The following is an open letter to Public Advocate Letitia James from Sung Soo Kim, founder of The Small Business Congress. The letter has been edited for length.
Honorable Public Advocate James:
Recently, Councilman Ydanis Rodriquez as prime sponsor reintroduced the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. This bill has the same language, word for word, as the one you proudly sponsored and championed at times in 2009, 2010 and 2014 as Public Advocate. It’s the same bill that you touted over the year’s at citywide events as the best solution to stop the closing of our small businesses and end their crisis and address the “Malling of Main Street.”
The new speaker of the Council, Corey Johnson, has pledged a public hearing on the bill, as well as finding a real solution to end the crisis. While small business advocates applaud this commitment, we are cautiously guarded in hoping our city’s small businesses finally, after eight long years, receive evenhanded and just treatment at City Hall.
Our skepticism of gaining justice at City Hall is grounded in the bill’s unfair treatment in the past. The last public hearing on this bill, which you were present, showed “good government” at its best. Then Chairman David Yassky asked the administration for solutions to stop the store closings and made it clear there was “no option to do nothing or our small businesses would disappear.” At the end, the entire committee did something when they unanimously selected the Small Business Survival Act as the best solution to save our businesses and jobs.
What happened after the hearing was a mockery of democracy and “bad government” controlled by special interests. The vote on the Survival Act was stopped by a bogus legal roadblock cooked up with collusion between the Speaker’s office and REBNY. This collusion began the Rigging the system which for the past eight years has stopped any legislation giving rights to commercial tenants when their leases expire. Rights needed to survive in today’s out of control speculative rental market.
The city’s desperate small business owners, especially our immigrant families, are calling upon you, in your role as public advocate, for help to assure our small businesses receive economic justice in their quest to pass legislation which offers a real solution to end their crisis.
Therefore, to assure justice for our small business owners and to prevent a repeat of the betrayal of democracy and grave travesty of justice that occurred after the last hearing on the same bill, we ask you to conduct an independent comprehensive policy report on the constitutionality of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. And if honest legitimate legal issues are substantiated by case law, to recommend amendments to the bill which would remedy any legal concerns.
If those who made this legal challenge are likewise willing to produce substantiating legal findings for your project, the final report should be promptly recommended prior to a public hearing on the bill.
Respectfully, we ask you to consider our request for this Legal Review Policy of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act prior to a public hearing on the bill and restore democracy and economic justice for our hard working small business families and their employees.