Thursday, December 18, 2014

Save New York

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.

Stereotype Design

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!

Start now:
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)


Scout said...

I'd add that tax breaks should be given to landlords who rent to small businesses.

It's simple math; if the rent a small business pays to a property owner is less than the cost of property taxes and maintenance of that part of the building, the landlord will run out of funds and will have to sell the building (probably to a developer).

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah - Thank you for all your work!

Irony about Bloomberg initiated-destruction - Bloomberg's actions essentially destroyed, almost entirely, stores and businesses run by "European" families, a number of whom likely voted for him.

Mod Betty / said...

Anger is an energy - glad to see it being channeled into some actionable items that could not only benefit NYC but be used as a blueprint for other places as well.

Thanks as always for helping to fight the good fight!

Grade "A" Fancy said...

Don't forget NYU. Blame is deserved by those evil gobblers.

heartfixit said...

Shared and Tweeted to @Kallos @MMVivarito @NYCCouncil @DeBlasio

Anonymous said...

Yes, It's time.

Thanks for putting together a plan. Going to study it and get more involved.

Doesn't the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation already do landmarking downtown? Andrew Berman is great at this fight. They're always in court trying to save whole neighborhoods. Not always successful. But then they begin again the next day.

DrBOP said...

Walkin' it like you're talkin' it.....NICE!

All of Canada, or at least the ENYLIC's (Ex New Yorkers Living In Canada), support your efforts. :+)
I have found that many levels of the NYC bureaucracies are interested in what visitors to the city have to say. So even if one is not living in NYC currently, you can still MAKE SOME NOISE!
Let 'em know that it's just not as much (affordable) fun to drop in for an extended visit anymore; that MANY of the places that you come specifically to see/shop/enjoy are disappearing FAST; and that the city has mostly priced itself out of reach when it comes to thinking about returning to the city to live.

And I guess I'm STILL wonderin'.......

Anonymous said...

City's gone. Just face it. Why fight? Biggest, most expensive suburb city in the world's coming by 2020. You can't win! And you won't! Suits, CVS' and glass condos for all!

les native said...

Love when I see this kind of thing onEV grieve. Btw, how can people find out about events and rallies, if they dont use facebook or twitter, i want to come!

DrBOP said...

@Anon 7:57

So, by the numbers:

1) If you haven't noticed, our generations have fought injustice EVERYwhere! "Why fight?"......It's what we DO!

2) And DO is the key term's ALL about gettin' off 'yer ass and TAKING SOME ACTION!

3) You may have heard the phrase "When the real estate bubble bursts...."
.....just watch which city survives when that (INEVITABLY) happens....and which people stick around to pick up the pieces. (PS = They will look like us.....those who REALLY care about their neighborhoods, instead of those who are here solely trying to wring EVERY red cent they can out of the situation.)

4) Mom always said not to look into the sun. "But mamma, THAT's where the FUN is!" other words, we choose to work towards the light, instead of settling for the dark.


laura r. said...

not an activist for most things, but this is one issue i am supporting. its not a fight against mayors (or democans vs republicrats), its a fight against globalization. kind of agree w/the comment "why fight"? i say if we can save a few, its better than nothing. if we can help w/newer protection laws, thats something. when you see this is worldwide you can understand how difficult it is. corps are in charge. polictians just go w/the flow, dont upset the apple cart. take payoffs to waive permits or whatever. (ALL of them, dont be deluded). dont forget colleges are corps. most are backed by saudi money (as much as 50million usd donations). saudis also back big development projects (chinese as well). its the centralized global agenda. good luck w/fighting that!!

Anonymous said...

We need to close down this fraud of a Chamber of Commerce. This organization is a disservice to ALL small businesses in NYC. Totally rip off.

Anonymous said...

So much hate for landlords and such little understanding of the concept of market rent yet alone some of these mom and pop stores inability to even pay their lower rents. A landlord does not use "bottomless greed" to make up any number they want, they are advised by the brokers as to the market rent. I support some of your effort, but have you thought about working WITH landlords and not against?

Warren Bobrow said...

There used to be neighborhoods in NYC... now catalog stores and starbucks are on every block... gentrification that takes Apple Pay?

laura r. said...

when everything is the same i begin to worry. NYC was different then most of the US. we still have the musuems/galleries, even if most "feel" corporate. after that, what else? is NYC turning into hongkong?

Anonymous said...

Count on me to join the fight. Among the advantages commercial landlords have, besides tax breaks for vacant spaces, is the ability to command up to at least a year's rent upfront from a tenant. So even when this trendy, fly by night kind of businesses go belly up, the landlord is covered financially and has no incentive at all to negotiate price.

Eden Millecchia said...

But. But I would collapse in a puddle of fear and anxiety if I couldn't see a Duane Reed and a Starbucks no matter where I am.