City offering free legal help to mom-and-pops signing leases

Huascar Aquino, a winner of “Cupcake Wars,” in front of his Hell’s Kitchen bakery with Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The city is throwing a legal lifeline to mom-and-pops by offering free legal help to some small businesses to help them negotiate leases.

On Tuesday, Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop, along with Council Member Robert Cornegy, announced the program, which will receive $2.4 million in funding over the next two years.

The program is expected to help 400 small business owners a year who couldn’t otherwise afford attorneys, but Bishop said it can grow if the demand for free legal help is higher than expected. Attorneys, who belong to organizations like the Urban Justice Center and Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation, will be assigned to individual businesses to help them resolve disputes before they end up in court. However, the attorneys, who are expected to provide an average of 40 hours of services per client, will not represent businesses in disputes that do end up in court.

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City admits it has no way to track storefront vacancies

Council Member Dan Garodnick chairs the hearing on retail vacancy. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City agencies currently have no way of measuring the rate of storefront vacancies in the city, representatives have admitted.

The representatives, who were from the Department of Small Business Services, discussed the matter at a City Council hearing earlier this month led by Council Member Dan Garodnick, chair of the Economic Development Committee. At the hearing, Garodnick had been pressing the agency on its apparent lack of strategies to come up with solutions to address retail blight.

“This hearing is about the economic impact of vacant storefronts and what I heard in the testimony was mostly a variety of things SBS has done to help businesses over time, but I didn’t really hear any urgency about the problem,” Garodnick said.

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Roof painting in ST/PCV should make buildings cooler in summer

Painters at work in Stuyvesant Town (Photos by Gursimran Toor, StuyTown Property Services)

By Sabina Mollot

Early in June, Stuyvesant Town Property Services (SPS) announced that work had begun on a project aimed at cooling the complex’s buildings down in the summer — by painting the roofs.

Dubbed “Cool Roofs,” the initiative is part of a city program that debuted in 2009. For Stuy Town’s buildings, the city is footing the bill for the painting of the building roofs in white, reflective paint. (So tenants do not have to worry about a looming major capital improvement rent increase.)

An email sent to residents on June 8 said the work began that day with all of Stuy Town’s and Peter Cooper Village’s roofs to be included.

As the email from SPS notes, “during a typical summer day, flat, black asphalt rooftops can reach temperatures of 190°F. A roof treated with a specialized white coating can reduce internal building temperatures by up to 30 percent due to the sun’s rays reflecting off the roof instead of being absorbed. As an added benefit, this lessens the power needed to run A/C units resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions. Every 2,500 square feet of roof coated with the reflective paint can reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 1 ton of CO2. The program aims to coat 1 million square feet of rooftop annually.”

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