Letters to the editor, Mar. 21

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

It’s time to pay the pied-a-piper

I Googled Peter Wunsch of Gramercy (author of letter, “Forget the tax, just cut spending,” T&V, Mar. 14), written in response to “Council pushing pied a terre tax,” T&V, Feb. 28.

It appears his family is a dynasty of “old money” wealth and has had quite a privileged life. I guess he doesn’t want to pay the tax on his continuing good fortune. He is also not informed of the facts – pied-a-terre taxes are not financing city workers retirement. Does he think that these folks should have free Police Department, Fire Department, ambulance, etc. services?

Be advised that city employees cannot retire at age 50; the minimum age is 57+ and the pension amount is based on number of qualified years worked. He should check the NYCERS website for details of the pension plan for city workers. City workers are required to contribute to their pension plan. The average city employee doesn’t get wealthy from their city salary (no annual bonuses, either) but civil servants do earn benefits in retirement (not financed by taxpayers).

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Opinion: Forget Amazon and help mom and pop

By Kirsten Theodos of Take Back NYC

After the big news that Amazon was canceling its plan to build its new headquarters “HQ2” in Long Island City, activists and local elected officials celebrated it as a victory while others viewed it as a tragic collapse. The biggest complaint has been the loss of 25,000 promised jobs over the next decade.

Meanwhile, on every Main Street in every neighborhood across the city, there are empty storefronts where once-thriving businesses existed. Are supporters of the Amazon deal aware that New York City courts evict 500 businesses every month and over 1,000 are estimated to close every month, mostly due to high rents? Eighty-nine percent of all small businesses in NYC are considered “very small,” meaning they employ less than 20 people. Conservatively using eight as the average, that means New York City loses at least 8,000 jobs every month.

There are people lamenting over potentially having lost 200 new Amazon jobs per month when our city already sheds over 8,000 per month, which the Amazon deal would have exacerbated. And while it is true that online shopping has altered the retail landscape (namely by Amazon itself), it is the unfair lease renewal process that is shuttering our long established small businesses. Just on my block a ramen restaurant, a bike repair shop and pizza place were all forced to close due to an exorbitant rent hike upon their lease renewal, and none of them competed with Amazon.

Small businesses employ more than half of NYC’s private sector workforce. They provide jobs that offer a path to social mobility and in New York City are predominantly immigrant owned. Unlike Amazon’s imported tech bros, small businesses employ actual New Yorkers who live in our communities.

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City talks shop as lawmakers move to help mom-and-pops

Ahead of a hearing on several small business bills, City Council members including Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal (pictured with supporters), hold a rally at City Hall. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The City Council is mulling a package of legislation aimed at protecting mom-and-pops that ranges from creating a registry to track storefront vacancies to providing affordable retail spaces at developments where owners collect $1 million or more in subsidies.

On Monday, the bills were debated at a hearing chaired by the City Council Small Businesses Committee Chair Mark Gjonaj, after a rally on the front steps of City Hall.

The piece of legislation that would require the city to maintain a vacancy registry is being sponsored by Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Carlina Rivera, Ben Kallos and Mark Levine as well as Speaker Corey Johnson. The registry would include the location of the property, the reasons for the vacancy, the owner’s name, contact information for the property and the day it became vacant. Property owners would be expected to register once a property is vacant for more than 90 days. Failure to register would result in a penalty of $1,000 for every week after that.

Another bill, sponsored by Rosenthal and Johnson, would require the city to maintain a database of commercial properties.

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