Garodnick: Commercial Rent Tax bill would hardly cost city anything

Council Member Dan Garodnick, pictured with Borough President Gale Brewer and local business owners outside Whisk in Flatiron (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A day after Mayor de Blasio released his executive budget, a handful of local elected officials took the opportunity to push for legislation that would eliminate the Commercial Rent Tax for about 3,400 small business owners in Manhattan.

The bill, which is sponsored by Council Members Dan Garodnick and Helen Rosenthal, was first announced in 2015, and at this point has 35 co-sponsors in the Council.

If passed it would raise the threshold of rent retailers who must pay the tax from those paying $250,000 a year to $500,000 year. The tax, which was first implemented in 1963, only applies to Manhattan businesses between Chambers Street and 96th Street. Garodnick has said raising the rent threshold would help 40 percent of the businesses owners now paying the tax while only costing the city six percent of the revenue the tax brings in, about $4.5 million.

Natasha Amott, the owner of Whisk, a kitchen related goods shop in Flatiron, where the announcement on the bill was made last Thursday, said her CRT costs her $15,000 a year. This is on top of the $315,000 she pays in rent each year and another standard corporate tax.

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SCRIE/DRIE tenants could face reductions or elimination of benefits

Pol calls for moratorium on notices to recipients

Council Member Helen Rosenthal  (pictured at an anti-Airbnb rally earlier this year) is calling on the city to issue a moratorium on notices to SCRIE/DRIE tenants, warning them they could lose their benefits.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal at an anti-Airbnb rally earlier this year

By Sabina Mollot

Last week, thousands of tenants enrolled in SCRIE/DRIE rent increase subsidy programs learned that their benefits may end up getting reduced or eliminated altogether. The notification came by way of letters from the Department of Finance to around 5,700 people.

The programs subsidize rent increases that are faced by seniors and disabled people, respectively, who are making under $50,000 and whose rent takes up a third of their incomes.

The benefits however could expire when they attempt to renew them, according to Upper West Side City Council Member Helen Rosenthal who said last week she was approached by numerous concerned tenants who didn’t know what the letters they’d received meant.

Those letters have since been blasted by Rosenthal as being full of “technical jargon” with little detail, and she and a few other Council members have called on the Department of Finance to rescind them and not send any more until January, 2016. A moratorium, she explained, would give tenants time to plan for any changes.

Additionally, “We’re trying to understand what it means as well,” said Rosenthal of herself and her Council colleagues.

When she asked the Department of Finance why they were sent, she said she was told that previously there hadn’t been a mechanism to track whether or not recipients’ incomes were in fact one third of their rent, and now there is.

With many people enrolled in both programs living on fixed incomes, Rosenthal called the potential hikes, which she said on average would be $86, significant.

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