By Sabina Mollot
The Small Business Jobs and Survival Act is getting a new lease on life, or at least, a new sponsor.
Earlier this month, Steve Barrison, an advocate of the legislation and executive vice president of the Small Business Congress, explained that as of the new year, the bill was “dead” as it was without a prime sponsor. This is because its last sponsor, Annabel Palma, was term-limited out. However, last Thursday, the bill was reintroduced by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez of Upper Manhattan, although there was no hearing held. Rodriguez was previously the legislation’s secondary sponsor so becoming prime sponsor was, while not automatic, an expected move, a spokesperson for Rodriguez told us this week.
The rep, Stephanie Miliano, added that the Council member supports it due to the citywide problem of mom-and-pops being ousted by landlords hoping for higher-rent paying chains and banks. Abusive landlords were another reason. “We have to make sure tenants have some protections,” said Miliano.
“As the region with the highest number and concentration of small businesses, we have a responsibility to ensure they stay open,” said Rodriguez in an official statement. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and are major employers. They’re a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of our city and our immigrant communities. The pizzerias, the bodegas, the hardware stores, the Jewish bakeries, the Indian restaurants, among many others have all shaped the character and culture of New York City that must be protected. I look forward to working with Speaker Corey Johnson and my colleagues to strengthen our small businesses.”
Kirsten Theodos, a spokesperson for the Take Back NYC coalition, which supports the SBJSA, cheered the news of a new sponsor.
“Small businesses rejoice that the same bill SBJSA was introduced and hope the bill will finally get a fair hearing and vote.”
Previously, Barrison said the bill’s supporters were concerned the long-stalled bill would somehow get watered down upon reintroduction.
David Eisenbach of Friends of the SBJSA was also relieved.
“This bill, which gives rights to commercial tenants in the lease negotiation process is the only real solution to solving the effects of High Rent Blight,” he said. “We look forward to working with Council Member Rodriguez, Speaker Corey Johnson and the rest of the City Council to make sure this historic legislation passes.”
According to Miliano, the next move for the bill is for it to be heard by the Committee on Small Businesses, but there is not yet a set date for that. Additionally, the chair of that committee, Mark Gjonaj hasn’t said he supports the bill. As a spokesperson for Gjonaj recently explained it, “And while he applauds the aim of SBJSA, in its current form, he does not believe that it will be the best vehicle to provide long-term relief to businesses struggling with rising costs, overly burdensome government regulations and unfair competition from corporate chains and internet retailers.”
Council Member Keith Powers has previously said he expects the SBJSA to get a hearing sometime this year.
The legislation, which has been around in some form or another for the past 30 years, has been blasted as unconstitutional by the Real Estate Board of New York. If passed, it would make arbitration mandatory in cases where landlords and commercial tenants can’t come to an agreement when it’s time for lease renewal with the goal being to get tenants in good standing an automatic 10-year lease renewal.