OPINION: ‘Fake news!’ Mark Gjonaj’s rally to save small business

BY SHARON WOOLUMS | A rally to “save small businesses” was held June 26 outside City Hall. If any group deserved a rally to focus upon quickly finding a solution to stop the closings, it’s our city’s desperate mom-and-pop shop owners.  Careening out of control at a fast clip, unless legislation is quickly passed to give rights to business owners when their leases expire, New York City will be filled with empty storefronts.

The rally was organized by Mark Gjonaj (joe-nye), the chairperson of the City Council’s Small Business Committee. Its stated focus was on saving save small businesses. In fact, the city’s leading advocate for immigrant businesses, Sung Soo Kim, called for a boycott of the rally.

Activist Marni Halasa, right, held her “Blame Corey!” poster at Councilmember Mark Gjonaj’s rally to save small businesses. Halasa and her allies are demanding that Speaker Corey Johnson let the Small Business Jobs Survival Act come up for a vote before the full City Council. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Kim was not buying the premise that the rally would focus on “saving” even one small business.

“Even in the face of a growing small business crisis destroying the future of all small businesses,” Kim said, “the Real Estate Board of New York’s top promoter at City Hall, Councilmember Gjonaj, continues the rigging to stop the Small Business Jobs Survival Act — the S.B.J.S.A. or Jobs Act — from passing and giving small business owners rights when their lease expires.

“The root cause of business closings — the unfair commercial lease process — will never get an honest debate under Gjonaj,” Kim declared. “Speaker Corey Johnson abdicated the future of small businesses to the real estate lobby, REBNY, allowing them to handpick Mark Gjonaj as chairman of the Small Business Committee, with only one goal: Protect the profits of REBNY’s members, the landlords.

“This rally was nothing but ‘political theater’ right out of REBNY’s playbook,” Kim charged, “a charade rally to call upon all real estates’ friends — business improvement districts, chambers of commerce, and paid-for lawmakers — to come and distract the public from the real cause of the crisis and away from the real solution. It was a sham rally meant to fool the public into believing the false narrative that the real problems of small businesses are too many government regulations and fines.”

Kim was not alone in calling out Gjonaj for continuing the rigging at City Hall. Community activists, led by Marni Halasa speaking out, took the hot air out of the rally. Chelsea’s Ben Kremen, along with Ray Rogers of Stop REBNY Bullies, were very vocal every time Gjonaj made the claim that “fines and overregulation” were causing businesses to struggle.

Halasa, brandishing her “Blame Corey!” poster, spoke out powerfully.

“The speaker, in office for 18 months, has not proposed one bill that would have saved my shop, Red Eye Coffee, from closing,” she stated. “It’s always been about affordable rent and he knows it. He just doesn’t want to piss off his real estate donors.”

Advocates challenged Gjonaj to set the record straight and admit, “The rents are too damn high!”

In the end, a third of the crowd gathered for the rally followed the advocates in chanting and calling out Gjonaj for stalling on the S.B.J.S.A.

It was a sunny day for a bogus rally, but it turned stormy when things got heated and the truth rained on Gjonaj’s “fake news” parade.

Woolums is a longtime Village activist, advocate for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and Villager contributor.

18 Responses to OPINION: ‘Fake news!’ Mark Gjonaj’s rally to save small business

  1. Here we go again. I know you all love using the fashionable Trumpian catch-phrase, but there isn’t any “fake news” here. There is nothing in this piece about the media fabriacting a story—nothing at all. I agree with the “point” of this story, but please stop enabling Trump’s media-bashing propaganda by using that phrase—especially where not even remotely related to the subject at hand.

  2. I was one of those at that Gjonaj rally simply unable to suffer any longer the unending, treatcherous BS being spewed there, trying to blind us to the real reasons why our small shop keepers keep facing distruction and bankrupsey and our city a strangling of vitality, creativity and even joy. Yeah, come on Mr. Gjonaj, you know as well as I do that what’s killing our precious little stores are the RENTS! And I just couldn’t help shouting at the top of my lungs amidst the con and beloney out there, “What about THE RENTS! THE RENTS! THE RENTS! THE RENTS!” And to my amazment, about the third of the crowd, most of them invited by Councilman Gjonaj, began shounting with me “THE RENTS! THE RENTS! THE RENTS! And the intended purpose of that rally to fool us all fell into disarray and never recovered. And before it ended, some of the invited speakers confessed that it was, yes, “THE RENTS!”, and one of speakers (also invited by Mr. Gjonaj) sheepishly suggested that, indeed, The Small Business Survival Act (The S.B.J.S.A) “Should be passed.” And before it all ended, there were incessant cries that “THE RENT’S TOO DAMN HIGH!” We should never get so cynical to believe that moral consciusness can be totally stamped out.

  3. Speaker Johnson should apologize to all small business owners, Village residents and all who believe in good government. He should apologize for making the most pro landlord and anti tenant Gjonaj as Chairman of the Small Business Committee. Gjonaj’s campaign was funded by big real estate and he is apposed to any regulation of landlords. In time of a growing small business crisis what was Johnson thinking when he appointed Gjonaj? Maybe being Mayor.

  4. I meant “related to the subject at hand.” Oops.

  5. Corey Johnson is on the wrong side of history here. I’ve always liked Corey, and believe he has good intentions, but his caving into big real estate money makes me doubt the viability of his future political career. As the last two Democratic primaries showed, there is no longer any life or energy left in the corporate (ie “moderate”) wing of the Democratic Party. The mojo is clearly with the far left, with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and the Squad. Corey is beginning to look like a corporate party hack….like the has been guy who AOC beat. Come on Corey. Wake up. Do the right thing. Sharon Woolum’s had been on point with this issue from the git go. The VID, which has been historically super progressive, gave you a nice award in the spring. Please Corey, dare to rethink your position and do the right thing for these poor struggling mom and pop shops by having the courage to stand up to Big Real Estate. You don’t need their support. Become the Champion of Small Business! And Marnie, you’re doing an amazing job on this issue! YOU should be running for high office! Ditto for Bennet, my bohemian friend, you were a hero at this rally! How amazing that a small, dedicated group was able to turn the tide agains a false, corrupt rally by shining a simple light of truth on it. The people are waking up and won’t be fooled any more. They woke up in Puerto Rico, their waking up in Hong Kong, and, according to this article, right in the heart of once radical Greenwich Village. If this jobs bill doesn’t pass, the the Village (and rest of NYC) will become a soulless playground of the rich. As “lost” as Roger Paradiso claims in his excellent film “The Lost Village”…featuring my friend Sharon Woolums.

  6. The late Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Its never to late to do the right thing.” Johnson should listen to new advisers who are more concerned with the future of the Village and less with the future of politics.

  7. My film The Lost Village spoke about these
    Issues. It was exiled by those opposed
    To these issues. As long as these conditions
    Exist the film will be shown during election
    Season. And it is available on Vimeo
    And Amazon. The Lost Village is about
    The displaced mom and pop shops and artists
    It is about the student debt crisis and
    Prostitution at NYU and many other private
    Universities due to high tuition. All these issues point to the failure of elected politicians
    To solve them. These are all national
    Issues. It’s time to boycott the corporate oligarchs
    Who want the money. They need to be
    Regulated. Where is Teddy Roosevelt
    When you need him?

  8. I feel so bad for small businesses, because they deserve better representation. As long as the BJSA covers Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and all of the big banks the same way it does small businesses, the bill will never get a vote.

    It was a bad bill 30 years ago, and it’s still a bad bill today (or it would have passed by now!). This town is full of bleeding-heart politicos who’d love to vote for a bill that works, but once in office, cycle-after-cycle, they see this bill’s many problems. Supporters of this bill love these people when they are running for office, but then hate them once elected, when they see the longstanding issues that will prevent this bill from ever passing.

    This bill treats every business as a small business, and they are not, so who’s gonna benefit the most if it passes? – The bigger businesses first and most… as usual. Change the Bill!

  9. The key word concerning the Jobs Act is NEED. The bill does not discriminate against any business owner who took a chance and invested in starting a business, created jobs and tax revenue. The Jobs Act was written for those businesses who need protection and rights to survive and negotiate fair lease terms after their leases expire. Goldman Sachs does not NEED those protects or any rights. This lame excuse to change the bill has never once at 12 hearings ever come up. What needs to be changed are voters kicking out the fake progressives and electing real progressives who will pass the Jobs Act.

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  11. Once again Sharon Woolums hits the nail on the head! CM Gjonaj the real estate investor landlord leading the committee with Speaker Johnson having his show hearing and then come the other CM’s with Speaker Johnson with their phony distraction by passing empty magic bills, where not ONE addresses the CRISIS on main street. And not one solves the main issue, the unfair lease renewal process and the greed grabbing rents. With all of this and BP Brewer constantly getting her constituents to drink her brew of kool aid claims and cures, when she also has not done one thing addressing a solution, is all like a three ring circus. All of them doing so many things to make sure they accomplish the REBNY playbook of distraction, so long as they don’t pass the solution sitting right before them the JOBS ACT! Yes, the fully vetted and legal solution that does not discriminate against anyone. The result of helping all tenants, large and small is one thing fairness for all. Is that what the big real estate naysayers are afraid of, fairness? Go Sharon W!

  12. The SBJSA violates the Constitution, not once, but twice. Even if claims that it doesn’t violate the Takings Clause or the Contracts Clause turn out to be correct, REBNY will make sure that it takes over a decade to find out. It will be way too easy for REBNY to drag this out forever. The lack of politic acumen by this bill’s sponsors is just astounding.

  13. This seemed to me to be the key sentence in the article, “Halasa and her allies are demanding that Speaker Corey Johnson let the Small Business Jobs Survival Act come up for a vote before the full City Council.” (the caption under the photo). However, after reading the responses already posted here, I’m wondering about the remarks that there are problems with the SBJSA somehow. I don’t know enough to comment. I wish it could be easier for the Mom and Pop stores to stay in NYC, providing vitality, diversity, artistry, that is not very much in the mega-stores..

    • Maura,
      savenycjobs has offered you some answers, and only you can determine if that’s enough for you, but as you can see the response does NOT say:

      – mega-stores will not benefit from the SBJSA, because that would be a lie;
      – big banks will not benefit from the SBJSA, because that would be a lie; and
      – major multi-national businesses will not benefit from the SBJSA, because that would be a lie.

      However, “the last hearing in 2009” is a lie, because they got the hearing they demanded just a few months ago, but they were not happy with the outcome, so they are trying to forget that it took place. Instead, they call things “fake” just like our president, which is always a sign that the truth is not on their side; they use unprovables, like “Any other city in the world” would do xyz, because they know it can’t be debated; and, they cry about political will from the very candidates they supported before the election who don’t want to spend millions of your tax dollars defending a bad bill in court for a decade.

      If you did want to know more, a brief explanation can be found here: http://www.lawjournalnewsletters.com/2019/02/01/commercial-rent-control-in-new-york-back-again/?slreturn=20190721165859

  14. Your either: lack of any knowledge of the legislation’s history or your are REBNY Guest; now that is what is “astounding.” The bill has been amended seven or eight times, so your “30 year” comment only applies to the REBNY distraction and the same bills from 30 years ago, again being introduced by the CM’s at REBNY Hall and promoted by Brewer’s brew and her REBNY followers offering NO solution and they will NOT save one job. Unless you have a better fully vetted legal solution, YOU> “REBNY Guest” are also part of the problem, instead of the solution. Submit a better solution or support small business and saving jobs with the act. We can’t fear the 1% because they will go to court, we must stand up and do what is right. If corporation counsel would competently fight they will win, as the legal review has already been done and other than the same old inapplicable distraction REBNY already attempted, the law is on the side of the JOBS ACT. Stop misleading the readers. AGAIN, we say, GO SHARON!

    • Legal cases are won based on precedent, so please site any past case at all, throughout the country, that would convince a judge that the SBJSA is constitutional. I’ve asked this before in previous articles on this site, and there has yet to be a single serious response that sites a legal case. Please, prove me wrong with case law, not hyperbole.

      I’ve also listed a number of better, as in more likely, alternatives, so I won’t repeat myself yet again, but it does start with a vacancy tax. Next, create a Preservation Commission designation as part of the current LPC. There also needs to be other changes to City tax laws, including tax breaks for landlords who renew leases to longtime businesses.

      But I cannot see a law ever being passed that treats large businesses the same as small businesses or that provides benefits to new businesses. Both should have to fend from themselves.

      Not every landlord is evil, but if you treat them all the same, you only hurt longtime, small businesses. But feel free to prove me wrong. I double dare you.

  15. Maura, do not believe ther are problems with the Jobs Act. There are none and
    at the last hearing in 2009 the entire small business committee sponsored the bill and said it was the best solution to stop the closing of small businesses.
    The problem exists at City Hall where REBNY controls our city’s economic policy. Any other city in the world evicting 500 businesses a month would have easily passed the Jobs Act years ago. All the studies and fake bills are being orchestrated by REBNY to stop any regulation of commercial landlords. Its lack of POLITICAL WILL that is the problem.

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