PART II 

 

Is NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie

a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

 

Did He Betray Restaurant Owners

Desperately Needing Rights to Survive? 


 

In March 2022, special interests groups rushed to introduce legislation in the new Council which they created and only they would profit from. The bill was the Commercial Rent Stabilization, intro 93, CRS. This lobby influenced bill had the majority of the new Council Members as sponsors, likely the first legislation sponsored by most. The CRS bill was quietly rushed to be quickly introduced for a very tactical reason. It represented the culmination of over three years of a scheme by special interests plotting the collusion with the Democratic leadership to rig the system to stop a vote on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Jobs Survival Act.  Once a vote was successfully stopped, even with 28 sponsors and being the only real lifeline to stop the closing of our small businesses and save jobs, the Jobs Survival Act would be replaced in the new Council with legislation that would keep the status quo favoring only the landlords. Insider lobby shills made this special interest’s scheme a major success.  A real lifeline was replaced by a bill that would give no right to renew the lease to the business owners.

 

It is highly likely that none of the new Council Member sponsors of the lobby’s CRS bill ever read the bill before sponsoring it. Most new Council Members had proclaimed being independent progressives committed to serving the will of the people and not controlled by special interests. The new Council Members would not have sponsored the CRS bill knowing it was a special interests creation disguised status quo bill that would actually continue the destruction of even more of their own merchants and cause the loss of even more jobs.  But one person "claiming" to represent restaurants knew what the CRS bill really represented, a continued denial of economic justice and rights for all small business owners in NYC. That person was NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie.

 

How did Rigie know the damage to business owners and their workers that would result from the passage of the CRS bill?  Because he played a major role, beginning as early as 2015 in the collusion and rigging of our government to stop the Jobs Survival Act and replace it with a lobby created bill.  If Rigie were sincere in his commitment to serving only the best interests of NYC restaurant/nightlife owners he would have been on the steps of City Hall blasting the CRS bill as an insult to every restaurant owner in the city. He would have exposed the CRS bill as nothing but a status quo bill pretending to protect the restaurant’s/nightlife’s future when their leases expired. He would have shouted the truth for all legislators to hear, that the CRS bill would be a death sentence for most small business owner’s future if passed.  

 

Rigie knew the CRS bill gave no right to restaurant owners to renew their commercial leases when their leases expired, He knew without this vital right the restaurant owners could never hope to equally negotiate in good faith with their landlords fair lease terms that allowed a reasonable profit. How could any restaurant owner feel confident in their future without having the right to renew their leases? 

 

Not having the right to renew the lease, which was, and is today and will be in the future, the root cause for long established successful restaurants being forced to close when their leases expire. He also knew that in reality the CRS bill gave no right to the business owners in negotiations of their new lease terms. The unfair commercial lease renewal process would not change under the CRS bill and thus allow the landlords to continue to determine the length of each lease, force the tenants to pay the landlord’s property taxes, and allow landlords to give a 30 day notice to vacate the premise when their lease expired, if the landlord found a new deep pocket renter.  What is shameful of Rigie’s response to the CRS status quo bill was his purposely concealing and allowing a cleverly disguised trick of the bill to fool the new Council Members, restaurant owners and the public.

 

The lobby’s calculated trick of the CRS bill is that it falsely claims that by putting an annual cap on commercial rent increases this will stop rent gouging and save our small businesses. A concept that 25 years ago may have had some merit but today will result in causing more businesses to close and more jobs lost. An absurd claim due to 25 years of the most extreme commercial rent increases in NYC’s history. Insane real estate speculation that created insane and unjustifiable rent increases that caused the very best of our restaurants to close in record numbers. Rents based solely upon making windfall profits for the landlords and resulted in our city’s “empty store blight.” From these proven destructive manipulated rents the CRS bill mandated only rent increases each year starting as a base from the highest rents in the nation. Regardless of the empty storefronts being vacant for sometimes years in vibrant neighborhoods, NYC commercial rents only go up never down under the CRS bill!   Even years prior to the virus crisis, the empty storefronts remaining empty longer, where once growing businesses were, represent the “dead canary” on our main streets. This “empty store blight” is what the CRS bill will continue in NYC.

This CRS status quo bill, grossly unfair and proven destructive commercial lease renewal process, is what Andrew Rigie wants the city’s restaurants to return to.  The CRS bill is a new definition for economic insanity.

The true small business advocates waited for a public response from Rigie when the CRS bill was introduced into the Council in place of our Jobs Survival Act. For the first time in 34 years, the oldest bill in the Council would not be reintroduced in the Council. A tenant’s rights bill would be replaced by a lobby’s status quo landlord’s rights only bill. How outraged would Rigie be when his restaurant owners would be denied the right to renew 10 year leases, equal right to negotiate fair lease terms that allowed them a reasonable profit, and an arbitration process that would protect owners from rent gouging and being forced to pay their landlord’s property taxes?  These are the rights that would have been given under the Jobs Survival Act to his restaurant owners. Rights every restaurant owner deserves and rights they need to level the playing field for them to have a fighting chance to survive and to save their American Dream. Andrew was silent.

Andrew Rigie being the new voice for team de Blasio and now team Adams for our city’s restaurant owners had no comment on the most anti-restaurant, anti-immigrant, anti-democracy, and anti-jobs bill ever presented in the Council.  Therefore, the author of the original Jobs Survival Act, Sung Soo Kim wrote an OP ED in April 2022 calling out Rigie as not speaking for nor representing immigrant business owners. 

https://www.savenycjobs.com/regie-no-friend-of-immigrant-owners

NYC Hospitality Alliance and

Andrew Rigie, Executive Director,

Does 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.

 

Below are the facts on Rigie’s role played in trying to kill the Jobs Survival Act and replacing it with the lobby’s CRS bill.( PART III)  You be the judge if he is sincere in serving only his restaurant/nightlife owners’ well-being, best interests and future or if he has a hidden agenda of serving special interests and corrupt politicians for his own career. 

 

The biggest political scandal that never was made public involved Rigie.

Potentially, the biggest betrayal of restaurant owners, but was stopped at the last minute, involved Rigie.* *PART III BREWER FAILS TO KILL JOBS BILL | savenycjobs

 

By 2013-14 the commercial rent bubble was slowing down. More and more stores were remaining empty longer, even in vibrant neighborhoods. Therefore, the real estate lobby to prevent regulation decided to replace the Jobs Survival Act with legislation they created that would keep the status quo. The Jobs Survival Act sitting in Committee since 2009 with great sponsorship could never have an honest hearing in the Council. Why? Because there was no rational justification for not passing it and stopping the closing of good businesses in NYC. Any honest hearing would only conclude what the last hearing in late June 2009 concluded: it was the only real solution to end the small business crisis. If you wanted to save the small businesses and jobs there was no option but to give the business owners rights when their leases expired.  Business owners had to have a fighting chance to survive by negotiating reasonable terms that allowed a reasonable profit. Basic economics 101, if you make an investment, work hard and sacrifice, build a successful business you are entitled to make a profit. In most cities this is what good government promotes, the backbone of its economy and creator of jobs to be profitable and grow to create more jobs. It is only in NYC, where the Democratic leadership's only priority is to protect the profits of campaign donors and political powerbrokers.

 

To prevent having the landlord's “cash cow” commercial lease renewal process from being regulated, the real estate lobby turned to then Small Business Committee Chair, CM Robert Cornegy and MBP Gale Brewer. They were to carry out a scheme to replace the Jobs Survival Act. For over a year and half both lawmakers pretended to be researching and studying the small business community to create their new legislation to save our businesses. In collusion with the de Blasio administration they produced political theater regularly touting their small business “lifeline” that was being written.

 

 A key player in this lobby orchestrated charade was Andrew Rigie. He was Brewer’s right hand spokesperson for restaurants/nightlife businesses. He gave Brewer credibility in her mission to fool the public into believing she was committed to benefit and save the businesses with real solution legislation.  At special workshops, press conferences and forums on the topic of saving small businesses, Rigie was there to distract away from the real root cause of businesses closing by repeating the false narrative that the real problems facing businesses were” too many fines and too much red tape regulation”. A ridiculous notion that he still preaches today. 

 

What Rigie did, given this special high visibility platform, as the claimed representative of restaurants is unconscionable and indefensible. He remained silent to MBP Brewer’s willful lying that the Jobs Survival Act was collecting dust for decades and going nowhere and that it was unconstitutional. Her justification for replacing the Jobs Survival Act should have easily been shown to be totally untrue. Rigie refused to show that the Jobs Survival Act in late 2009 had 32 sponsors, including Gale Brewer and the entire Small Business Committee.  And if voted on by the full Council, easily passed. Also, he refused to acknowledge that the legal challenges against the Jobs Survival Act had been soundly debunked in 2010 by a Legal Review Panel organized by then Bronx President Rubin Diaz Jr. If Rigie had been honest in seeking the best legislation to save the city’s restaurant owners he would have exposed the statements of Brewer as totally false and called for a hearing of the Council to find the best solution/lifeline to save the restaurants. There was no need for this year and half wasted time for finding a new bill. 

 

Rigie went along with the Brewer charade of misinformation and outright lies concerning the Jobs Survival Act. In the end of this lengthy scheme, MBP Brewer’s long awaited “lifeline” tuned out to be a total fraud. Cutting through all the usual bells and whistles of worthless studies, charts and lobby loyal shill’s acclimates, what Brewer claimed that she wrote as a result of her lengthy research was in fact written by the real estate lobby 30 years earlier to stop a vote on the original version of the Jobs Survival Act. Also, it was then created by the lobby to replace the original version of the Jobs Survival Act in the City Council. Sound familiar?  Shamefully, it was word for word taken from the findings of a Mayor Koch and Speaker Vallone stacked Commission. A Commission called by small business advocates as the “Limousine Commission”, because its members of bank presidents, Wall Street heads, and big business arrived at meetings in Limousines. The city’s entire business community united and rejected this “Landlord’s Bill” as a disguised status quo bill, and no Council Member would introduce it. Now that's the real "dust collector."

 

What was this great new “lifeline” that Brewer claimed to have created to save our city’s businesses and a bill that Andrew Rigie eagerly supported?  A bill that would replace the Jobs Survival Act, which the true small business advocates wrote and amended seven times over the years.  The Brewer bill gave every “retail storefront” only the right to mediate with their landlord when their leases expired, no arbitration rights, and if they could not reach an agreement based upon the landlord’s terms only, then the business owner had a one year extension of the lease at 10% increase to find a new location to move to. The city’s restaurant owners faced the greatest crisis to survive in business or to make a reasonable profit when their leases expired, and yet this Landlord’s bill was acceptable to Andrew Rigie!   Rigie promotes a bill that NYC’s restaurant owners after making a huge investment in starting and building a successful restaurant in NYC, and being able and willing to pay a reasonable rent, that all restaurant owners have only the right to accept the landlord’s oppressive terms or be given one year extension to move and still guarantee a 10% increase to the Landlord too. Yes, a blatant insult to every restaurant owner.

 

Thankfully, there were enough old time true advocates who were aware of this sham legislation and exposed it through OP EDs and social media. Once exposed as a lobby created bill that would keep the status quo, Brewer was forced to drop her fake “lifeline” and walk away from her scheme to replace the Jobs Survival Act. But did Rigie walk away from his willingness to easily replace the Jobs Survival Act with a lobby status quo one?

 

If there was any doubt of whose side Rigie was on, his acceptance of Brewer’s lobby created Landlord’s bill to keep the status quo and substitute it for the Jobs Survival Act, should end any doubt. Brewer’s fake bill was an affront to good government and to every restaurant owner in the city.

 

In any city in America this would be a political scandal and all involved would be asked to either resign, called out in public by progressive good government lawmakers, or be discredited for their actions. Not in NYC, where Andrew Rigie would be promoted by then Mayor de Blasio to NYC Nightlife Advisory Board. Not a surprising act for de Blasio who has played a major role in rigging City Hall for the real estate lobby since becoming Mayor. Even less surprising when heavily lobby funded Mayor Adams gave Rigie even more authority and credibility under his administration. 

 

The next actions by Rigie which exposes which side he really is on happened prior to the Oct 2018 hearing on the Jobs Survival Act.  The new Chairman of the Council’s Small Business Committee was real estate owner CM Mark Gjonaj.  He was hand picked by the lobby because of his outspoken opposition to any regulation of landlords. Gjonaj and Rigie made a great team spreading the false narrative of the real estate lobby. Even in the face of record small business closing citywide and empty storefronts on every main street where once thriving businesses were, Gjonaj and Rigie repeated the debunked ridiculous claims that the main problems facing small business owners were too many fines and too much red tape regulations. Why did Gjonaj and Rigie steadfast refuse to even admit the small business faced a growing crisis caused by landlord’s greed? Blame Amazon, blame ecommerce, blame changing times, blame anyone but the landlords for the city’s “ empty store blight.” Most important of all never mention the Jobs Survival Act as a real solution to stop the closings.

 

Thousands of long established restaurants in NYC were forced to close when their leases expired and they had no rights. Thousands more were forced to pay exorbitant rent increases and had to raise prices and lay off workers to remain open. Yet, Rigie is distracting government away from the real root cause and real crisis facing restaurants to this nonsense of the lobby’s talking points of fines and red tape. Either Rigie has a pronounced ignorance of the true dire state of our city’s restaurants or he is just joining in the lobby’s charade to keep the status quo for the landlords.  Maybe he just needs an eye examination and cannot read the big signs in the restaurant windows, “lost our lease, rents to high.” How many long established popular restaurants have signs in their windows, “after 40 years closing because we got too many tickets?”

 

Why is it that every time a lawmaker who is serving special interests and trying to stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act or worse, wanting to replace it, has Andrew Rigie standing with them giving them credibility? Claiming to represent NYC restaurants and nightlife, why isn’t Rigie giving the restaurant owners the choice to compare the bills to see which one would best serve them?  He is claiming to speak for restaurant owners but is he really speaking for them or their landlords? You can bet that 99% of NYC restaurant owners have never heard of the Jobs Survival Act. Guess who does not want them to learn about the Jobs Survival Act, the landlords.

 

After 9 years of being bottled up in Committee a hearing was called on the Jobs Survival Act for October 2018.  This would be the biggest stage for Andrew Rigie to truly show who he really represents and his commitment to finding the best solution to stop the closing of our city’s restaurants.