City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Helen Rosenthal have been doggedly pushing a bill that if passed would give some relief to many of the Manhattan retailers who are forced to pay Commercial Rent Tax. The tax, they’ve argued, is discriminatory as it punishes retailers and restaurants for the crime of doing business below 96th Street and above Chambers. We have to say, we agree it’s obviously unfair, and we hope the legislation doesn’t face any obstacles in getting signed.
However, as any Manhattan storefronter can attest to, taxes are just the tip of the iceberg. Amazon is an ever-present competitor and the rent is too damn high with commercial tenants not having much in the way of bargaining power when it’s lease renewal time.
Rosenthal, following the press conference that was held for the CRT bill, said the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which is aimed at giving business owners an automatic ten-year lease renewal, is being looked at by the council’s counsel. The legislation has been languishing for decades though recently it has gained steam as neighbors have grown weary of seeing their local small businesses get pushed out by chains.
Later, a legislative rep at the office of Council Member Annabel Palma, the prime sponsor of the bill, told us while he isn’t aware of any legal research being done presently, there is currently a push to get business-oriented organizations involved in putting more constituent pressure behind the bill. There were, at last count, 27 Council members in support of it. However, due to concerns by critics that it is unconstitutional, it has yet to have a hearing, something Palma would like to see happen before the summer.
We hope getting this bill a hearing won’t take much longer than it already has. If the bill has legal issues, as critics such as the Real Estate Board of New York believe, then a hearing in the City Council chamber would be the best venue to explain why this is the case. (Since no one has explained it yet.) Then, if needed, the bill could be tweaked.
Meanwhile, everyday citizens also have a role to play here, and that’s shopping locally. Unless products at local businesses are overpriced or just not goods/services you’re interested in, there’s no reason to turn to the internet first just to find the cheapest option. Doing so on a regular basis speeds up the already present urban plagues of chainification and high rent retail blight. Remember, if you don’t vote (with your wallet), you don’t get to complain.