Editorial: Small businesses are everyone’s business

Businesses, particularly small ones that help shape a neighborhood’s identity, are always on the minds of New Yorkers, who’ve grown weary of seeing them disappear in favor of banks and chain stores.

However, there are, finally, some opportunities to help small businesses. One opportunity is of course, presented by the more pleasant weather that comes with spring (well, hopefully soon, anyway) and the chance to check out all the new places to shop, eat or drink that have popped up in the post-holiday months and to re-discover tried and true favorites.

Another opportunity New Yorkers have to help protect the retail diversity of the city is to reach out to elected officials and ask them to support legislation aimed at helping small businesses.

As reported in this week’s issue, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has drafted legislation that would give retail tenants a fighting chance at staying put when it comes time for lease renewal. It’s not exactly commercial rent control, but even giving small businesses the option of sitting down to negotiate rather than just allowing them to get abruptly kicked out would be a pretty significant shift of power.

A recently launched effort by blogger Jeremiah Moss of Vanishing New York called #Savenyc is aimed at collecting people’s stories about their favorite small businesses, which, like waiting lists for affordable apartments, seem to be a dying breed.

And here at Town & Village, we’d like to think we’re no slouches about supporting local merchants and restaurants either, with monthly new local business roundups and also the Shopping Local series of articles profiling businesses both old and new. While we’ve let that series, begun in the months after Hurricane Sandy, lapse, we are proud to announce its return in upcoming issues. If you’re the owner of a small business we haven’t yet gotten to, or if you know of a business you think deserves some publicity, please send your suggestions to us at editor@townvillage.net.

8 thoughts on “Editorial: Small businesses are everyone’s business

  1. Sorry, but Brewer’s bill does next to nothing for small businesses who can’t come to terms with landlords upon lease renewal: it goes to mediation and if mediation fails, the small business gets a one year extension at up to a 15% rent increase before getting the boot.

    I believe this weak tea is being served up to distract from a far more effective bill that has languished in the City Council since the mid 1980s. It’s called the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA). This bill would entitle commercial tenants in good standing to 10-year lease renewals. If the landlord and tenant cannot reach terms, then there would be nonbinding mediation, to be followed, if necessary, by binding arbitration. The legislation mandates no minimum or maximum caps on rent increases.

    Right now the bill has 14 sponsors in the City Council. That’s not enough to bring the bill up for a vote. Five years ago there were 32 sponsors but Speaker Christine Quinn refused to let the measure come to the floor for a vote.

    Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed during his campaign that the SBJSA isn’t legal but small business advocates disagree, citing a legal panel that specifically assessed those concerns five years ago. The panel found that the SBJSA is constitutional and would withstand legal challenge.

    So why hasn’t the SBJSA been brought up for a vote in 30 years? The answer’s easy: the Real E$tate Industry opposes it. Tell REBNY to go to hell. Demand that our city councilman, Dan Garodnick, co-sponsor the SBJSA and push Brewer, the mayor and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to support the SBJSA. #SaveNYC

  2. Dan Garodnick, why aren’t you telling us how you feel about the SBJSA? Still feeling beholden to Gale Brewer? Either you’re for small businesses or you’re not. Please tell us.

  3. @DanGarodnick The plight of small biz in our city has reached a crisis point Pass 402-2014 #SaveNYC

  4. Huge mistakes in this article, Jeremiah Moss’ latest effort is NOT #SaveNewYork, it’s #SaveNYC and has its own FB page and can also be reached at savenyc.nyc. It’s NOT about “collecting people’s stories about their favorite small businesses,” it’s about getting the City Council to actually do something: passing the SBJSA (referenced in the other comments here). It’s about motivating people to insist that their elected representatives represent THEIR needs, not big business’ (read: national chains and Big Real Estate) to salvage what’s left of the real New York. Of course, if you don’t mind living in just another mall you’ll do nothing and read nothing. Then again, why live in New York if there’s no New York left to enjoy? It shouldn’t just be a mall for tourists.

  5. Town & Village Blog, would you consider endorsing the SBJSA? As the other commenters have pointed out, it is truly the only legislation on the table that actually has teeth: it offers binding arbitration, which could, overall, push commercial rents down; it offers a 10-year lease renewal, which is huge for all small businesses; it offers the basic right to renew, which actually doesn’t exist now for commercial leases; and finally, it extends to ALL commercial leases, not just storefront spaces, as the Brewer bill does. Tens of thousands of commercial leases are on upper floors, from artists in industrial buildings, to dentists, editors and accountants in office buildings. Everyone should understand that the arts are in crisis in this city: just like small businesses, artists are being strangled by unconscionable rent increases, and many of them are leaving NYC. The SBJSA has been exhaustively shown to be legal and constitutional: REBNY hates the bill, and will do and say whatever it takes to defeat it. Our elected officials need to hear from the people of NYC that we care about artists and mom & pop stores: and our city needs to remain affordable for all New Yorkers!

  6. Brewer’s plan doesn’t go far enough.
    The Small Business Jobs Survival #SBJSA does.
    Too bad that so many of our elected Councilpeople don’t have the guts to support it, at the risk of pissing off their real estate related donors.

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