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.
So how about we channel our outrage for only potentially losing 200 high paying jobs a month into outrage for actually losing 8,000 jobs a month for working class New Yorkers?
Let’s ask City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and our Council members why they continue to sit on their hands while a commercial tenants rights bill called the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA) that will address the crisis of long established business closings, is still being blocked by the real estate lobby from reaching the floor for a vote?
Every elected official echoes the sentiment that “small businesses are the backbone of our economy” and that is true. So why won’t our government give our economic backbone the same priority and attention that it gave to the world’s richest man?
When small businesses thrive, they create more jobs that will contribute to our city and state’s tax revenues. Let’s not cry over what could have been with Amazon; let’s stop the bleeding of 8,000 jobs every month in New York City and demand our City Council pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.