You'd think a law that would give small businesses a fighting chance against astronomical rents and the soulless chains willing to pay them would be an easy sell for a City Council chock-full of progressives and our supposedly liberal mayor.
Yet Mayor Bill de Blasio, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Robert Cornegy, the chairperson of the council's Committee on Small Business, won’t even allow the legislation to go before a committee hearing, even though 27 councilmembers support it. Why?
In short, because it would supremely piss off the powerful real estate interests that all major politicians in New York City must answer to, which makes it a total nonstarter. Debating the Small Business Jobs Survival act would start a conversation about the future of the city that no ambitious politician actually wants to have.
At 9 a.m. Friday morning, a group of community advocates will hold a rally outside City Hall to protest the mayor and the council's willful inaction on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which would give commercial tenants a ten-year minimum lease, as well as the right to renewal, and a right to go to arbitration to settle on a new rent.
The SBJSA has been kicking around in some form or another since commercial rent control died in New York City in 1963, and with it, the ability for a small business owner to have any sort of economic stability in New York City. Instead, they became subject to the whims of landlords and speculation, larger market forces that are able to take a vibrant, locally owned business district and completely clear it out, in just a few months.
"This isn’t a silver bullet of legislation," said Jenny Dubnau, an artist based in Long Island City, who’s a member of the Artist Studio Affordability Project (ASAP), an organization that aims to unite artists and small business owners who are each being displaced by commercial speculation. "All we’re asking for is some level of negotiating power. We need something to help us stop the bleeding."
Unlike rent-stabilized units, or rent-controlled apartments, under the SBJSA, there wouldn’t be state-dictated increases or freezes. However, the all-powerful Real Estate Board of New York has viewed even a discussion of the law as an affront to good manners, and gotten City Hall to label the proposed legislation as rent control.