The recent statements made by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson about wanting to see the Small Business Jobs Survival Act get a hearing, after being blocked for many years, should be encouraging news to anyone who owns a small business or enjoys patronizing them.
In this column, we’ve shared our support for this piece of legislation, which is aimed at getting commercial tenants an automatic lease extension when it’s time to renew despite some unexplained claims that it’s unconstitutional.
What we are asking now though is that the SBJSA finally get that hearing.
If council members continue to just talk about it (or not) then we really don’t see how they aren’t willfully ignoring the systematic annihilation of mom-and-pop shops.
What we don’t need is another study on why storefronts are vacant. We know perfectly well why. Amazon, while a game changer for sure, isn’t solely responsible for murdering brick and mortar stores. Astronomical rents and warehousing of retail spaces by speculative owners are still the biggest problems.
On a block north of Town & Village’s office in Flatiron, four small, adjoining stores in one building were recently shuttered to make room for a new Bank of America, which wanted to expand from the small ATM hub it was already inhabiting at the property. Two of the businesses that were there were forced to move, while a jewelry store that was there is still looking for an affordable space in the neighborhood, and another of the businesses, a location of clothing retailer Pinkyotto, simply closed.
In and of itself these stories aren’t tragic, but they become so when it’s a pattern repeated all over the city. And no local elected official will deny that it is.
So, since landlords in this city can’t be relied on to be realistic about what small businesses can actually afford to pay in rent, the ball is now in the court of the City Council and the mayor to end this toxic, unbalanced relationship and transfer some power to the city’s commercial tenants.
Council Member Keith Powers, who has said he would like to see the SBJSA get a hearing, told us this week he expects it to come to the floor sometime in 2018.
Hopefully it won’t be too late.