BY LYNN EDMONDS
Steve Noll of the Small Business Congress had a warning for small business owners and residents in Queens.
“Main Street’s going to be hit like a bomb,” he said at a March 24 press conference.
The small business advocate argued that small businesses in the outer boroughs would be devastated – as he said many were in Manhattan – without legal protections against rent hikes that often drove them to shut down.
Richard Hellenbrecht, President of the Queens Civic Congress, had a similar message.
“There is a tragedy occurring in Queens, and it’s happening in every community from the Rockaways to Whitestone to Astoria,” he said. “It is the loss of our long-established small businesses and the great local jobs they created.”
Executives from the MinKwon Center for Community Action, the Korean American Small Business Service Center, the Small Business Congress NYC also spoke at the conference, and the NY Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Take Back NYC were represented as well.
Sung Soo Kim, President of the Small Business Congress, said that New York had been ranked the least friendly state, policy wise, to small businesses for the past seven years.
The advocates said that high rents were a leading cause of small businesses failing. They said that landlords were incentivized to kick out successful small business owners in favor of tenants with deep pockets – even if that meant leaving their storefronts empty for two or three years at a time.
That left the small business owners vulnerable and unable to plan for the future, they argued.
To remedy the problem, the advocates were pushing the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, a bill currently in the city council, as a way to protect the businesses.
The bill would grant commercial tenants a 10-year lease with the option for renewal.
But while the bill has plenty of sponsors, a hearing had not been scheduled for the bill, the advocates said. They identified Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Ruben Wills (D-South Jamaica) and Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) as key council members on the Committee on Small Business whose support they needed to get the bill a hearing.
A spokesperson for Koo said “Council Member Koo and his colleagues in the City Council are currently exploring several ways to alleviate the high property tax burdens that inevitably get passed on to commercial businesses.”
Unpredictable and high commercial rents have also affected artists who lease studio space in ever-more expensive areas like Long Island City. Some of them started the Artist Studio Affordability Project, which joined Take Back NYC and the Small Business Congress in advocating for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana