Give us a break! Mom-and-pops to city

BY MICAELA MACAGNONE | Councilmembers, merchants, restaurateurs and small business advocates recently rallied on the City Hall steps to slam the crushing fees and regulations that they say are making it ever harder for mom-and-pop shops to survive.

Councilmember Mark Gjonaj, chairperson of the Council’s Committee on Small Business, led the Wed., June 26, rally, which was swelled by more than 100 business owners.

The event was punctuated by bilingual chants, including “Wake up, City Hall!” “Salve Nuestra Bodega!” (save our bodegas), “Our Jobs Matter!” and “También Somos Inmigrantes!” (we are also immigrants).

Bronx Councilmember Mark Gjonaj led the rally against burdensome regulations and fees for small businesses. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Gjonaj was first to speak, and mostly addressed the burdensome regulations, taxes, fines and fees put on small business by local government.

“As chairman of the Committee on Small Business, I invite you to stand up for the mom-and-pop shops in your neighborhood, the small businesses and the bodegas in your neck of the woods, the 2.1 million small businesses in New York,” he said.

“Since the arrival of the retail chains and online shopping, small businesses have shut their doors after years of providing services to their local communities. Furthermore, it has become harder for startups to survive: Approximately 50 percent of small businesses and 80 percent of restaurants never make it past year five. The local small business industry has changed and small businesses are in danger. Owners are struggling to keep their dream and livelihood alive.”

There’s no time to waste in helping small businesses, as this woman’s sign stated. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

The protesters specifically expressed their opposition to a paid-vacation measure that the mayor announced in January. The legislation, which has not gone anywhere in the face of strong opposition, would apply to all businesses with at least five employees.

However, according to a June survey of more than 1,470 New York City small business owners across all five boroughs, 79 percent of them said they can’t afford to provide employees with two-weeks paid vacation; 80 percent are concerned they would have to lay off employees, reduce hours or scale back operations if their business is required to provide the benefit; and 93 percent of small business owners are opposed to an unfunded mandate for two-weeks paid vacation.

There was also — as at previous Gjonaj-led rallies about small business — mention of the long-stymied Small Business Jobs Survival Act. Activist Marni Halasa, an S.B.J.S.A. advocate, held up a sign slamming Council Speaker Corey Johnson, claiming he was “anti-immigrant,” “pro-developer” and “anti-jobs.”

While Johnson, back in 2017, did claim to support the S.B.J.S.A. in a Twitter post, since becoming Council speaker, he has taken his name off of the bill as a co-sponsor. A spokesperson previously told this paper that, as opposed to before he was speaker, Johnson is now more selective about bills that he co-sponsors.

Chelsea activist Marni Halasa, front row, right, also made her point at the rally. She says Council Speaker Corey Johnson must be pressured to bring the long-blocked Small Business Jobs Survival Act up for a vote in the full City Council. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Other speakers included Andrew Rigie, of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, who emcee’d the event; William Rodriguez, president of the National Supermarket Association; Frank Garcia, chairperson of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce; and Steve Bulger, of the U.S. Small Business Association.

Afterward, Reginald Johnson, Gjonaj’s chief of staff, said the Committee on Small Business chairperson is doing everything he can to help small merchants.

“Councilmember Gjonaj encourages business owners to contact our office with any issues that they are having,” he said. “For isolated incidences, we are always ready to do what we can to bring about a solution. And if we uncover larger and more systemic issues, the councilmember is aggressively proactive in advancing legislative fixes to the problems facing New York City’s mom-and-pop shops.”

17 Responses to Give us a break! Mom-and-pops to city

  1. Village Realist

    Just wait until congestion pricing kicks in. That’ll punish hurting businesses evwn further.

  2. “Give us a break”, is the wrong headline for this story or fake rally. “Save us or Give us Rights to Survive” is what Mom and Pop desperately are calling for. This rally was an embarrassment to Speaker Johnson and his council. Every New Yorker can see for themselves the empty stores on their blocks and are angry at the forced closing of their favorite businesses. They know the reason their mom and pop businesses are closings and its not “fines”. It’s a full blown small business crisis destroying the Village, yet Johnson allowed REBNY to hand pick Mark Gjonaj as Chairman of Small Business Committee to address the crisis. Gjonaj is the most anti tenant /anti small business lawmaker in the council who owns his own real estate firm and who the real estate poured hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars into electing him. He has been before ethics committee for his shady actions. SHAME. That rally had one purpose, continue to use the government to stop the Small Business Jobs Survival Act from giving rights to business owners when their leases expire, KEEP THE STATUS QUO, continue to DO NOTHING to save a single Village business or job.

    • A small business group slamming small businesses for standing up for their rights. No surprise that nothing good is happening for small businesses. And that's a shame. Trying to pass a 30-year old bill is the very definition of STATUS QUO. So sad.

  3. Don't tell us an "insider" like yourself was fooled by this REBNY charade. Fact check, these were NOT small business owners but people from organizations who do not represent mom and pop and instead represent themselves, failed SBS or are government funded and ordered to be there. All oppose the Jobs Act or complicit to the rigging stopping it. One example, the moderator Andrew Rigie of NY Hospitality Alliance is Gale Brewers go to guy at every forum talking down the Jobs Act or any bill giving rights to mom and pop owners when their lease expire. Even with restaurants closing every month in NYC you cannot find one sentence from him calling for legislation to save one restaurant. If you gathered store owners from the Village or any neighborhood and asked them what they needed to be SAVED, you would get a different narrative. And please stop the false statement that nothing has been done for 30 years on this bill. Read any of the many Villager articles over the last 5 years on this crisis to show only the rigging by past Speakers Quinn and MVV stopped this bill from being passed. Speaker Johnson held a hearing in Oct on the bill and pledged to bring it to a vote, was he not being honest?

    • "nothing has been done" — who said that? No one, but I bet that Marni will be thrilled to know that you consider her "NOT small business owner". How many Speakers are you going to support, only to hate them once elected, and they don't pass your unconstitutional bill? As some point, don't you have to stop doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results? How's that working for you?

  4. Marni was there to PROTEST not support this sham rally. We will support any Speaker who keeps their word and promotes progressive legislation , not betray voters and sell out to REBNY. But maybe today in NYC the only way to become Speaker is to sell your soul to the machine and REBNY. We have to keep promoting the Jobs Act because its the only real solution to save the businesses and our Speaker and Gjonaj have no intention of stopping the rigging and pass any bill regulating landlords. I have a great idea to save the Village, why don't you ask the Speaker to STOP rigging and allow democracy to work for the people for a change. This is an out of control crisis and we can't stop fighting to save our businesses.

    • "its the only real solution" — well that's just factually not true. It's not. You are stuck in the past and in your own ideology, and it's unfortunate for any small business that believes you. They deserve better than this. They deserve more than any 1 solution.

      • Every small business owner deserves one thing, RIGHTS. The one thing REBNY cronies refuse to give them.
        Without the right to renewal a commercial lease, and the right to negotiate fair lease terms, legislation is not a solution.

  5. We have been "Captured" by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, (RI). The big bucks a la Herr TDrumpkopf are steeped in our country and it's going to be a big battle to dig out from the dreck.

  6. I just walked down St. Mark's place between 1st and A, I counted at least 10 empty store fronts .. contrary to the premise of this rally it is NOT regulation and taxes that are killing small business it is THE RENT, and REBNY's stranglehold on City Hall, plain and simple until the NYC City Council addresses that problem, we'll continue to see empty dark store fronts and loss of mostly immigrant jobs. Glad I missed this sham show but glad others showed up to tell the truth!'

    • Ann, the rents are high because of all the taxes and regulations. The regulations are needed, the price of doing business, but the taxes are a rip-off. Consider learning more of the details as to what all "rent" covers, so that you're not just skimming the surface of this issue.

  7. This is very illuminating:

    “While Johnson, back in 2017, did claim to support the S.B.J.S.A. in a Twitter post, since becoming Council speaker, he has taken his name off of the bill as a co-sponsor. A spokesperson previously told this paper that, as opposed to when he was not speaker, Johnson is now more selective about bills that he co-sponsors.”

    How can you be a proud sponsor of a bill and then take your name off of it? At the hearing on the SBJSA in October the Speaker discussed high rents as the main problem for small biz owners, and he committed to do something about it. It has been 8 months since the hearing and there hasn’t been a single update about any progress towards passing the bill.

    I hope Stringer, Jumaane, Adams & Diaz are watching.

    • Stringer, Jumaane, Adams & Diaz–Johnson–ALL THE SAME

      • Yeah, they don't serve small business, they don't serve you, they serve themselves and their rich supporters.

      • Wow, if you don't like these liberals, then you must be running out of candidates. If they are all the same, then who's different? It must suck to be a BJSA supporter. Next you'll be bashing AOC. Seriously, is there any elected official you approve of, or is winning elected office an absolute disqualifier?

        • Glad you like these neo-liberals! Let's hope Margaret Chin runs for mayor–another liberal. Vote for Chin. Who doesn't love AOC. A stellar intellect if ever there was one. Still love you, however.

        • Seriously, in NYC, I'd have to think long and hard to possibly come up with one. But, alas, life is too short. As you say, "sad".

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