F – Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President
The day after Scott Stringer was sworn in as the Manhattan Borough President, he should have lead the call for government to do something to stop the loss of small businesses in New York City. More than any major city in the world, the capitalistic free market for commercial rents had completely collapsed and was totally out of control in New York City. This overly speculative and manipulated free market resulted in long established successful neighborhood core small businesses being forced to close in every neighborhood of the city. This is especially true in Manhattan and particularly in Upper Manhattan, the district Mr. Springer represented as Assemblyman for years.
The Upper West Side of Manhattan is where Mr. Springer knows best and where he
built his political base. It also has a long history of having some of the most progressive democrats representing it for decades. Elected officials such as former City Council members Ruth Messinger and Ronnie Eldridge, Assemblyman Jerry Nadler, and State Senator Franz Leichter. These former progressive elected officials cared about their neighborhoods and fought hard against economic injustices which were destroying the very fabric of their communities. They were all prime sponsors of legislation to regulate the landlords and restore a fair market system for the small businesses. However, Mr. Stringer’s policies towards the welfare of the communities has not followed in the tradition of these past progressive democrats, instead, he has changed the P in progressive to stand for Professional Career Politian.
As an elected official, Mr. Stringer had to be aware that for the past two decades, every corner business in his district and in most neighborhoods in Manhattan had a death sentence when their leases expired. The mom and pop businesses could never compete with the big banks and franchises for these prime locations. Once the banks and franchises paid these exorbitant rents, a new higher rent standard was established for that block, it would mean the end of most of the mom and pop businesses on every block in the neighborhoods. The loss of the successful neighborhood core businesses, the jobs they created and the loss of the identity they gave to each neighborhood did not influence Mr. Stringer to ever stand up and call for legislation or government intervention to save the small businesses or their jobs, as had all the past progressive democratic elected officials had done.
When the recession hit New York City hard, many believed Mr. Stringer would be forced to call for action to save the businesses and jobs, who were struggling to stay in businesses before the recession hit. The recession only accelerated the decline of our small businesses and represented even more jobs lost. At the heights of a recession, it could be considered an immoral act to allow long established successful businesses to be forced to close and families to loss their jobs due only to the demands by wealthy landlords for more exorbitant rents. But that is the policy Mr. Stringer adopted, ignoring the problem of landlords demanding high rents during a recession and forcing businesses to close and more jobs lost. Even with no commercial tenants ready and willing to pay these higher rents, landlords still forced businesses to close and remain empty, rather than to except the same high rents from the established tenants.
If the leaves in Central Park are late changing colors in the Fall, Mr. Stringer would hold a press conference on the Great Lawn to call for a state of emergency. But when the number one job creators in Manhattan, the small businesses, are being forced to close at record numbers and record jobs are lost, Mr. Stringer remains silent. What would it take for Mr. Stringer to stand up and take a position on government intervening to save Manhattan’s small businesses and jobs, the answer is sadly, never. Instead, Mr. Stringer made a commitment to us his office to prevent the small businesses from passing their own legislation to regulate the real estate industry which is out of control and will totally destroy every mom and pop business in Manhattan unless something is done soon.”
When the City’s elected officials failed to show any courage and stand up to the landlords by passing legislation regulating them, the small business community introduced their own bill to save themselves. The bill was the Small Business Survival Act, a revision of the original version first introduced by former Councilwoman Ruth Massinger back in mid 1986. This bill gave enough rights and protection to the business tenants during the commercial lease renewal process to allow for negotiations in good faith between the landlord and tenant to arrive at reasonable rents. Because the bill was fair to all parties and desperately needed during the recession, and new studies were supporting the crisis faced by the small businesses, the bill gained widespread support from a majority of city council members who became sponsors of the bill.
The successful progress of the Small Business Survival Act was what motivated Mr. Stringer to break his silence on his small business policy. Mr. Stinger did not join with the small business advocates or tenants groups fighting for this bill, he made no appearances at any of the many rallies supporting the bill, even though most were held in Manhattan or at City Hall. His office issued no statements of support for the bill or the cause the bill stood for, that of saving the small businesses and the jobs they created. His office did not send a single representative to any rally, forum, hearing, seminar or event promoting the bill or putting an end to the crisis facing our small businesses.
Mr. Stringer partnered with the organizations and agencies who had done nothing to help save the city’s small businesses and who refused to even acknowledge they face a crisis to survive in business. In fact, these same organizations and agencies have hurt the cause of the small businesses by purposely hiding the true state of health of our city’s small businesses to the public, media and city’s elected officials. The New York City Department of Small Business Services along with the Speakers’ Office of the City Council lead the campaign to cover up the true crisis facing our city’s small businesses and prevent any meaningful legislation from being enacted which would regulate the real estate industry. Along with Mr. Stringer they held several community forums and panel discussions on the issue of Neighborhood Small Businesses with flyers stating “Neighborhood Stores Enrich our Lives, The Time has Come to Save Them”.
What resulted from these community forums and a report issued from Mr. Stringer’s Office was a disgraceful and shameful example of government failing the citizens in desperate need. Instead they chose to serve the 1% special interests who were causing the problems and were the ones who needed to be regulated. In late March 2009, Mr. Stinger issued a report, “Saving the Mom and Pops: ten ways to support small and independent retail stores and keep Manhattan vibrant”. Mr. Stringers’ report started off with an accurate assessment: “half of Manhattan’s small businesses are doubtful they will be able to afford their next lease.” Borough-wide his research showed the median monthly rent ($8,250) had nearly doubled compared to previous leases, and owners doubted they could afford the next lease. Mr. Stringers’ solution to this problem was recommending a survey of all small businesses in the city be taken every four years so hard data could be obtained for the future. This is the type of solution which comes from Profession Career Politician, not from a progressive democrat serving the public.
If Mr. Stringer’s solution is somewhat confusing it is because it has nothing to do with the problem of high rents. You may have never read any of his media releases, which if you did you would see that they never offer real solutions to the real problems faced by New Yorkers. His report goes on to offer nine more worthless solutions which, if enacted, would have no impact upon the real crisis faced by our city’s small businesses today.
First, Mr. Stringer is silent for 20 years as the neighborhood small businesses’ are being forced to close each month in his district. Then he offers no support or voice for the victims of a speculative market that is unregulated and out of control resulting in both the loss of long established small businesses and the jobs they created as well as destroying the character of our neighborhoods. Finally, when he does take actions concerning our neighborhood small business, it is a contrived ploy with anti small business agencies to prevent any real solutions from passing which would regulate the greedy landlords. Mr. Stringer deserves an F grade for the actions he has taken to enhance his own political ambitions at the expense of our neighborhood mom and pop businesses and the jobs they created.