At last, small business bill has a champion

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, left, and “Small Business Godfather” Sung Soo Kim shake on it: No changes to the S.B.J.S.A. that would hurt mom-and-pop shops.

BY SHARON WOOLUMS | For our lawmakers, when is enough enough? The slow destruction of the Village continues year after year while they “talk” about the importance of small businesses and concoct yet another survey to assess the damage.

How many iconic businesses must close because merchants have no rights when their leases expire before our local politicians finally take action to save them? Soon another iconic Village business, the 40-year-old legendary Cornelia St. Cafe will close in January.

But now, at last, five years after The Villager’s Small Business Series began, there is some good news! Councilmmember Ydanis Rodriguez, the prime sponsor of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, or S.B.J.S.A., is standing up for mom-and-pops against the real estate lobby, i.e. the Real Estate Board of New York.

At a press conference in Queens for mostly ethnic media, Rodriguez made it clear he will fight to pass legislation to stop the store closings and save jobs.

“For years, even before being elected, I have advocated for the rights of immigrant families who are not respected by government for their contributions to our local economy,” Rodriguez said. “They are treated as second-class citizens and their problems have been ignored. Immigrants own the majority of small businesses and thus create the majority of immigrant jobs in New York City. They face a crisis to survive, which means their workers also face a crisis to survive. I call my bill the Immigrant Jobs Survival Act because the immigrant employees are forgotten victims in the out-of-control real estate speculation that is destroying the American Dream for all small business families.”

At the October hearing on the S.B.J.S.A., many testified that the bill must be changed before voted on. Asked if there is any part of the bill nonnegotiable to changes, Rodriguez, “I said I am open to changes if they offer a better solution to stop the closings. But this bill was written to give rights to commercial tenants when their leases expired — rights needed to keep long-established good businesses who are willing and able to pay a fair rent in business, and rights needed to negotiate fair lease terms.

“It’s a tenants’ rights bill and, as such, any changes that would take away the rights of the tenants would be nonnegotiable because the changes would harm the intent of the law,” Rodriguez declared.

Now that the S.B.J.S.A. has 29 sponsors, it could pass the City Council. Rodriguez has not yet had discussions with Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s Office concerning changes to the bill. As the bill’s prime sponsor, Rodriguez must approve any changes to the legislation.

At the end of the press conference, Sung Soo Kim, who is recognized as the “Godfather of Immigrant Small Businesses,” endorsed Rodriguez in the upcoming special election for public advocate. Kim was the drafter of the original version of S.B.J.S.A.

“I call upon all the city’s immigrant communities to fully support Councilman Rodriguez for public advocate,” Kim said. “He is a strong voice for immigrant rights and will fight to see they receive justice and fair treatment at City Hall. He is committed to fight for immigrant families. He knows from personal experience our government has not done enough to protect them, and that the role of small businesses is vital to every immigrant community.”

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