PART III  

 

Can Business Owners Trust Andrew Rigie with their Futures?

 

In Part II* the foundation was established that even though NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director, Andrew Rigie claimed he spoke for the city’s restaurant/nightlife owners he also was loyal and gave credibility to politicians. While such loyalty is usually not a harmful trait producing destructive outcomes, it almost always will be when those politicians are

corrupt and controlled by special interests.  Rigie is a walking conflict of interest in his role of promoting the well being of our city’s restaurants/nightlife owners. On its face, his giving his voice and loyalty to politicians in the name of helping restaurant owners should be admirable, with good outcomes. But, not when the goals of these politicians are to deny economic justice and rights to the city’s restaurant owners. Not when the message and narrative he is giving was created by lobbies to keep the status quo with landlords having all the rights and the restaurant owners none when their commercial leases expire.

 

In Part II* irrefutable proof was shown of lawmakers conspiring to destroy the only lifeline to save and restore a future to restaurant owners, the Jobs Survival Act. Yet, Rigie was eagerly giving his voice and credibly to these special interest’s controlled politicians in their quest to block any legislation giving any real rights to restaurant owners when their leases expired. Rigie enthusiastically cooperated to stop any legislation that would regulate commercial landlords in the hugely profitable commercial lease renewal process which the landlords totally controlled. A grossly unfair process that was the “root cause” of thousands of successful restaurants and other long established businesses forced to close.

 

Rigie’s own anti small business actions and pro special interests actions raises legitimate questions of both “who Andrew Rigie really serves and can he be trusted?”  The Open Streets debate should cause scrutiny of Rigie’s true motives for again giving his voice and credibly to politicians promoting the plan.

 

Part III- The Oct. 22, 2018 hearing in the Council exposed fully the entire conspiracy to stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act. For the first time it showed in public the lobby loyal key players who serve the special interests that control City Hall’s economic policy. Would Rigie be on the side of the real estate lobby or on the side of the business owners? For once would he use his voice to call for a vote on the Jobs Survival Act or would he promote another, better solution, to save the city’s restaurant owners?

 

Rigie showed his true loyalty at the Oct. 2018 public hearing on the Jobs Survival Act. After 9 years of being bottled up in Committee, the Jobs Survival Act would finally get a hearing. It took a growing crisis that evolved into our city’s “empty store blight”, but a true honest hearing was what the advocates needed to finally gain some action.  Regrettably, it would not be an honest hearing but a lobby orchestrated sham hearing designed to stop any vote on the bill.  Every lobby loyal organization would attend to oppose the Jobs Survival Act or any law regulating commercial landlords. None would offer any real solution to stop the closing of good businesses and save jobs. With the city’s restaurants representing the largest number of a type of business, est 24-26K, what would Rigie recommend to save them or at least recommend legislation giving them rights and a fighting chance to survive in the face of a growing crisis. Shamefully he offered nothing! The spokesperson for our city’s restaurants/nightlife businesses was a no show at the biggest public platform at City Hall to make a statement! 

 

He did not even submit a written statement outlining legislation recommended to address the high rents and destructive commercial lease renewal process that had been destroying thousands of long established restaurants in NYC. Once again, given a great platform to promote legislation that would give the restaurant owners a fighting chance to protect their investments and survive in business, Rigie remained silent and accepted the status quo of the landlords remaining in full control of the future of every restaurant owner and their workers.

 

But there was good news for restaurant owners from this sham hearing where they were NOT REPRESENTED.  It was that another lobby scheme to water down the Jobs Survival Act after the hearing to keep the status quo failed when the bill’s prime sponsor CM Ydanis Rodriguez backed out at the last minute. Now the real estate lobby was in a real trap which they themselves created when they had all their cronies testify the bill must be amended before any vote. Amended to eliminate any protections for big Fortune 500 type companies.

 

With no challenges from the advocates, this amendment should involve a simple change to one paragraph in the scope of the bill, or about 2 hours. That change would not effect the rights and protection of the city’s restaurants under the bill. Therefore Rigie should be using his voice to hurry up the Speaker’s staff to quickly make the amendments and move the bill to a vote and certain passage with its 28 sponsors. A passage of the Jobs Survival Act would immediately give hope to every restaurant owner that finally in NYC they had rights when their leases expired and their American Dream would be restored.

 

Given his increased power and authority at City Hall as a de Blasio team player, Rigie could have easily put pressure on Johnson to move quickly to amend the bill and begin saving our restaurants/nightlife businesses. Once again Rigie would show his hidden agenda of who he really serves.

Speaker Johnson showed his loyalty to the real estate lobby by stalling and never making the amendments to the bill as he had promised at the hearing. A simple 2 hour amendment would never happen in 3 years! Instead, the amendment would end up in another bill influenced by the real estate lobby. That lobby bill, Commercial Rent Stabilization Act, that kept the status quo would survive and replace the Jobs Survival Act in the new Council. Three years of collusion and rigging to stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act and eventually kill it, all happening with no objections from Rigie!

 

The Jobs Survival Act then prime sponsor CM Rodriguez when asked by the advocates, why the delay, stated that Rigie, nor anyone from de Blasio’s or Johnson’s team, never asked for a meeting even once to discuss amending the bill and moving the Jobs Survival Act to a vote.

 

If Rigie was not using his authority to pressure a quick amendment and vote on the Jobs Survival Act what was his priority to save the city’s restaurants when their leases expired? Where was his better solution? Did he even bother to create a solution to stop the closings?   Once again Rigie has an opportunity to promote legislation desperately needed by restaurant owners and once again he fails to deliver.  Only the status quo is promoted by Rigie for three years, even during the virus crisis.

 

As the city’s “empty store blight” spreads and grows worse the Council stalls any real lifeline to stop and end it.   What is done instead is a disgrace to good government. The rigging the system for the real estate lobby produces a “basket of bills” pretending to help small businesses get through their crisis.

 

In July 2018 five bills are passed in the Council as poorly veiled substitutes for stalling a vote on the Jobs Survival Act. To make the assessment that these lobby influenced bills as being worthless and rubbish bills is a gross understatement. Just one example of the distraction bills shows just how useless these bills were. CM Rivera’s bill would require the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) to complete an assessment of the state of storefront businesses in at least twenty community districts in the City once every three years. The BID property owners, who kicked out thousands of long established small businesses to make room for deep pocket rents and who testified at the Oct. hearing against the Jobs Survival Act were given this ridiculous task of judging their own performance. Yes, despicable legislation! The empty storefronts in vibrant shopping strips expose clearly the BIDS’s historic failure to serve small business owners.

 

Even though none of the distraction bills would save a single business in NYC nor give a single right to any business owner, Rigie would praise every bill’s sponsor and tout the great benefits of each bill.  All this praise on Council Members for doing absolutely nothing to save even one restaurant owner or give one right to them to help them survive when their leases expired, Rigie would eagerly praise this big fat zero effort by politicians. While remaining silent to their stalling in making the promised amendment to the Jobs Survival Act. Andrew Rigie would remain silent for three years to the stalling of a simple 2 hour change to the Jobs Survival Act.

 

In Oct 2019, on the one year anniversary of the 2018 hearing on the Jobs Survival Act a rally was held at Speaker Johnson’s district office. The outcry, “why was this bill being stalled and denied a vote, with 28 sponsors”? Why, being stalled with the city’s business owners facing a growing crisis in NYC, and this bill being the only real solution to end it?  As usual, Rigie had no comment for the media or for the rally. The true small business advocates had long ago given up any hope for Rigie using his influence at City Hall to hold lawmakers accountable for stalling and not taking any real actions to stop the closings of our small businesses. After all, he would not be part of team pro lobby de Blasio if he raised his voice for rights and justice for restaurant owners. Or exposed the collusion and rigging taking place in plain sight at City Hall to deny his restaurant owners economic justice.

 

The shameful truth is that for one year, yes ONE YEAR during a growing crisis, Rigie never once used his authority or voice as representing restaurant/nightlife businesses to call for a vote on the Jobs Survival Act. Bottled up in Committee with 28 sponsors and no justifiable reason for not allowing a vote. A vote repeatedly promised in public by Speaker Johnson. Why wouldn’t Rigie want his restaurant owners to have the right to renew 10 year leases, equal rights to negotiate fair lease terms that allowed a reasonable profit, or an arbitration process that would stop rent gouging or prevent the tenants from being forced to pay their landlord’s property taxes?  Why? Because the real estate lobby did not want any restaurants to have these rights when their leases expired.

 

Anytime in one year, from Nov 2018 to Nov 2019 Rigie could have stood on the steps of City Hall with restaurant owners and challenged lawmakers to do their jobs.  Challenged them by asking them ”what are you waiting for, do you have a better solution to stop the closing of long established businesses than the Jobs Survival Act?” If not, then if you want to save your small businesses and their worker’s jobs you must now vote for the Jobs Survival Act.  But Rigie would never challenge the “do nothing” lawmakers serving the real estate lobby. If you saw Rigie standing on the steps of City Hall he would be beside the anti small business Chairman Gjonaj and lobby loyal shills pitching a false narrative and distractions created by the lobby.

 

On Nov.14.2019 the Democratic leadership showed it was morally bankrupt. A new bill as introduced into the Council, Commercial Rent Stabilization Act, CRS, which would never exist in any government that promoted and practiced true democracy. The Democratic leadership abdicated to special interests the authority to create their own legislation, the CRS bill. The sole goal of this bill was to stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act and then stall and run out the clock on the Jobs Survival Act on Dec. 31, 2021, when all legislation expires. This lobby created bill which kept the status quo favoring only the landlords in the Commercial Lease Renewal Process would be substituted for the Jobs Survival Act in the new Council. Besides being a clear violation of Council rules of having two bills with the same intent at the same time this new bill was a disgrace to good government and a betrayal of every business owner by denying them economic justice and rights.  It was rigging for a lobby in plain sight. What would Rigie’s outrage be on behalf of the desperate restaurant/nightlife owners struggling with two crises to survive?