening to advocates, but instead was the product of the real estate lobby, word for word.  Her bill was actually written 30 years earlier by the lobby to stop the original Jobs Survival Act. At that time the city’s entire business community united to reject and expose the bill as a “Landlords Bill” that would not save a single business. Brewer herself as COS(Chief of Staff) of the original sponsor organized the business community to successfully oppose this same exact disgraceful bill.

 

What was Andrew Regie’s response on behalf of the restaurant owners to this “Landlords Bill”?  He refused to tell the business owners the truth, that the Brewer bill was written by landlords to keep the status quo and every restaurant owner’s business would be in jeopardy of closing if this bill was substituted for the Jobs Survival Act and passed.

 

A campaign of OP EDs exposing the lobby charade and corruption of the Brewer bill forced her to drop her “Landlords Bill.”

 

Why wasn’t Regie ever holding landlords responsible in any way for the record closings of our restaurants?  If you hold them responsible and expose the root cause of restaurants closings, then that leads to the only solution, Jobs Survival Act to stop the closings. Regie appears to never want to even mention the existence of the Jobs Survival Act. WHY?

 

With Brewer forced to drop her bill, where was Regie’s legislation to stop the closing of restaurants? At the height of a growing crisis destroying countless long established businesses, Andrew Regie refused to fight for a hearing to find a real solution to stop the closings, and he still refuses today.  Since its hearing in Oct 2018, the Jobs Survival Act sits in committee for over two years with 28 sponsors. Why isn’t Rigie calling for a vote? Why is Rigie rigging?

 

Who Rigie really serves was made clear from the Oct 2018 hearing on the Jobs Survival Act. The empty store blight forced the Speaker to finally hold a public hearing on the Jobs Survival Act. But instead of holding an honest hearing to seek a real solution to stop the closings, Speaker Johnson turned the hearing over to the lobby to organize.

 

Rigie made a new friend at City Hall, Chairman of the Small Business Committee Mark Gjonaj.  Gjonaj is without question  the most pro real estate lawmaker in the Council. He owns his own real estate company and is on record of opposing the Jobs Survival Act or any law regulating commercial landlords.  Would Rigie use his influence and persuade Gjonaj to at least hold a fair hearing? 

 

No, the hearing was a total sham with the real estate lobby orchestrating the entire hearing. Every fat cat real estate profiteer and lobby and corrupt party machine’s cronies came to oppose the Jobs Survival Act. Where was Rigie to make a statement on behalf of our city’s desperate restaurants?   The best possible public platform to call for legislation to save restaurants and Regie was a no show and did not even submit any written testimony in support of government doing anything to save even one restaurant. His silence when needed most spoke the loudest. When he is asking for taxpayer money, Rigie’s voice is the loudest.

 

Regie was a front to give credibility to Gale Brewer as she touted the  landlord’s playbook and false narrative.  Now he was a front for Gjonaj’s phony narrative and rally’s promoting fines and government regulations as the priority for legislation for small business owners, and still does today. 

 

What good did come from this sham hearing was Speaker Johnson’s pledge to amend the Jobs Survival Act to omit protection for Fortune 500 type companies and move it to a vote. A simple task of changing one paragraph in the bill defining the scope of the bill.

 

Did Rigie use his influence and be a voice for restaurants to hurry along the Speaker’s promised change and vote? After all, the passage of the Jobs Survival Act would mean every restaurant owner gaining rights that would level the playing field when their leases expired and provide a much better chance to survive and protect their investment.

 

Andrew Rigie did absolutely nothing to help move the Jobs Survival Act to a vote, and still refuses to do so today. In fact, Speaker Johnson made no changes to the bill as promised and instead promoted a “basket of five worthless” bills influenced by the real estate lobby. Bills that would not save a single small business owner and kept the status quo, but regardless, gained approval from Andrew Rigie.

 

The low point of decency and democracy at City Hall happened with the introduction of a substitute bill for the Jobs Survival Act. The changes Speaker Johnson repeatedly claimed were being made to the Jobs Survival Act, instead showed up in a new lobby created bill introduced by CM Levin.  Like the Brewer bill, every lobby created legislation gives no real rights to business owners and never regulating the landlords. This commercial rent control bill had only the goals of stopping a vote on the Jobs Survival Act and stalling any legislation.

 

Would Rigie be outraged that the only real lifeline to give rights needed to save the restaurants was being stopped?  No, like the Brewer Landlords Bill, Rigie would not expose this sham bill as being worthless and an insult to business owners.

 

With his new found friends at City Hall and growing fame, why didn’t Rigie pressure Speaker Johnson to keep his promise to change the bill and to move the Jobs Survival Act to a vote? The bill with 28 sponsors would easily pass and begin saving the restaurants he serves, or claims to serve.

 

Andrew Rigie has been the biggest voice speaking for small businesses during the virus crisis. Yet, he has remained silent to the existence of the Jobs Survival Act. He has given the impression that if the businesses can be helped to get past the virus and back to normal everything will be ok.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Our businesses will return to an unresolved crisis that was destroying many good businesses.

What good is any program or legislation if the businesses continue to close.  Rigie refuses to acknowledge the previous crisis that had put many businesses in a dire state struggling to survive. What is Regie’s policy to address the previous unresolved crisis that businesses must face once the virus passes?  Like the past growing crisis destroying restaurants and all businesses over the past decade, Rigie has no real lifeline to offer.

 

Just when you could not fathom the continued denial of economic justice against small business owners, the most indefensible and unconscionable act is committed by lawmakers.  The real estate lobby has Gale Brewer resubmit her disgraceful Landlord’s Bill that she dropped three years ago. Despicably and without any scruples  the lobby disguises their bill by pretending it has to do with regulation of new leases and adding requirements for landlords to notify potential tenants of useless facts before signing commercial lease. The truth is hidden in the middle of the bill. This Landlords Bill actually regulates the commercial lease renewal process. But like all lobby created legislation, it give no real rights to the tenant except for a one year extension of lease at an additional 10% increase.  A bill written by landlords for landlords to substitute for the Jobs Survival Act.

 

 

This shameful bill was introduced now with only one goal, to kill the Jobs Survival Act once and for all. To kill any hope for countless businesses to survive.  Where is the outrage from Andrew Regie of this blatant rigging and discrimination against our business owners? Instead we get silence from Regie and like all legislation created by the real estate lobby to keep the status quo, never any criticism or outcry of injustice against business owners.

 

Andrew Regie’s has never fought to give immigrant family businesses justice and rights.  His history of supporting or being silent on real estate created worthless legislation and programs that keep the status quo for landlords sends a warning to small business owners to not trust him.

 

His acting like a front for anti small business lawmakers serving the real estate lobby makes me suspicious of who he really serves.

 

His refusing to support the only real lifeline to save restaurants, the Jobs Survival Act while strongly supporting legislation written by the landlords that deny any rights to business owners also gives me alarm of who he really serves.

 

One thing is clear is that Andrew Rigie knows or should know that his restaurants faced a crisis to survive for over a decade, and will face in the future if legislation giving them rights to renewal long term leases with fair terms is not passed. Rights Andrew Rigie does not want, for whatever reason, the city's restaurant owners to receive.  Research every statement Rigie has made over the last 7 years and you will not find one sentence calling for legislation giving restaurants the right to renew long term leases and protecting owners from being forced to pay their landlord's property taxes.