Op-ED: SBJSA is Last Refuge For City’s Small Business Owners


Soon, a serious debate will take place in the New York City Council on the best solution to end the closing of long established small businesses caused by exorbitant rent increases, and to ensure they have a future in the city. To end the small business crisis and save the jobs of their employees, lawmakers will be deciding between two proposals with two different goals.

The first proposal is supported by our small business owners, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, (SBJSA) which gives the right to renew their commercial lease when it expires and rights to negotiate new fair lease terms.  With the majority (27 Council Members) sponsoring the SBJSA, this bill would easily pass into law if democracy were allowed to work and the bill got a vote by the full Council.  History has shown twice before that the influence and power of the real estate lobby in City Hall determines who gets democracy and justice by receiving a public hearing and vote on proposed legislation.

The second proposal which was presented by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and is expected to be introduced by Chairman of the Small Business Committee Robert Cornegy, gives only retail storefront business the right to extend their lease for one year at a 15% increase.  At all the small business forums I’ve been a Panelist on (Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx), the merchants unanimously rejected this as a landlord’s bill that would not stop the closing of a single business in the city or save a single job.  In fact, many business owners believe it will make the crisis worse by having businesses bid against other neighborhood businesses to stay in the neighborhood.

True ”Progressive” City Council members should not allow a rigged process at City Hall that has successfully denied small businesses a vote on legislation giving them rights to survive in business, for over 30 years.  Most recently in 2009, Speaker Quinn obstructed a vote on the same bill, which at that time had 32 Council Members sponsor it, including the unanimous support of the Committee on Small Business.  The real estate lobby has proven they can collaborate at City Hall with the elected officials who received unprecedented sums of Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY) money.  REBNY along with its compliant Council Members, has two goals:  to rig the process to prevent a vote on the SBJSA that gives rights to commercial tenants and to pass legislation that keeps the status quo, which protects windfall profits for landlords.

At the same time, Chairman Cornegy recently introduced Resolution 541, asking Albany to pass legislation giving tax credits to landlords who voluntarily do not rent gouge their tenants. But passing the buck to Albany, which is constantly under investigation for ties to the real estate industry, is hardly the solution – especially with the future of the city’s economic backbone at stake.

While the City Council does nothing or passes the buck to Albany, our small businesses face an existential threat. Currently, city courts are issuing an average 488 warrants to evict commercial tenants per month and an estimated 1,000 businesses are now closing every month. MBP Brewer best characterized the crisis faced by our city’s business owners, “the mom-and-pop crisis has intensified with a fury.”

Our city’s small business owners deserve a public hearing and vote on the SBJSA. This is the last chance our lawmakers will have to save what is left of NYC small businesses, before they become extinct.  Make your voice heard and stand with your small business owners and their employees and call Chairman Cornegy’s office and ask for an honest debate and that he support a real solution: the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.