Andrew Rigie’s Final Betrayal Destroys American Dream.
In part III* we exposed the many opportunities and platforms Andrew Rigie had to be a strong voice for restaurant/nightlife owners demanding government intervention to give rights to business owners when their leases expired. However, instead of Rigie being a strong truthful voice for business owners he only peddled the false narrative, distractions, and misinformation of the administration and real estate lobby. Even when given more authority and recognition by the de Blasio administration, the Council and the media, Rigie only mimicked de Blasio’s disgraceful excuse for doing nothing to save even one business or job during a growing crisis.
Rigie then repeated this false narrative at every opportunity, over and over, “the major problems facing our small businesses are too many fines and too much government “red tape” regulations.” He was sticking only to the lobby’s script, all the while as long established restaurants were closing in record numbers and in many cases remaining empty for years. Rigie followed de Blasio’s reprehensible policy of purposely ignoring the only real lifeline to save small businesses, the Jobs Survival Act. For years as the crisis spread to every neighborhood, Rigie never once called for a vote on the Jobs Survival Act, even with its 28 sponsors. He never once recommended amendments to it so it could move to a vote, and never offered an alternative real solution nor ever gave a real reason for not calling for a vote. He was silent during a growing crisis.
Rigie’s actions show clearly he was satisfied with the status quo of landlords being in full control of the city’s commercial lease renewal process. As well as, being in full control of the futures of every restaurant owner when their leases expired.
For 3 years Rigie had failed to deliver any legislation seriously addressing the root cause of successful restaurants being forced to close or struggling to survive. But on Sept 17, 2021, as the proclaimed spokesperson of the city’s restaurants/nightlife, he would get his chance to choose between two pending legislation bills in the Council. Legislation claiming to give the business owners rights when their leases expired that would save them. The stakes for the future of all businesses could not be any higher for the survival of our business owners when their leases expired. One of these two bills, Jobs Survival Act or the Commercial Rent Stabilization Act would be chosen to be reintroduced in the new Council in 2022. The other bill would die on Dec. 31, 2021 and never be heard of again or ever be voted on. This hearing would be the best opportunity for Rigie to determine the futures of our city’s restaurant owners by picking only the best bill. But only one bill offered a real lifeline with rights needed to give a fighting chance to survive and restore all business owner’s American Dream.
The city’s small business owners faced two crises to survive, great challenges to restore their American Dream, and they had an uncertain future all were entitled to the truth from their government. The truth of the sincerity of every lawmaker always stressing how important the “backbone of our economy” was to our city. The truth of the real loyalty of the government agencies mandated to serve and promote a healthy small business economy. The truth of, whether the progressive lawmakers had their backs and would always do the right thing for them. The truth of, if the BIDS, Chambers, Community Boards and numerous self proclaimed small business advocates, claiming to speak for the small business owners, actually served only special interests and did not care if the business owners had a future in NYC.
All of these truths were answered at one hearing held in September 17, 2021. A hearing that would represent the most anti-small business, anti-democracy and anti-immigrant family hearing ever held in the Council. A hearing that Andrew Rigie would play a major role to make the outcome for a lobby’s scheme to keep the status quo a major success.
The September 17, 2021 hearing was the culmination of a special interest’s scheme plotted after the hearing on the Jobs Survival Act in Oct 2018. A plot to water down the bill to keep the status quo for landlords. This scheme backfired dramatically when the bill’s prime sponsor CM Rodriguez refused to make the amendments. As a result of CM Rodriguez not backing down, another more sinister scheme was hatched by the lobbies in collusion with the city’s Democratic leadership. Calling upon the unethical Democratic leadership, the lobbies controlled through their campaign funding, a grand Machiavellian conspiracy was created.
Speaker Johnson would stall the promised amendments to the Jobs Survival Act and never move it to a vote as he repeatedly promised at the Oct 2018 hearing. While stalling, the lobby loyalists would introduce many worthless bills in the Council proclaiming they would help the business owners. The Jobs Survival Act’s prime sponsor CM Rodriguez would remain silent on the Speaker’s stalling of a simple 2 hour change to the bill and never call for a vote, even with 28 sponsors and a full blown growing crisis in NYC.
The low point of morality and integrity of the Council happened when special interests took over the role of the Council to create their own legislation. Legislation that would keep the status quo and never give any real rights to the business owners in the commercial lease renewal process. Over one year after the Oct hearing on the Jobs Survival Act, the lobby influenced bill, Commercial Rent Stabilization act, CRS, was introduced into the Council. CRS was a clear violation of Council rules and of any decency and respect for small business owners. Shamefully, the hypocrisy and corruption of the Council was exposed by the CRS bill. Not one Council Member would raise their voice against this disgraceful anti democracy act and lobby bill. Nor would any call for a vote on the Jobs Survival Act sitting with 28 sponsors. The scheme was lead by then CM Lander and CM Levin who would proclaim their bill, CRS, would save the small businesses. But the truth was its true goal was to stop any vote on the Jobs Survival Act, stall and eventually replace it in the new Council.
From the date of introduction of the CRS bill, Nov 2019 until the bill expired, as all bills did on Dec. 31, 2021, no debate or hearing was ever held on which bill would be better in stopping the closings of our businesses and restoring stability to owners when their leases expired. The sham CRS bill could never be compared with the Jobs Survival Act in saving small businesses, because it was written to keep the status quo favoring only the landlords. The Jobs Survival Act’s prime sponsor Rodriguez had sold out the merchants for his own career and never once challenged the CRS bill nor call for a vote on his bill.
The final act of this grand lobby scheme was to wait until months before the CRS bill would expire and then hold only a sham hearing. A hearing orchestrated by special interests that excluded any debate or mention of the Jobs Survival Act. A hearing with only testimony approving the bill and none opposing it. After the hearing and with the majority of Council Members soon to be termed out of office the lobby moved to gain 28 sponsors of the CRS before Dec. 31, 2021. The collusion with lawmakers was to have the majority of the Council Members who were sponsoring the Jobs Survival Act switch and become sponsors of both bills at the same time. Yes, despicable service to special interests in plain sight.
The Jobs Survival Act had 28 sponsors since Oct 2018 and now the CRS would have 28 sponsors only one month before Dec. 31, 2021. How could any true progressive with a conscious have their names on two bills that had the opposite intent and opposite outcome for their merchants? The CRS would have had a positive hearing in Sept 2021 with no opposition and end up with 28 sponsors, the same as the Jobs Survival Act. The final outcome of this lobby scheme would be to kill the Jobs Survival Act and replace it in the new Council in 2022 with their CRS bill. Which on March 24, 2022 is exactly what took place. After 34 years the oldest bill in the Council was dead but so was democracy at City Hall.
Andrew Rigie helped to give birth to the
Council’s BIG LIE, the CRS bill will save our small businesses.
The September 17, 2021 hearing on the CRS bill would once again give Rigie the opportunity to stand up and speak up for the city’s restaurant/nightlife owners. To be a strong voice in representing their best interests and future prosperity and survival in business. The new CRS bill was the most detrimental legislation against business owner’s profitability potential, job creation potential and future ever presented in the Council. It gave the commercial tenants no right to renew their leases. This fact alone should have made this bill a non starter for anyone representing business owners in NYC. Without this vital right, giving some bargaining leverage to the tenants, nothing else really matters in arriving at the new lease terms because the lease outcome is still solely in the hands of the landlords. The CRS bill would not save a single restaurant/nightlife business and Rigie had to have known it. He also knew that passage of the CRS bill would result in even more restaurants closing and more worker’s jobs lost.
Could Rigie in all conscience look the restaurant owners in the eye and tell them that on their behalf, it was acceptable to him that a bill, Jobs Survival Act that gave restaurant owners the right to renew a 10 year lease, equal rights to negotiate fair lease terms, and no more paying their landlord’s property taxes would be replaced by a lobby created bill that gave them no right to renew their leases. Could he tell them the truth for once that under the CRS, which Rigie never opposed, the status quo would continue in favor of only the landlords. That every time their leases expired in NYC their futures would be in jeopardy and still be solely in the hands of their landlords? No, Rigie could not tell them the truth, so he does what he has always done when it concerns the Jobs Survival Act, remain silent to its very existence.
By Rigie never calling for a vote on the Jobs Survival Act in over three years and allowing the open rigging in plain sight of the CRS bill, he shares in the responsibility of making every restaurant owner more vulnerable to closing when the virus crisis arrived. Due to the major role he played at the September 2021 hearing he is also responsible for the challenge restaurants, and all business owners, will face to recover after the virus crisis.
During the virus crisis Rigie finds it easy to call for help and for funds to save restaurants during the virus crisis. Easy to call for government intervention to save our businesses from a crisis. But never once calling for government intervention to save restaurants during the past decade long small business crisis in NYC. For Rigie the over decade long unresolved “forgotten crisis” does not exist. Rigie should try telling that to small business owners whose leases expire today in NYC.
Granted, he may have taken some actions that helped some restaurants during the virus crisis, while we applaud his action seeking relief during the virus crisis, his actions on September 17, 2021 erased any possibility that any restaurant/nightlife business would have a bright prosperous future in NYC after the virus crisis ended.
The September 2021 hearing, like the 2018 hearing on the Jobs Survival Act had the same lobby loyalist who opposed the Jobs Survival Act testifying. But at this hearing they unanimously would be favoring the lobby created CRS bill. All knowing the lobby bill gave no rights to the business owners when their leases expire. The same lobby talking points were repeated by all the hand picked groups. What was purposely missing from the hearing was any mention of the Jobs Survival Act with its 28 sponsors sitting for 3 years in the same committee. Rigging at its extreme at City Hall!
The one thing Rigie knew, and all others giving testimony, was the Council could not in good conscience in the face of these crises keep the status quo. These two crises, the decade long “forgotten crisis” and today’s virus crisis, offered the best opportunity for Andrew Rigie to speak on restaurant owners behalf, as he always claims. Testify that the legislation must address the two crises with real solutions while laying the foundation for all businesses to recover and have their American Dream restored.
Rigie also knew that the vast majority of business owners did not want to go back to where the “new norm” would continue to destroy their futures every time their leases expired. A “new norm” where long established successful businesses with a loyal customer base, willing and able to pay a reasonable rent, were forced to close. A “new norm” where once thriving businesses close in vibrant shopping strips and remain empty for sometimes years. That was acceptable to the greedy landlords reaping windfall profits at the expense of business owners.
The stakes for the future of every restaurant owner could not be any higher at this hearing. Would Rigie finally “do the right thing” to save their American Dream. His testimony speaks loudly of his character, his lack of integrity, his immorality, and who he really represents.
Rigie came into this hearing to willfully betray the city’s restaurant owners and put their ability to recover after the virus crisis ends in grave jeopardy. He gives nothing but double talk that truly insults every restaurant owner. He plays a key role given to him by special interests and corrupt politicians. His testimony sanctions the special interest’s destruction of the Jobs Survival Act and sets the stage for a worthless status quo bill, CRS, to replace it in the new Council. A bill that will cause more businesses to close and more jobs lost and will make the unresolved forgotten crisis much worse for most restaurant owners.
You be the judge of the sincerity of the statement of Rigie claiming to speak on behalf of restaurant owners facing two crises and an uncertain future in NYC. What would be his solution to save them and restore hope for a long prosperous future?
Andrew Rigie excerpts from written testimony on Sept 17, 2021 and our own responses to his statements.
• Int. No. 1796, Commercial Rent Stabilization bill, in relation to the regulation of commercial rent.
Rigie : Over the years, New York City has lost too many beloved restaurants and other small businesses due to large rent increases and other market and regulatory pressures.
My Response- Partly true, that is why advocates wrote the Jobs Survival Act to stop rent gouging. His statement of… other market and regulatory pressures is nonsense, a distraction away from the root cause of restaurants closing. We wrote the Jobs Survival Act to address head on the “root cause” of good businesses being forced to close. If he was honest he would have testified that the CRS bill will not stop the closings caused by high rents because the bill does not give business owners the right to renew the lease and under the bill the annual rent rate will only continue to go up, never down, starting from sky high insane rent levels. Insane rent levels that resulted in our city’s “empty store blight.”
Rigie: Policies must be enacted to support and help preserve these small businesses, as we’ve discussed with policymakers.
My response- more double talk because the Jobs Survival Act with 28 sponsors sat in Committee for 3 years while policymakers did nothing but rig the system to stop a vote. And what did Rigie recommend to these policymakers? To stall and do nothing for three years during the worst challenges to survive for our businesses. Didn’t anyone tell Rigie that the Democratic leadership served only special interests and he was wasting his time trying to get them to do the right thing? If the outcome of his “discussions” with policymakers was the CRS bill then he should be ashamed. At what point in a crisis did Rigie demand action from our policymakers? NEVER!
Regie: We New York City Hospitality Alliance have consulted with many hospitality business owners and received insights and varying opinions on the proposed regulation of commercial rent.
My Response- More nonsense, more double talk. Not one restaurant owner who would read the CRS bill and compared it to the Jobs Survival Act would not totally reject the CRS bill outright. Did Rigie give the two bills to these restaurant owners to compare? No, it is likely few if any NYC restaurant owners have ever heard of the Jobs Survival Act. Rigie keeps highlighting the need to regulate the high rents, what does he think the Jobs Survival Act does through arbitration on a case by case basis? Do not be fooled by the, “consulting with many business owners”. It is simple to ask any restaurant owner, “do you want to keep the status quo when your leases expires or do you want rights to renew long term leases and negotiate the new lease terms?” That is a question Rigie will never ask the restaurant owners.
Rigie : We’ve heard from many supporters of this policy in our industry who have made compelling arguments about how huge rent increases have resulted in otherwise successful independent restaurants and nightlife establishments shuttering.
My Response- More nonsense. Every month for years there have been local media stories of popular restaurants closing because of high rents. But Rigie is being totally dishonest in omitting the truth that without the tenants having the rights which the Jobs Survival Act gives the business owners when their leases expire, it is not just the rents alone that can result in businesses closing. It is the entire Commercial Lease Renewal Process that matters for the future of a business. Focusing only upon the rents is only a distraction to cover up the truth of who controls the lease renewal process. Who controls the lease renewal process also controls the lease terms and controls the profitability and future of our business owners. The CRS bill is a cunningly contrived bill that sounds great until you read the fine print. The rents can only go up with the CRS bill and without the merchants having the right to renew their leases the rents really do not matter.
Rigie: We’ve also been told how landlords often have powerful leverage over small businesses in lease negotiations and they believe there needs to be a more level playing field.
My response- A shameful statement after failing to call for a vote on the Jobs Survival Act for 3 years that would have leveled the playing field for the merchants better than any legislation possible.
NOW THE REAL REASON RIGIE IS GIVING TESTIMONY!
Rigie : We’ve also heard from members of our industry who oppose this policy who have made compelling arguments that such policy can cause landlords to invest less in the upkeep and upgrades of the properties where businesses are located, disincentivize investment and new development that has supported the growth and success of hospitality businesses, and may eliminate landlord tenant improvements that will make it more difficult for new chefs/restaurateurs and under-capitalized entrepreneurs to open new restaurants.
My response: This is almost word for word the lobby created talking points coached over and over by many to stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act. This hearing is not about new restaurants or about the landlord’s opportunity to make more profits. Its about giving rights to the restaurant owners when their leases expire. Which bill gives the most rights? Its about legislation to end the merchant’s crisis. Landlords want to keep the status quo because they have made a fortune over the years from deep pocket renters, and having their tenants pay their property taxes, period. Why is Rigie so concerned with the well-being of the landlords? Why is he giving testimony at a small business committee hearing on the concerns of the landlords?
Rigie It could also stymie the decrease in retail rents and landlord contributions to be found in the Covid-19 market.
My response- pure nonsense to the extreme. The decrease in retail rents can only occur under the Jobs Survival Act where an arbitrator looking at many guidelines on a case by case bases can lower the rent! Under the CRS bill the rent increase determined by a Mayor commission will ALWAYS increase citywide for all businesses starting as the base from the highest insane rents in America. The same manipulated rents that resulted in our “empty store blight” and the same rent levels that causes thousands of restaurants to close. CRS bill is the most absurd bill ever written. NYC has the most diverse businesses in the most diverse neighborhoods in America. To have one rent rate for the entire city’s businesses is ridiculous. Should small merchants in the Bronx pay the same rent rate increase as big businesses on 5th Ave. or Wall Street?
Rigie: It is for these reasons, we are not taking a position on this legislation at this time, but we will review the testimony from this hearing and consult with our members and industry further, before finalizing our position.
Response: Code for: Speaking on behalf of the restaurants, but serving the real estate lobby, we are not going to oppose this POS bill that keeps the status quo with a gun to every business owner’s head when their leases expire. We will not protest a bill that will destroy the Jobs Survival Act and with it any chance of preserving the futures of every restaurant owner.
Rigie knew the purpose of this sham hearing and what was expected of him by the special interests. And he delivered by sanctioning and giving credibility to their strategy to replace the Jobs Survival Act in the new Council. How could anyone claiming to represent the interests of the largest type of small business owners never once mention the Jobs Survival Act or never once compare the two bills? And never being honest to even question which bill would best serve the future of the city’s restaurant owners. His testimony was contrived to allow him to later, after the Jobs Survival Act is replaced by the lobby’s CRS bill, to claim he never opposed the Jobs Survival Act and he never publicly supported the CRS bill. Talking nonsense out of both sides of his mouth will not hide his total failure to represent the best interests of the city’s restaurant/nightlife owners at this hearing.
His testimony was cleverly disguised but in reality he did oppose the Jobs Survival Act by not giving an honest assessment of what the bill would do for restaurant owners when their leases expired. When given a great platform, it is what Rigie did not say at this hearing that matters, the truth matters.
He supported the CRS bill by what he did not say about what it would not do for the restaurant owners when their leases expired. Why didn’t he say the CRS bill did not give any owners the right to renew their leases? Or that it did not give any real rights to the business owners in negotiating the new lease terms. Or that CRS did not stop the landlords from having their tenants pay their property taxes. Or that the CRS bill allowed only the landlords to determine the length of the leases. Or that the CRS bill allowed the landlord to give a 30 day notice for the tenant to vacate when their leases expired.
If Andrew Rigie was truly committed to fighting for the rights of restaurant owners and was an honorable person all he had to say at the hearing to serve the best interest of the restaurant owners was the truth. Rigie speaking the truth, “ after carefully reviewing the two bills before this Committee the Jobs Survival Act offers actual rights and protections for NYC’s restaurant owners when their leases expire.” Rigie, “it is the best solution and lifeline to stop the closing of restaurants and restore their opportunity to protect their investment.” He does not have to say anything about the CRS bill, it speaks for itself by not giving the owners the right to renew the lease. If he is honest and committed to restaurant/nightlife owners his testimony kills the CRS bill with the truth at this hearing and the Jobs Survival Bill is resubmitted in the new Council and quickly voted on and easily passed by the new Council Members.
As we stated in the beginning of this series, Rigie was given many platforms and opportunities to “do the right thing” for our city’s restaurant owners and in every case he betrayed them. His testimony at this critical 2021 hearing played a key role in making the special interest’s scheme a success.
The lesson learned by Rigie is that the corrupt ambitious lawmakers and lobbies have unlimited resources to fight against any good cause. They have countless loyal shills and corrupt politicians to protect their wealth and carry out their schemes and collusion to rig our government to serve only the interests of the power-brokers who own economic policy at City Hall. The community’s voices will never be heard over the lobby’s giant wall around City Hall. Not until new true progressives are elected who will tear down this wall from the inside and allow the people’s voice to be heard again will democracy be restored in NYC.