Opinion: Lawmakers: stand up to real estate

By Sung Soo Kim
Founder, Small Business Congress

For 10 years, small business owners have been denied economic justice and fair treatment by our government. The decade-long collusion between the powerful lobby REBNY and the Speaker’s Office successfully blocked a vote on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (Jobs Act), the only real solution to stop the closing of our small businesses and to end their crisis. The Jobs Act is a bill giving rights to business owners when their leases expire, rights needed to negotiate fair lease terms.

Finally in October 2018, the Jobs Act was given a public hearing by the Small Business Committee, chaired by Councilmember Mark Gjonaj. He was hand-picked by REBNY because Gjonaj owns his own real estate company and is the most pro-landlord and anti-tenant lawmaker in the council, and on record as opposed to the Jobs Act.

Unlike the last hearing on the Jobs Act in June 2009 by then-Chairman David Yassky, Gjonaj’s hearing did not focus solely upon the root cause of businesses closings, the one-sided commercial lease renewal process, which is what the Jobs Act addresses. Instead, Gjonaj’s hearing focused upon the empty storefronts on every main street and trying to sell the same old distracting false narrative that fines and over regulations were more pressing problems.

At the conclusion of David Yassky’s 2009 hearing on the Jobs Act, he and his entire committee selected the Jobs Act as the best solution to stop the closing of small businesses and save jobs. Every member of the committee became sponsors, making 32 sponsors of the bill ready to vote it into law. There were no legal challenges to the bill and the outcome of hearing disproves the REBNY narrative that the Jobs Act has been collecting dust for 30 years and going nowhere.

On July 23, Gjonaj presented his five solutions, which were a collection of REBNY-created bills that would not save a single small business or job and kept the status quo. All avoided completely addressing the cause of business closings: the lease renewal process.

One example of the disgraceful act of lawmakers’ failure to seriously address the small business crisis with a real solution was a bill from Councilmember Carlina Rivera. Her bill called for Department of Small Business Services to assess the state of storefronts in 20 communities every three years, code for counting empty storefronts and do nothing. Rivera should be ashamed to present this useless legislation while a real solution, the Jobs Act with 29 sponsors sits in committee and would save her district’s businesses. Why in the face of a growing crisis would any lawmaker insult small businesses owners with such a scandalous worthless bill that gave them no rights and would keep the status quo making landlords rich?

There are 75 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in New York City. It would take one hour for SBS to require each BID to count their empty storefronts and how long they were empty. Why wouldn’t every council member that is a board member on a BID also know the state of the empty stores? When long established businesses were forced to close in record numbers and storefronts remained empty for years, why didn’t they do something to stop the closings?

The time for disingenuous supporting the Jobs Act while at the same time being complicit to the rigging by special interests to stop it is over. New Yorkers who demand good government and want an end to the closing of their favorite mom-and-pop businesses must demand their lawmakers address the small business crisis with a real solution that gives rights to the long established business owners when their leases expire.

If former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had allowed democracy to work, the Jobs Act would have easily passed long ago and we would not have the crisis or empty stores today. Will Speaker Johnson allow democracy to return to City Hall? Or will the norm at City Hall be total control of economic policy by REBNY and lawmakers continue to do nothing? The delay and distractions will continue until the 2019 fully-vetted and legally-sound Jobs Act is passed.

Opinion: Help the SBJSA move forward

The following is an open letter from Small Business Congress founder Sung Soo Kim to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. It has been edited for length.

Honorable Speaker Johnson:

I am disheartened that you refused to respond to my first request to meet and at least try to create compromise legislation to stop the closings of our city’s small businesses and save jobs. I took you at your word made at the October hearing on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act that you recognized a serious crisis existed and that you were committed to a solution and moving the bill (Small Business Jobs Survival Act) to a vote.

It is obvious to every small business owner that the grossly unfair lease renewal process places their futures and the futures of their employees in grave jeopardy when their leases expire. The empty storefronts on every main street make it obvious to every New Yorker that their beloved mom and pop businesses, having no rights nor protections from exorbitant rent increases, are desperate for government intervention to save them.

Putting aside the REBNY, Chambers, SBS and BID spins, false narratives, and insulting studies and fake worthless proposals, the majority of the city’s lawmakers also know their small businesses cannot survive without this legislation that gives rights to business owners in the critical lease renewal process.

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Opinion: Mark-Viverito blocked SBJSA

By Sung Soo Kim, founder, Small Business Congress

Normally, the small business advocates would call upon all New Yorkers to put aside the canned election political rhetoric and instead scrutinize the records, qualifications, public statements and past actions of the candidates. There is no time for this proper analysis, but one candidate’s shameful record on dealing with the small business crisis and being influenced by a lobby must be exposed to the voters, especially in the immigrant community.

We carefully reviewed public advocate candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito’s (MMV) record and actions as speaker on addressing the specific crisis of the closings of long established small businesses. Also examined were her actions to address the anti-democratic rigging by a lobby taking place in the speaker’s office for over four years.

Nobody is more qualified to make this assessment than the small business advocates who have been fighting for justice for decades. The small businesses themselves wrote the original legislation (Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Jobs Survival Act ) giving rights to businesses to survive when their leases expired and then advocated for over 30 years to get it passed.

We know from firsthand experience who is a true progressive and friend of small business and who has been bought off to stop our bill and deny rights to small business owners.  We know when we receive justice and fair treatment at City Hall and when justice is denied by a rigged system. Our warning to voters to not vote for MMV is based solely upon the true record of MMV as speaker on our crisis.

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Bill aims to help city’s smallest businesses

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Council Member Mark Gjonaj, the bill’s sponsor, with small business advocates, including one in a carrot costume (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The City Council’s Small Business Committee chair introduced legislation aiming to protect the smallest small businesses in the city during a rally at City Hall last Thursday.

Council Member Mark Gjonaj, a representative from the Bronx, said that his legislation is seeking to get the city to do more to support businesses with fewer than 10 employees by identifying those businesses and developing programs to help them stay in business.

The legislation would also require the city’s Department of Small Business Services to conduct an annual survey to identify those micro-businesses and help them stay open.

According to data from Gjonaj’s office, businesses with fewer than 10 employees account for 80 percent of all jobs created in the city.

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Opinion: Request for study on SBJSA

The following is an open letter to Public Advocate Letitia James from Sung Soo Kim, founder of The Small Business Congress. The letter has been edited for length.   

Honorable Public Advocate James:

Recently, Councilman Ydanis Rodriquez as prime sponsor reintroduced the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. This bill has the same language, word for word, as the one you proudly sponsored and championed at times in 2009, 2010 and 2014 as Public Advocate. It’s the same bill that you touted over the year’s at citywide events as the best solution to stop the closing of our small businesses and end their crisis and address the “Malling of Main Street.”

The new speaker of the Council, Corey Johnson, has pledged a public hearing on the bill, as well as finding a real solution to end the crisis. While small business advocates applaud this commitment, we are cautiously guarded in hoping our city’s small businesses finally, after eight long years, receive evenhanded and just treatment at City Hall.

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SBJSA advocates fear Council will vote to weaken legislation

Mar8 Future Bank of America

Four storefronts on 23rd Street at the corner of Fifth Avenue will soon become a Bank of America. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The Small Business Congress, which has been pushing hard for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, is on the offensive, preparing for possible mutations of the bill in the City Council that the SBC fears would render it useless.

Steve Barrison, an attorney and the executive vice president of the SBC, is saying despite new Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s assertions that he wants to see the long-blocked legislation get a hearing, the Devil will be in the details of what Barrison expects will become “a REBNY bill.”

In an email earlier this week, the Small Business Congress founder Sung Soo Kim stated that he is seeking exactly 26 volunteers to convince the Council members who do not support the bill to change their minds.

It may not be easy, though, since technically the SBJSA is dead, Barrison said. This is because the prime sponsor had been Annabel Palma of the Bronx who was term-limited on December 31, 2017.

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Opinion: SBJSA would hurt, not help small businesses

In January, Town & Village published an editorial in support of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA). This was a week after publishing an article reporting on the status of two pieces of pending legislation aimed at helping mom-and-pop shops remain in their spaces, one of which was the SBJSA. Later, this newspaper published an op-ed by Sung Soo Kim that also supported the SBJSA.

The following op-ed is in response to that point of view.

By James R. O’Neill

Town & Village published an op-ed on January 18 regarding the most recent version of “Small Business Jobs Survival Act” (‘Unconstitutional’ claims about SBJSA are real estate propaganda,” by Sung Soo Kim, president, Small Business Congress).

As a commercial real estate agent who lives in the neighborhood, it would be remiss of me not to offer my perspective on a bill that claims to save the mom-and-pop shops but would, in fact, ultimately harm the stores it is trying to protect.

New York City is a city defined by change. Its vitality and ability to thrive have always been a direct result of that change, and it is what will ensure that New York continues to stay ahead of the curve. The misleadingly titled “Small Business Jobs Survival Act” (SBJSA), introduced in June, 2014, would greatly hinder the evolution that has allowed our city to prosper while creating a series of issues for not just the landlords, but also new businesses.

There are several issues with this bill that jump out immediately – in addition to its questionable legality. Speaking very broadly, although this bill’s stated intent is to help small businesses, it seeks to accomplish this by employing methods that are unfair, financially unsound and wholly unnecessary.

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