For the past dozen years, more than ever, New York City has been dying. It's getting murdered by rising rents, suburbanization, rampant development, and an unrestrained flood of chain businesses. Bloomberg actively encouraged this. Bill de Blasio promised to heal the tale of two cities, but nothing has yet been done to protect our small businesses from the filthy, bottomless greed of landlords.
New York's small businesses have been dropping like flies. We are losing the city block by block. The stunning loss of Cafe Edison, after a major fight from community members and politicians, including the mayor, shows us that we are powerless without legislation to back us up. If we can lose Cafe Edison, we can lose everything. And we are losing everything.
Shopping local only goes so far when landlords routinely double, triple, and quadruple commercial rents, or simply deny a lease to their long-term business tenants. We can buy all the books, booze, and bowls of matzo ball soup we want, but without legislation and regulation we are powerless against the landlords. And forget about appealing to their "humanity." It does not exist.
We must start organizing--not just to save one small business, one at a time, but to protect them all at once. We must demand that the City fix this problem immediately. No more waiting around for it to get better. No more denial. No more asking nicely. No more bullshit.
Here are a handful of steps that I believe will help:
1. Pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act to create fair negotiations of commercial lease renewals, so landlords can’t use insane rent hikes to evict dependable and beloved business people.
-Read more about the bill here
-Click here to find your local council members -- call and write, tell them to pass this bill NOW
-Tweet your local council member, @NYCCouncil, and @MMViverito every day telling them to pass SBJSA
2. Start a Cultural Landmarks program. While general commercial rent control may be unworkable, we can protect what little remains of the city’s oldest and most beloved small businesses by creating a selective rent control program. Rent control can be gifted to businesses that qualify for Cultural Landmarking. Local communities can nominate the businesses they want to protect. San Francisco is leading the charge in this department--see SF Heritage for how they're doing it.
3. Control the spread of chain businesses. Again, City Hall must follow the example of San Francisco, where the city controls “formula retail." If Giuliani could keep adult businesses from operating near one another, then de Blasio can keep national chains from doing the same. A few chains are not a problem, but New York is strangling in them. They drive up rents, contributing to the eviction of small businesses, as they destroy the unique character of the urban landscape, turning the city into Anywhere, USA.
-See what San Francisco is doing here.
4. Take the million-dollar tax breaks away from Big Business and give them to Mom and Pop — and to Grandma and Grandpa.
Businesses that own their buildings, like 110-year-old DeRobertis Pasticceria, are not safe either. Let's stop fooling ourselves with that one. They struggle with sky-high water bills and a Kafkaesque Department of Health that is lousy with corruption. They often don't know how to market themselves in the new age of social media, and they're being bled alive by encroaching chains. Tax breaks, lower fees for violations, and help with creative marketing would go a long way.
On the DOH issue: Why are small businesses penalized at the same rate as multinational corporate chains? Penalties should not be one size fits all. The system is rigged. Fix it.
5. And give fines or increased taxes to landlords who leave commercial spaces vacant, creating blight and blocking out small business people while they wait for the right sky-high price.
- In London, as an incentive to keep shops in use, tax relief was taken away from businesses that keep properties empty for longer than 6 months.
In 2008, writing on the death of bohemian Greenwich Village, author Christopher Hitchens put it well: “On the day when everywhere looks like everywhere else we shall all be very much impoverished, and not only that but — more impoverishingly still — we will be unable to express or even understand or depict what we have lost.”
It is time to take action and to demand action from our city government. Save New York!
1. Copy and paste the text from this post, edit it to your liking, and then mail it, email it, tweet it to Mayor Bill de Blasio and your local councilmember. Send it to Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and to Public Advocate Letitia James.
Councilmember Corey Johnson, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried are strong allies in this fight. Contact them and let them know you want these changes NOW and you will give them your support in this fight.
2. Join the Save New York Facebook page to start organizing with other New Yorkers today.
3. Use the hashtag #SaveNYC when you tweet. Change your Twitter and Facebook profile pic to the image below.
4. Get angry!
(ripped from a Time Out New York cover)