It’s key to beat Cornegy: S.B.J.S.A. advocates

Activist and recent City Council candidate Marni Halasa as “Miss REBNY 2017” at City Hall handing out cash and axes for the Real Estate Board of New York, portrayed by Elliot Crown, to cut deals with the new City Council speaker.

BY SHARON WOOLUMS | A press conference was held earlier this month on the City Hall steps by community and business groups opposing Brooklyn Councilmember Robert Cornegy being elected City Council speaker. The protesters were not endorsing any of the other seven candidates — simply opposing Cornegy’s candidacy.

The first speaker, David Eisenbach, a history professor at Columbia University, stated, “Councilman Cornegy, chairman of the Small Business Committee, was responsible for the well-being of small businesses; to address the crisis of sky-high rents forcing long-established businesses’ closings in every neighborhood; to hold honest public hearings, and to find real solutions to save our businesses. Failing appallingly under his watch, doing absolutely nothing about it, the crisis has gotten dramatically worse,” Eisenbach charged. “New York City courts evicted, on average, 500 commercial businesses each month — a record of failure that can no longer stand, disqualifying him as a potential City Council speaker.”

Ray Rogers, director of the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies, said, “Cornegy, a staunch ally of the real estate lobby, has been rigging City Hall for the past eight years to stop a hearing and vote on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, a bill giving all commercial tenants the right to remain in the business they built and to equally negotiate new fair lease terms.

“REBNY [Real Estate Board of New York] wants only their landlord members to have all rights to dictate all terms to continue making windfall profits from exorbitant rent increases,” Rogers said. “REBNY’s pawn, Councilmember Cornegy, adhered to landlords’ dictates, forcing small business owners out of business.”

Louis Tejada, founder of the Miraba Sisters tenants group in Upper Manhattan, also spoke.

“I oppose Councilmember Cornegy because he does not care about small businesses’ jobs,” he said. “In our immigrant neighborhood, the majority of people work and depend upon small businesses for jobs to survive. Yet, as greedy landlords force businesses to close, their jobs are lost. Nobody’s talking about this tragedy. Also, under his chairmanship, unlike past generations, immigrant-owned businesses can no longer leave their businesses to their families. Landlords take over the businesses for themselves, and after years of hard work and sacrifices, the families end up with nothing and everything for the landlords.”

Ann McDermott, a longtime activist and co-founder of TakeBackNYC, supports what she and allies say is the best way to save small businesses, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. She said she was angry at Cornegy because, “The only real solution to save our businesses, the S.B.J.S.A., sits in Cornegy’s committee year after year and he does nothing. He has allowed, through his silence, for REBNY to control the Speaker’s Office and rig the system to never allow a public hearing on the S.B.J.S.A. or any real solution. TakeBackNYC has begged and pleaded for a hearing for the S.B.J.S.A., lobbying for sponsors,” she said, referring to efforts to get even more councilmembers to back the bill. “But Cornegy has stopped us at every turn. While he’s been head of the Small Business Committee, Cornegy has literally done nothing tangible to help stop the crisis.”

The most passionate call against Cornegy becoming speaker came from Steve Barrison, spokesperson for the city’s Small Business Congress.

“City Hall’s name should be changed to ‘REBNY Hall’ because of their control over lawmakers,” Barrison declared.

“As head of the Small Business Committee, Cornegy served the lobby more than the small business owners and that has made their crisis much worse,” Barrison added. “Of the 51 councilmembers at City Hall, Cornegy’s record of failure should put him at Number 52 in consideration for being the new speaker. His record is so terrible, he shouldn’t even be in the Council, let alone be speaker. The only reason a chairman of a committee with a horrific record is considered for speaker — he served REBNY better than any other councilmember. In the corrupt political world at City Hall, serving REBNY matters.”

At the press conference’s end, Cornegy walked out of City Hall with an angry face and refused to answer any questions from the media. He got the protesters’ message — but did the other councilmembers, who will be voting for a new speaker in early January?

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