Sung Soo Kim, “Godfather of Immigrant Family Small Businesses” Apologizes
for Entrusting the Future of Small Businesses into the Hands of CM Ydanis Rodriguez.
CM Rodriguez Dishonors that Trust by
Betraying Business Owners.
The Small Business Jobs Survival Act is the longest pending legislation in recent Council history, introduced in 1986. The Jobs Survival Act, in over 3 decades has had 8 prime sponsors, of which only two were not chosen by our coalition. Former CM Alan Jennings became a prime sponsor when then CM Gale Brewer allowed the real estate lobby to hand pick him, and CM Rodriguez, whom the council Speaker influenced his selection.
Some past prime sponsors were passionate fighters for our bill and cause, others showed far less enthusiasm. Three of our former prime sponsors, lacking ethics, courage and with hidden political ambitions were asked to step aside for a new prime sponsor, one to allow the bill to gain support and move forward to a vote. Never in public had I been forced to make any discouraging statements against one of our prime sponsors, but today I must do so. The stakes are too high to remain silent. Our desperate business owners and the public need to know the truth, that they have been betrayed.
My failing health and my conscience of knowing I failed to protect desperate small business owners in their greatest challenge to survive, save their investment and their American Dream, compels me to make a formal apology. I was fooled by CM Rodriguez and I apologize to all desperate small business owners who have relied upon my judgment for many years to be their voice for justice.
The leader of any advocacy group has a responsibly to select only those truly progressive lawmakers who are fully committed to make it a priority to fight for passage of legislation that is vital to the success of ones’ cause. I failed my responsibility when I entrusted the future of our small business owners into the hands of CM Ydanis Rodriguez. I dishonored my role as leader for immigrant owners by telling the business owners to trust CM Ydanis Rodriguez, and because I did, it is clear that I was tragically wrong.
I lead a call to trust CM Rodriguez because I thought him to be a passionate fighter for immigrant rights and justice. As prime sponsor of the Jobs Survival Act, I called all to unite to support him. Because I knew CM Rodriguez was our only hope to save our small businesses and end the landlord abuses against many immigrant family owned businesses. I feel ashamed today for being so wrong in my judgment of the integrity and progressive values of CM Ydanis Rodriguez.
CM Rodriguez betrayed our small business owners by never intending to fight for a vote on our bill, our only real lifeline to survive. Even worse, with CM Rodriguez joining in the rigging to stop a vote on the only real lifeline, Jobs Survival Act, to end our crisis and restore our American Dream. For my failure in trusting CM Rodriguez with this great task and challenge requiring honor, independence, courage, progressive values and a commitment of justice for immigrant families and for all small business owners, I deeply apologize. I realize now, CM Rodriguez lacks all the traits needed in a good prime sponsor.
My motivation for making a strong discouraging statement against CM Rodriguez requires strong evidence and unequivocal proof showing his betrayal of our small business owners and of our just cause. This overwhelming proof I share with all here.
Firstly, my motivation for trusting CM Rodriguez to lead our fight for justice and rights.
In March 2018, I was contacted by several frantic advocates sounding an alarm that CM Ydanis Rodriguez was the new prime sponsor of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Jobs Survival Act. Along with a coalition of business groups in 1986, I was the co-drafter of the original version. The Jobs Survival Act, giving rights to business owners when their leases expired was then, and still is today, the only true real lifeline to stop the closing of our businesses, end their crisis, and restore their American Dream.
Over the long history of debates calling for a vote on the bill, we have changed the bill 7 times. Each change making it straightforward, cost effective, non government involvement, and fairest to all parties possible. Why the uproar over CM Rodriguez? Most of the criticism came from Upper Manhattan community groups who strongly believed CM Rodriguez sold out his community to developers. Several warned of CM Ydanis Rodreguez as a politician with blind ambition for higher office and eagerly will take lobby campaign funds to achieve his power. Still others claim he is just a puppet to the political Dominican Don, Congressman Adriano Espaillat, who is controlled by real estate campaign money. I now believe all three are likely possible.
I listened to all sides and reached the conclusion that CM Rodriguez had the potential to make a great prime sponsor, a strong voice and champion of our bill. My final approval would be determined by his actions when the bill had a public hearing. It is at hearings that the lobbies scheme the most with lawmakers to take control of the narrative, deny economic justice and rig the system to control the final outcome of a hearing. In our lobby controlled City Hall, every bill’s fate is determined prior to any hearing by corrupt lobby controlled lawmakers.
After unethical lawmakers colluded and rigged the system for over a decade to protect the profits of real estate fat cats, they would never allow an honest hearing at City Hall. The hearing on Oct 22, 2018 was the most shameful anti-democratic hearing ever held at City Hall. Speaker Johnson allowed the lobby to hand pick the Small Business Committee Chairman, stack the committee to favor the power brokers, and turned the entire organization structure of the hearing over to the real estate lobby to fabricate a sham hearing.*
The hearing was disgraceful and a blatant discrimination against immigrant family owned businesses and any citizen wanting good government. For the reason the hearing was a total real estate lobby sham, for the first time in 12 hearings I was forced to call for a boycott.
The real estate lobby put on a show of the most powerful and wealthy people testifying in opposition of the Jobs Survival Act. This sham hearing’s goal was to stop any vote on the Jobs Survival Act and distract away from any real solution to save businesses. After the hearing they planned to have CM Rodriguez water down the bill to where it would be useless, keep the status quo and easily pass it.
What would prime sponsor CM Rodriguez do at this critical hearing? He surprised his critics when he did great for our cause and bill. He showed the political will and courage to stand up for the bill. In fact, at the hearing he was the only council-member not touting the real estates’ false narrative and playbook.
CM Rodriguez announced that he got the Progressive and Black, Latino/a, and Asian Caucuses of the City Council to endorse his bill.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez testified :
“ We are here to get the Small Business Jobs Survival Act across the finish line.”
“ The goal of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act is simple, to protect small businesses and address the large number of forced closings happening across the city.”
“ We are now experiencing a crisis in our small businesses which cannot wait any longer to address.”
“ The Small Business Jobs Survival Act is the only real solution to stop the closings of long established small businesses.”
After the hearing, and knowing he was not going to allow our bill to be watered down, I was fully committed to promoting him as the only real hope to save our small businesses and jobs. I thought we finally had a strong prime sponsor not controlled by the Speaker or lobbies, who recognized the dire plight of immigrant family owned businesses and who was committed to fight for a vote on our bill.
I took him before the Korean media, a forum in Queens and wrote an OP-ED to announce that ““I call upon all the city’s immigrant communities to fully support and trust Councilman Rodriguez, because he is a strong voice for immigrant rights and will fight to see they receive justice and fair treatment at City Hall. He is committed to fight for the passage of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, our only hope to save our businesses. ”
CM Rodriguez made strong statements confirming his passion for justice for immigrant families and his commitment to move our bill to a vote.
CM Ydanis Rodriguez statements: “For years, even before being elected, I have advocated for the rights of immigrant families who are not respected by government for their contributions to our local economy. They are treated as second-class citizens and their problems have been ignored. Immigrants own the majority of small businesses and thus create the majority of immigrant jobs in New York City. They face a crisis to survive, which means their workers also face a crisis to survive.”
CM Rodriguez declares, “I said I am open to changes if they offer a better solution to stop the closings. But this bill was written to give rights to commercial tenants when their leases expired, rights needed to keep long-established good businesses who are willing and able to pay a fair rent in business, and rights needed to negotiate fair lease terms.
It’s a tenants’ rights bill and, as such, any changes that would take away the rights of the tenants would be nonnegotiable because the changes would harm the intent of the law.”
Political savvy New Yorkers are likely thinking, after my dealing with unethical ambitious lawmakers for over 30 years, and betrayed many times, how could I be so fooled into believing and trusting the political rhetoric of a pawn of the Speaker?
With the citywide crisis growing out of control and mostly immigrant owners being abused, extorted, rent gouged, given only shorter cruel length of leases, and forced to pay their landlord’s growing property taxes why trust a lawmaker selected by lobby controlled Speaker Johnson? A politician who also is controlled by Adriano Espaillat’s powerful Uptown machine?
I trusted Ydanis based partly upon the history of the alliance between the Dominican and Korean merchants in early times. It was this strong alliance beginning in 1984 that lead the protests against the injustice at City Hall and outcry for a vote on the original Jobs Survival Act. The birth of the fight for our bill was born in Washington Heights. The center for protests to revise the bill in 2009 was Washington Heights, Our government has covered up the reality that the majority of our small businesses are owned by multi generational immigrant families, 64-68%. The Dominicans are the largest owners of Hispanic small businesses in NYC, by far. In the 1980's the fastest growing small businesses were Korean owned. Our alliance marched together at every rally and protest to give a strong voice for our cause. We were brothers in arms fighting for a common cause and for rights.
Another reason was the history of strong prime sponsorships by the council-members from Upper Manhattan, which included Ydanis’s district. Strong fighters for our bill included former prime and co prime sponsors CM Stanley Michels, Guillermo Linares and Robert Jackson.
Another reason for supporting Ydanis as the last chance to save our businesses was his own history as a leader for justice and rights. While Ydanis was in college he was a born leader to organize the students to protest against injustices and fight for rights. He was fearless in his standing against the establishment and corruption. In fact, his left leaning philosophy and activism reminded me of myself in my youthful days in college.
The last reason was his being a strong voice in 2008-09 in leading marches and rally’s to City Hall and testifying at hearings and forums, always calling for a vote on our bill. He was the only voice calling for an end to the illegal extortion of mostly immigrant owners by unscrupulous landlords.
After the Oct 2018 hearing, I believed CM Ydanis Rodriguez had the political will to stand up to the Speaker and the real estate lobby and demand economic justice and rights for our small businesses. For me, it was not conceivable that CM Ydanis Rodriguez, being an immigrant himself and knowing how vital small businesses, and the jobs created, were to Dominican families here and in the Dominican Republic, would ever turn his back on them. Regrettably, I was wrong in my trust and judgment, CM Ydanis Rodriguez betrayed his own ethnic community, country and the very principles of progressive values.
Over the last four years I have spent more time at the hospital than at home. Therefore, I was not fully able at times to monitor CM Rodriguez’s commitment to gain a vote on our bill. The decade long prior unresolved crisis and today’s virus crisis puts the focus only upon actions to save small businesses and not empty insincere words. Actions matter, especially in a crisis! CM Rodriguez had no actions to move the Jobs Survival Act. In truth, 99% of small business owners in his own district did not know the bill even existed! At no time during the worst crisis facing our businesses did he even mention the Jobs Survival Act as a lifeline for businesses that should be quickly voted on.
At the Oct 2018 hearing Speaker Johnson pledged to amend our bill to exclude coverage for Fortune 500 type companies and move it to a vote. The bill, with then 29 sponsors would easily pass. The advocates would not fight against this proposed amendment. We know it was only a last minute “red herring” from the lobby for an excuse to change the bill after the hearing. Does anyone believe Goldman Sachs or J. P. Morgan, needs protection from our bill?
This change, if not challenged, would mean one paragraph in the scope section of the bill. An estimated change requiring one to two hours at best. Speaker Johnson lied and never intended to amend the bill and move it to a vote. As prime sponsor of the Jobs Survival Act, when was CM Rodriguez going to pressure Speaker Johnson to hurry up with the changes so the bill could be voted on? Sadly, and disgracefully CM Rodriguez would never demand Johnson to keep his word and amend his bill! To this day, even with businesses facing two crises, CM Rodriguez has refused to confront Speaker Johnson with keeping his word and changing the Jobs Survival Act so a vote could be taken!
Instead of moving the Jobs Survival Act for a vote, rigging was happening at City Hall to promote 5 useless Real Estate lobby created substitute bills for the Jobs Survival Act. As prime sponsor where was the outcry that none of these lobby bills would save a single businesses and instead was wasting time to throw a real lifeline. Where was the notice to all lawmakers that CM Rodriguez stated at the hearing, “ The Small Business Jobs Survival Act is the only real solution to stop the closings of long established small businesses.”
CM Rodriguez at the Oct hearing, “ We are now experiencing a crisis in our small businesses which cannot wait any longer to address.”
Why has CM Rodriguez waiting for over 2 and half years and two crises and still refuses to call for a vote on the only true lifeline to save our businesses? This is not how the prime sponsor of the only real solution acts in a growing crisis. Nothing but silence.
The act that best exposed CM Rodriguez’s betrayal of our small businesses as well as his actively joining in the rigging to stop any vote on the Jobs Survival Act happened in Oct 2019. On Oct 30, 2019 CM Rodriguez was placed on the Small Business Committee, a bad sign for our cause. For over 10 years the real estate lobby has hand picked the Chair and stacked this committee with cronies they control and will always go along with the lobby’s agenda. The Speaker controls the committees and the lobbies control the Speaker.
CM Rodriguez was the only immigrant and only Hispanic representative on the committee. The 5 member committee had three members from Manhattan ( Rosenthal, Perkins and Rodriguez). Why would the real estate lobby put the prime sponsor of the bill they never wanted to be voted on, on the Small Business Committee?
That answer came two weeks later on 11/14/2019 when CM Levin introduced the next distraction, a Commercial Rent Control bill that was secretly cooked up by the real estate lobby to stop any vote on the Jobs Survival Act. Normally, any prime sponsor would be outraged and hold a press conference to demand the bill be withdrawn. This lobby bill was a clear violation of Council rules of never allowing two bills with the same intent to be introduced at the same time. This was outrageous rigging in plain sight by the Speaker in collusion with the lobby. What was CM Rodriguez’s response to this substitute bill to stop a vote on his bill? Dead silence, no comment, which explains why he was put on the Small Business Committee two weeks prior to the lobby’s bill being introduced. Yes, shameful and appalling.
Our coalition joined other advocates to attack this anti democratic bill. A disgraceful collusion and rigging act, a fake bill clearly written by the real estate lobby to deny economic justice to our small business owners. But CM Rodriguez, as prime sponsor never once joined our outcry against the injustice of this lobby legislation.
I knew in late 2019 from CM Rodriguez being put on the Small Business Committee prior to the lobby’s fake bill and his silent reaction to the rigging that he betrayed our small business that he had no empathy for the dire plight of our small business owners. That he would never call for a vote on the Jobs Survival Act. As prime sponsor, he is the only one that can call for a vote, he had flipped and sold out our businesses for his own political career. CM Rodriguez had chosen the side of the immoral and corrupted lobby’s crony lawmakers at City Hall. CM Rodriguez was not going to keep the American Dream alive for our small business owners.
The complete collapse of integrity and moral conscience at City Hall, a body controlled by an out of control lobby makes me fearful the only lifeline to save our small businesses was in the wrong hands and would never be voted on. Therefore, I did something I never would have ever considered at anytime for 30 years, I would compromise the bill to save as many owners as possible. Also, I would compromise the bill to gain as many rights as possible for the owners when their leases expired. With the betrayal of our prime sponsor this left no options for our cause.
April 9, 2020
Open Letter *
48 Hours to Save the Future of Our City’s Small Businesses and Prevent an Economic Tsunami.
I wrote an open letter* to the Speaker and CM Rodriguez requesting the three of us sit and compromise legislation that gives our business owners a fighting chance to survive before Covid hit NYC small businesses with a tsunami.
I asked CM Rodriguez to put pressure on the Speaker to work with us to end the city’s small business crisis. Also, that we fully understood the real negotiations would be with the real estate lobby who controlled the Speaker. Sadly, there was no reply to our request to negotiate a lifeline to save some of our businesses. The mantra at City Hall was set in stone, NO REGULATION OF COMMERCIAL LANDLORDS when a lease expires.
With our small business owners facing now two crises to survive and the collusion and rigging at City Hall denying them a real lifeline, we tried another “Hell Mary”.
In May we decided to amend the bill ourselves to satisfy what Speaker Johnson had promised to do and move it to a vote. With the virus in full force in NYC, the time was right to amend the bill to eliminate any protection for Fortune 500 type companies, of which the majority were located in Manhattan. Therefore we sent recommendation to CM Rodriguez to amend the bill to protect 99% of small businesses but limit the coverage above the ground floors in downtown Manhattan, where the big companies were located. Later we could amend the bill again to include everyone. He agreed that the changes would not exclude protections and rights to any businesses above 96th Street in Manhattan. And all storefront businesses in Manhattan would be protected.
As the prime sponsor, on May 5, 2020 CM Rodriguez submitted the changes to the Jobs Survival Act to the Council’s legal. These changes in no manner changed the intent of the bill, only specific locations would be impacted. We concluded that once the bill was amended as Speaker Johnson had expressed publicly at the hearing, then there was no rational reason not to bring it to a vote, again as he pledged. Speaker Johnson at this time was running for Mayor and would have a difficult time explaining why the amended bill could not be voted on.
To this day, the Jobs Survival Act has never been amended as the prime sponsor requested! WHY!!! More betrayal and more rigging to cover up the corruption at City Hall. From the old bill :
§ 22-1202 Scope. This chapter applies only to all commercial lease renewals for a commercial premises.
New amended change: § 22-1202 Scope. This chapter applies [only] to all commercial lease renewals in the borough of Manhattan above both sides of 96th Street from Broadway to Central Park West and above 96th Street and 5th Ave to 96th Street and 1st Ave. to the tip of Manhattan for a commercial premises. Below 96th Street from river to river on every street and cross streets: including side streets, short blocks, and industrial zoned streets, to the FDR Drive, only street level business fronts’ commercial leases will apply to this law. In the Boroughs of Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and Brooklyn all commercial leases shall apply on any occasion wherein a landlord and tenant are required to negotiate the terms of a lease renewal for commercial uses the provisions of this chapter apply. The provisions of this chapter apply to any landlord and current tenant whose lease expired on or after June 1, 2020.
Never once since May 2020 has CM Ydanis Rodriguez demanded the changes to his bill be made so the bill can be moved to a vote!
The final betrayal of our small businesses by CM Rodriguez may be the most despicable act ever committed by a prime sponsor. On April 29, 2021, Small Business Committee member CM Rosenthal, at the request of Manhattan President Gale Brewer, introduced a bill that was disguised to look like a simple lease guidelines for storefront businesses. The truth was it was a substitute for the Jobs Survival Act for commercial lease renewal process.
It was another landlord’s bill to keep the status quo and give no real rights to the business owners. It was a violation of the council rules in having the same intent legislation at the same time. Like the lobby’s Commercial Rent Control bill, CM Rodriguez again remained silent on this shameful rigging to substitute a landlord’s bill for our tenant’s right bill. What is so deplorable in CM Rodriguez’s lack of protest is the reality that on this coming Dec.31, 2021 all legislation expires and has to be reintroduced in the new Council.
I feel the game plan for the real estate lobby is to not reintroduce the Jobs Survival Act but instead to substitute the new lobby’s landlords bill. How repulsive and despicable that after over 30 years of fighting for the Jobs Survival Act to keep it alive and offer hope to save our businesses that it the bill’s prime sponsor CM Rodriguez that would sit by unopposed allowing the Jobs Survival Act to be killed forever?
It is highly likely that the unethical Speaker Johnson, when running for Mayor, asked CM Rodriguez to never expose the Speaker’s role in rigging to stop a vote on the Jobs Survival Act and importantly never to press for a vote on his bill.
As the head of Latinos for Adams did candidate Eric Adams ask CM Rodriguez to follow Speaker Johnson’s request and never ask for a vote on the Jobs Survival Act? Like Speaker Johnson, Eric Adams big campaign donors would be upset with a vote. You be the judge on CM Rodriguez’s ethics and integrity. What possible reason would CM Rodriguez have for refusing to call for a vote?
The actions of the prime sponsor CM Rodriguez show conclusively he can never be trusted to stand up to the real estate lobby or corrupt party machine. The outcome of his betrayal can be seen in the results of a new Bodega immigrant family business study*.
83% cannot survive without immediate government intervention .
41% were extorted for cash by landlords.
69% faced a crisis to survive prior to the Coronavirus crisis.
94% cannot survive by paying both high rents and high landlord’s property taxes
I fear my promoting him as a champion of immigrant rights put in jeopardy the future survival of every small business owner, as well as the jobs of their employees. For my foolish act I again apologize.
All CM Rodriguez had to do is stand up and fight, hold press conferences and organize and DEMAND a VOTE and PASSAGE NOW! But here we are, and all we have is the same old SILENCE while record businesses are shuttered across our city when the JOBS SURVIVAL ACT already sitting there with 28 sponsors can SOLVE the crisis, save jobs, save communities, save tens of thousands of businesses and instead, nothing, while the bill fades away with the tens of thousands of lost businesses; and the new Landlord's reincarnation distraction fake bill will come forward in 2022 and not save one job or one business. I am sad but very sorry.