The Small Business Congress

New York City


Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announces he is “pushing to Save Small Businesses.”  The Truth is he is only “pushing his political career” while allowing Queens’ Mom and Pop businesses to continue to be 

"pushed out of business.”


Dateline NYC Dec 18, 2019

On December 13th, Councilman Van Bramer held a rally in Sunny Side Queens proclaiming his endorsement of Councilman Levin’s new bill, Commercial Rent Stabilization.  A bill touted to save small businesses by having a commercial rent guideline board set rent increases for businesses, similar to how the residential rent guideline process works. Is CM Van Bramer truly sincere in wanting to promote Levin’s Commercial Rent Control bill to save small businesses?  Or is CM Van Bramer’s claim disingenuous and he is just putting on 

“political theater” to appease his big campaign donors and the Queens political machine?


Sung Soo Kim* knows Queens small businesses better than anyone after spending 34 years serving immigrant businesses (the majority owners in Queens).  After he carefully reviewed CM Van Bramer’s record and actions on saving Queens small businesses, Kim reached the conclusion CM Van Bramer’s claim of wanting to save small businesses is dishonest.  Kim, “ CM Van Bramer should be ashamed of abandoning the Small Business Jobs Survival Act , (Jobs Act) the only real solution to stop the closing of Queens businesses. And instead, endorsing Commercial Rent Control, a bill written by the real estate lobby that gives no rights to small business owners when their leases expire and would keep the status quo and not save a single Queens business.” 


Kim, “ Van Bramer’s support of the new bill will hurt Queens small businesses.  Not only is he continuing the rigging to deny Queens’ immigrant small businesses economic justice and rights they deserve and need to survive, he abandoned the Jobs Act which was the only hope they had to keep alive their American Dream.” 


This is the shameful record of CM Van Bramer concerning using his office to fight to give small business owners rights and “a fighting chance” when their lease expired, to stop the closing of Queens' small businesses. CM Van Bramer was the Majority leader of the City Council from 2014 thru 2017. A leadership role that offered a platform to be a strong voice for Queens' small businesses.  Adding to this political influence was the fact the majority members of the Small Business Committee were Queens Council members (5 of 9 members). Other than the Speaker, no Council member was in a better position to be a Voice for the Voiceless in a time of crisis and help Queens small businesses, than CM Van Bramer.


The disgraceful facts under Van Bramer’s leadership:

Beginning in June 1986 when the first version of the Jobs Act was introduced in the Council, there has been 12 hearings. Only once under the many Speakers in over 30 years has the Jobs Act not been allowed to have a hearing in the City Council. That was under Majority leader Van Bramer’s term with the majority members on the Small Business Committee from Queens.  Not only was the Jobs Act denied a hearing but NO hearing was held under Van Bramer’s watch to address the sky high rents and the growing crisis forcing the closing of small businesses citywide. Just one honest public hearing on the Jobs Act would have shown the bill to be only solution to save small businesses.  The Queens' desperate small business owners, especially the immigrant owners, have had NO Voice at City Hall under Van Bramer’s entire leadership.


In March 2015, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer along with then Small Business Committee Chairman Robert Cornegy announce a new bill being written to address the growing crisis of businesses closing caused by sky high rent increases.  Their bill would apply only to retail storefronts.  CM Van Bramer is Chairman of the Council’s Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations Committee.  Yet, once again he remains silent at the exclusion of the city’s arts community from any protections against rent gouging or landlord abuses.  In fact, not once as Chairman did he hold a hearing specifically on finding legislation to stop the closing of our city’s art and cultural tenants.  Also acceptable to CM Van Bramer was that all of Queens professional businesses like doctors or accountants or tenants above the ground floor were discriminated against by being excluded from the Brewer/Cornegy bill. 


New York City Commercial Court records for warrants issued to evict commercial tenants showed Queens businesses had the highest increase percentage in the city in 2016.  In fact the 90% increase in Queens court evictions in 2016 was the highest in Queens history!  Once again, proof of the reality of the unchecked hyper real estate speculation spreading to Queens and wrecking havoc on the commercial market, causing good businesses to close, did not change CM Van Bramer’s policy of silence, complicity to the rigging for REBNY and “doing nothing.”


In Oct 2009 then Speaker Quinn, in collusion with REBNY cooked up a bogus legal roadblock to stop a vote on the Jobs Act, certain to easily pass.  Even though the bogus claim was quickly debunked the next year by the findings of a Legal Review Panel organized by Bronx Borough President Diaz Jr., showing the claim never had any legal merit to support it, this false claim has remained unchallenged in the Council. Without a scintilla of legal evidence to substantiate the claim, every REBNY crony at City Hall hides behind it as an excuse to not  bring the Jobs Act to a vote.  Once again, on CM Van Bramer’s watch no effort was ever made to have the Council’s legal department resolve any legal issues with the Jobs Act. Why, because there were none. For every legislation introduced in the Council, the legal department will review and give recommendation to its legality and recommend amendments to resolve any real or potential legal issues. The one exception to this policy is the Jobs Act, whose unsubstantiated legal claims remain for over a decade.  CM Van Bramer is a proud sponsor of the Jobs Act and yet never once did he use the power and influence of his office to demand the legal department due their duty and treat the Jobs Act like other legislation by resolving any alleged legal claims. During his entire tenure as Majority of Council, Van Bramer remained silent and complicit to the rigging by the Speakers’ Office and REBNY to stop the Jobs Act by using a bogus legal claim.


Unlike CM Van Bramer, many community groups in Queens would not remain silence as the backbone of their economy and engine for jobs was being destroyed. As Queens being the "Gateway for Immigrant Entrepreneurs" was being lost. In May 2016,  87 Queens Associations signed a petition calling upon Queens lawmakers to stand up for small businesses as they face a crisis to survive caused by exorbitant rent increases. Community leadership signed this petition calling on Queens lawmakers to “ address the crisis quickly by passing the Small Business Jobs Survival Act,  which gives rights to owners to protect and preserve Queens’s businesses and jobs”. 

What was the Majority leader of the Council’s response to the largest Queens community groups’ plea to do something?  CM Van Bramer did not respond and continued his policy in the face of this crisis, to remain silent and “do nothing.” 


CM Van Bramer is Deputy Leader of the City Council, yet he did not use his position to protest the appointment of CM Mark Gjonaj as Small Business Committee Chairman.  CM Gjonaj is without doubt the most pro real estate councilman at City Hall.  REBNY owns him and his appointment guaranteed that Queens small business owners would NEVER get an honest and fair hearing under Gjonaj.  The Oct 22, 2018 hearing on the Jobs Act showed this was the case. It was a sham hearing where the focus was not on the Jobs Act or on finding the best legislation to stop the closings of small businesses. Instead, it was orchestrated by REBNY to distract away from the small business crisis and towards the vacant stores and laying the false narrative that small businesses had many reasons for closing and many problems and therefore needed many programs and legislation to help them. 


CM Van Bramer as Deputy Leader of the City Council should be embarrassed by allowing the Small Business Committee to have NO members on it representing Queens' small businesses. It is bad enough to allow, without protest,  a real estate owner and an anti small business chairman, but to also allow a vital committee that will determine the future of every Queens small business owner and the future of their employees to have NO representative is a disgrace.  Kim, “ CM Van Bramer remaining silent as REBNY orchestrates the control of the Small Business Committee to assure the Jobs Act will never get a vote and small businesses never get any rights to protect their lifetime of hard work and financial investment they made in their businesses, as a leader for Queens, Van Bramer's actions are appalling and reprehensible.”


CM Van Bramer as Deputy Leader of the City Council has remained silent for over one year as the Speaker’s Office has done nothing to change the Jobs Act to exclude large corporations from protection and moving it to a vote as pledged by Speaker Johnson.  Why didn’t CM Van Bramer “push” Speaker Johnson to hurry up and change the Jobs Act so that it can be passed and begin saving small businesses?  Why was CM Van Bramer silent for over one year as the small business crisis grew worse and never once standing up for Queens businesses to “push” the Speaker to move faster.


To the public who are not familiar with commercial leases, do not be fooled by Speaker Johnson’s double talk about changing the bill or CM Levin’s sudden new Commercial Rent Bill appearing to save small businesses.  The truth is REBNY controls City Hall’s economic policy and a simple change in the Jobs Act that would have taken 20 min. was never made because REBNY ordered the Speaker and others they control to NEVER make the change.


Changing one line in the Jobs Act : Commercial premises. The term “commercial premises” means a building or space in the city of New York occupied for non-residential purposes pursuant to a valid commercial lease.

To one line in Levin’s new bill :

Commercial space. The term “commercial space” means a space used or occupied for non-residential purposes pursuant to a valid commercial lease or other rental agreement. Such term includes only retail stores of 10,000 square feet or less, manufacturing establishments of 25,000 square feet or less, and professional, services or other offices of 10,000 square feet or less.

If prime sponsor CM Rodriguez agrees, the Jobs Act can be brought up for a hearing and vote.  Twenty minutes to change the Jobs Act and move to a full vote to pass,  if Speaker Johnson was sincere in wanting to stop the closings of small business. 


Why isn’t CM Van Bramer questioning why the changes to the Jobs Act are one year later and ending up in a new bill?  Its called RIGGING! In the long 30 year debate on the Jobs Act, not once has two bills been introduced at the same time!!  Why didn't CM Van Bramer question why the need for two bills when the Jobs Act has 29 sponsors and the majority members on the Small  Business Committee are sponsors and the Speaker claimed to be "tweaking and fine tuning it?" 


REBNY does not want any legislation passed that gives tenants rights when their leases expire and demands from lawmakers only pass legislation that gives landlords all the rights. Thus, the need to create a new bill, one that keeps the status quo and one that all of REBNY loyalist like CM Van Bramer will immediately switch to from the Jobs Act.  


Kim, “ CM Van Bramer does not deserve Queens’ immigrant family votes. His switching over to the Landlords Bill is an insult to every hardworking Queens small business owner. He owes every immigrant owner an apology for abandoning them in this crisis. He should stop disrespecting Queens immigrant business owners by giving a false hope claiming he is "pushing to save small businesses" when he is working to keep the status quo.   Also, for remaining silent and complicit to the rigging at City Hall as immigrant owners were targeted by unscrupulous landlords demanding “cash under the table” to remain in business.  He has remained silent when long established immigrant owners were given month to month, or one year leases, thus turned into indentured servitude to greedy landlords.  He remained silent as real estate speculation drove up property taxes which landlords passed onto their already strapped commercial tenants to pay.  He remained silent as small businesses were forced to raise their prices because of being rent gouged. He remained silent when businesses were forced to stop all growth or job creation because they had no control over their futures.  CM Van Bramer is no friend of Queens immigrant small business owners or their workers.  He will never fight to restore the American Dream for Queens small business owners and his support for this new sham bill created by a real estate lobby is proof of who Van Bramer really serves.”   He is not pushing a solution, like the Jobs Act, he is instead pushing more immigrant and small businesses out of existence.


Kim, “ to all Queens immigrant families, if you want a future in Queens, economic justice, rights and restore the American Dream and respect from our lawmakers,  you must unite and vote into office new candidates who are not controlled by either big real estate or the Queens political machine.”