SBJSA advocates rally for hearing

Council Member Carlina Rivera with with the bill’s supporters and its prime sponsor Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez at her left (Photo courtesy of Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez)

By Sabina Mollot

Small business activists are actively pushing for a hearing of the Small Business Jobs and Survival Act, which was reintroduced in the City Council in March under a new prime sponsor, Ydanis Rodriguez.

Representatives from various pro-SBJSA groups attended a hearing on the steps of City Hall last Wednesday, along with Rodriguez and fellow Council Member Carlina Rivera. Additionally, the coalition has continued to reach out to small businesses across the five boroughs as well as those who enjoy patronizing them, encouraging email to their local member of Council.

Harry Bubbins, East Village and special projects director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said hundreds of email forms to council members were sent through the GVSHP’s website. Additionally, since the bill was reintroduced, 12 council members have signed on as sponsors.

“They are responding to their local constituents as well as the needs of the city, the obvious crisis of retail spaces in the city,” Bubbins said.

However, while the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, has committed to hold a hearing, there has still not been a date set for this.

But according to Bubbins, there’s no reason to read into this. “You can have bills where every Council member is a sponsor. It doesn’t mean it’s going to have a hearing tomorrow,” he said.

Asked about a date, a spokesperson for Johnson told Town & Village this week a hearing was likely to take place in the coming months.

Groups with representation at last week’s rally included Friends of SBJSA, Take Back NYC, SaveNYC, NYS Coalition of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Dominicanos ProDefensa, East Village Community Coalition and NY Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

Rodriguez did not get back to Town & Village after an aide was asked for an update on movement on the bill.

However, in a written statement, he said, “More than half of all private sector jobs are provided by small businesses. Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy and a path to achieving the American dream for immigrants regardless of their nationality. It is our duty as elected officials and as a progressive, sanctuary city to bolster and strengthen our small business owners… It is time to get this done, listen to the stakeholders most affected by rising rents, and think innovatively about how we help our small businesses strive.”

Rodriguez became the bill’s sponsor following the previous one, Annabel Palma, being term-limited out. The SBJSA, around in some form for the past 30 years, aims to give commercial tenants in good standing an automatic 10-year lease extension. Critics of the bill, like the Real Estate Board of New York, have questioned its constitutionality.

Meanwhile, advocates of the bill have questioned its sponsor’s motives. One of the most vocal groups about the SBJSA, the Small Business Congress, prior to the bill’s introduction, suspected the legislation would get watered down in the Council. However, it was introduced without changes.

Still, the Small Business Congress, has maintained a wait-and-see approach rather than cheering the bill’s return. In an email sent to T&V on Friday, the group said it expects no less than “political theater” as REBNY tries to destroy the bill by convincing the Council to change it.

“SBC has first-hand experience over the decades with fake supporters of our bill. We have also experienced political champions of our bill like James, de Blasio, Mark Viverito, who flipped for their own political ambitions. Worst of all we have had prime sponsors betray the desperate business owners for pure greed. The number of advocate organizations who flipped and no longer support in public the SBJSA is huge. Candidates who were underdogs we endorsed, later flipped and stopped all mention of the bill,” the group wrote.

The group’s founder, Sung Soo Kim, has also, via letter, asked Public Advocate Letitia James to conduct an independent study on the bill’s constitutionality.

The SBC has also blasted the appointment of Mark Gjonaj as the City Council Small Business Committee chair, since he told T&V he doesn’t support the SBJSA in its current form and doesn’t believe it to be the solution to the small business crisis.

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