Opinion: A litmus test for small businesses

By Sung Soo Kim, founder of the Small Business Congress

It took 9 years for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (Jobs Act) to get a hearing in the City Council. Why the delay when the Jobs Act was unanimously selected at its last hearing in June 2009 as the best solution to stop the closing of small businesses by the entire Small Business Committee and had 32 sponsors? How is it possible in a progressive council to deny justice on a bill for 9 years, the only real solution, that would save the “backbone of our economy and creators of the majority of resident’s jobs? Would progressive lawmakers who pledged to promote progressive legislation if elected remain silent and complicit for 9 years to the rigging by REBNY to stop any rights to small business owners to survive?

 Even with the NYC courts issuing 52,314 warrants to evict commercial businesses since 2009, and long established businesses forced to close in record numbers and empty storefronts appearing on every main street where once thriving businesses were, our progressive lawmakers did “nothing” for 9 years to save a single business or job. This fact by itself is a good reason to be skeptical of any bills suddenly created after doing nothing for so long and with a real solution bottled up in committee.

After the last hearing on the Jobs Act, former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn colluded with REBNY to cook up a bogus legal roadblock to stop any vote or fair treatment of the Jobs Act. She started the rigging that allowed REBNY to hijack our democracy and the Jobs Act and was responsible for the origin of the small business crisis today. This answers the question of why self-proclaimed progressive lawmakers allowed this economic injustice and catastrophe to happen and allowed the destruction of our small businesses. Face the truth, when it comes to economic policy, democracy does not exist at City Hall, only oligarchy serving the wealthy few.

A hearing was held in October 2018 but not just on the Jobs Act, as it should have been, or just on finding a solution to stop the closings of small businesses, as it should have been. Instead, this hearing was orchestrated by Councilmember Mark Gjonaj, a real estate owner and opponent of tenants’ rights. The hearing was the opposite of the last hearing by then-Chairman David Yassky, who was committed to passing legislation that would save small businesses. Chairman Yassky called upon the Small Business Services and the Economic Development Corporation to work with his committee to find a solution.

SBS and the EDC opposed giving rights to business owners when their leases expire and refused to offer any solutions to Yassky’s committee. Nine years later, and with a worsening small business crisis, SBS and EDC again opposed giving rights and refused to offer any solutions to save a single business.

The critical question for all advocates on the Jobs Act and the future of our small businesses and addressing the small business crisis is this: is REBNY still the boss at City Hall or are there “born again progressives” who will stand up and shake off the shackles REBNY put on them?

Ignore the political theater and disingenuous rhetoric of how important our small businesses are. If they are so important to our economy, why are they facing a crisis to survive in NYC? Instead, be skeptical of the power of REBNY at City Hall and read between the lines of any substitute for the Jobs Act.

To get to the truth, follow these litmus tests of lawmakers’ bills or initiatives claiming to help small businesses.

  1. If the words “retail storefronts” is in any bill or initiatives, it guarantees to be REBNY created. For over 30 years this phrase has been the mantra of REBNY.
  2. One word immediately will expose the true intent of a lawmakers’ action that word is “rights.” One process at the root cause of the majority of small businesses forced closings is the unfair commercial lease renewal process. If a lawmaker’s bill or initiative has nothing to do with the commercial lease renewal process or gives no rights to the small business owners when their leases expire, then the bill or act was intended to keep the status quo and not address the small business crisis.
  3. Another litmus test is if a lawmakers’ bill or initiative empowers the SBS to make a decision on behalf of small businesses. The SBS is the most anti-small business agency in America. For 10 years, the SBS shamefully joined in the rigging with REBNY and the Speaker’s Office to deny justice to small business owners and cover-up the consequences to small business owners of years of unchecked hyper speculation in real estate and the greed it produced on main street.
  4. The last litmus test is if a lawmaker calls for a study or commission, that is 100% REBNY created. For over 30 years, these fake studies and commissions were at the center of REBNY’s playbook to stop the Jobs Act. The first was the Small Retail Study Commission in 1985, which advocates rightly called the “Limousine Commission” because its members arrived in meetings in Limousines. Handpicked by Mayor Koch and Speaker Vallone, the members were bank presidents, founder of a Wall Street firm, owners of real estate companies, big businesses etc. Their findings were called the Landlords bills and no lawmaker would introduce them.

The city has 76 BIDS and could in one hour have a record of every empty store and report/assessment of their shopping strip. The way good government should work and true progressives should act was when the USA Latin Small Business Study proved a crisis existed in NYC. Leaders do not call for useless studies in time of a crisis they call for solutions.

The good news for New Yorkers who are demanding good government and a return to true democracy at City Hall is that the small business crisis is exposing the fake progressives and REBNY cronies in government. Every time a lawmaker introduces one of these absurd and insulting bills or worthless initiatives, they are showing who they really serve.

Read a lawmakers’ bills with skepticism and if any litmus test is present, do not give your support. Small business owners deserve better. Until someone introduces a better bill than the Jobs Act that gives rights to renewal 10 year leases, equal rights with landlords to negotiate fair lease terms, rights to an arbitration process with guidelines that proved successful and will stop the closing of small businesses, then continue supporting the Jobs Act.

One thought on “Opinion: A litmus test for small businesses

  1. Community activists need to use the Jobs Act to expose the REBNY cronies at City Hall.
    Once exposed to realize the only way to restore democracy and save our local economy is to get behind new candidates for office. Candidates who are true progressives and independent of the corrupt party machine. People who are honest and care about others.
    Candidates who refuse both REBNY money and being manipulated by big PR and political consulting firms. There is no other choice in our one party city where corruption in part of politics.

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