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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Opinion: Tech Hub another oversized development

May4 E 12th St buildings

These three 19th century buildings at 47 East 12th Street (left) and 827-831 Broadway are slated to be replaced with a 300-foot-tall office tower. (Photo courtesy of GVSHP)

 

By Andrew Berman, Executive director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Previously unheard of development is streaming ahead in the blocks between Union Square and Astor Place, Fifth and Third Avenues. A 300 ft. tall luxury condo tower is rising on University Place and 12th Street. A 300 ft. tall office tower is planned for Broadway and 12th Street. A 120-room hotel for party-hopping millennials is going up on East 11th Street. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Why is this happening in a largely residential neighborhood known for its historic character and modest scale? Mostly because the area’s zoning dates to 1961, when the neighborhood was largely commercial, and tall towers rather than contextual development were in vogue. And although virtually everyone in the affected community, including elected officials, supports a rezoning we proposed that would put reasonable height limits in place, reinforce the area’s residential character, and add affordable housing incentives, the mayor adamantly opposes it.

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Letters to the Editor, Sept. 3

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Enforcement needed on rowdiness in ST

In response to the “Sick of rowdy drunks barreling through ST” letter writer (T&V, Aug. 27): You need look no further than Vamos! where the music blasts through open doors and windows to know that ST/PCV management is not serious about the community noise policy noted in the September Community Update brochure.

Either the policy does not apply to their commercial tenants or they assume everyone has air conditioning and so, with windows closed, the racket will not bother them. But the “community” is much larger than just Stuy Town and Peter Cooper and perhaps CWCapital could show a little courtesy to the other surrounding buildings and passers-by that are well within hearing of this intrusive noise.

As for the drunks who stumble through Stuyvesant Town? Now that the weather is cooling, air conditioners will be turned off and windows will be opened, we can all look forward to suffering the full impact of the lack of patrols through the complex. This reduction in patrols seems to have coincided with the installation of the cameras around the properties several years ago but what good is watching problems unfold at the multi-screen, state of the art security office if there are no security officers on the spot to address them?

It’s time to put security officers/vehicles at the entrances to ST/PCV so that those rowdy, inconsiderate tenants can be stopped, quieted and if necessary, escorted to their buildings in silence, and yes, even evicted if they prove to be repeat offenders. Anyone not able to prove residency should be turned away.

As for the remaining information in the September Community Update brochure… since noise has been associated with sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment in children, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, offering any health-related programs is a joke.

J. Polise, ST

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Op-Ed: Anti Freeze

Submitted by former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

New York City tenants were hoping for a freeze in June.

When the Rent Guidelines Board met earlier this week to set rent increases for leases due to expire during the 12 month period beginning on October 1, there was great anticipation that for the first time in history the board with its newly minted de Blasio appointments would vote for a zero percent increase. After all, the new mayor was supporting that position and legions of tenants and neighborhood groups were rallying around a rent freeze.

It did not happen. Instead the board voted for the lowest increases in history… a one percent increase for a one-year lease and a 2.75 percent increase for a two-year lease. That’s not bad. In other words for rent stabilized apartments currently renting for $2,000 per month the rent will rise by $20 a month for a one year lease renewal, and by $55 for a two year renewal. And of course if the rent for an apartment is lower than that the rent increase too will be lower. And while that is “not nothing” it’s not the triple digit dollar increases of past years that drove rents to an unaffordable level for many.

The purists will condemn this vote as a betrayal, but the truth is that a one percent rent increase for a one-year lease is a big victory for tenants. It is below the inflation rate and it is next to nothing. Even the two-year lease option which would lock in a 2.75 percent increase over a 24-month period of time will prove to be below the inflation rate for the next two years. Never before have tenants seen such miniscule adjustments, and it bodes well for the next three years of the de Blasio administration.

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Mayor’s housing plan has tenant protections

By Sabina Mollot

Mayor de Blasio, then a candidate, was endorsed by TenantsPAC in Stuyvesant Town last August. Pictured with de Blasio is Tenants PAC Treasuer Mike McKee on the mayor's right and ST-PCV Tenants Association President John Marsh (also a TenantsPAC member) to his left.

Mayor de Blasio, then a candidate, was endorsed by TenantsPAC in Stuyvesant Town last August. Pictured with de Blasio is Tenants PAC Treasurer Mike McKee on the mayor’s right and ST-PCV Tenants Association President John Marsh (also a TenantsPAC member) to his left. Photo by Sabina Mollot

On Monday, Mayor de Blasio unveiled his long-awaited plan that would create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing throughout the city over the next decade. The proposal, with its $41 billion pricetag, would mostly preserve existing affordable units –120,000 — while building 80,000 new ones. There would be a focused effort on city agencies using “every tool at their disposal to protect tenants in both subsidized affordable housing and rent-regulated housing from the tide of deregulation,” the mayor announced.

To accomplish this, the city would work with the state as rent regulation comes up for renewal in 2015 “to prevent abuses of the vacancy and luxury decontrol provisions and capital improvement rules.” The city would also more closely scrutinize situations of landlord harassment or neglect and possibly step in with legal action. There would also be increased support for seniors through Section 8 vouchers if they have declining incomes, working with NYCHA to implement more senior housing in its developments and expanding eligibility for SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent increase Exemption).

De Blasio also promised to work with communities to develop housing on vacant lots, create “quality” construction jobs and cut down on red tape that would slow down development or raise construction costs. Additionally, any rezoning aimed at building bigger to accommodate more housing would require that some of that housing would be affordable. The city would also launch a mixed-income program where 50 percent of units in these “projects” would be set aside for middle-income households, and the remaining 20 and 30 percent, respectively, set aside for low and moderate income households. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) would see its budget doubled.

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