OPINION: Dear lawmakers, stop stalling and save our businesses

BY KIRSTEN THEODOS | For almost five years, TakeBackNYC has been advocating for a vote on the best legislation that would stop the closing of small businesses, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (S.B.J.S.A.).

Last October, we applauded Speaker Corey Johnson for keeping his campaign pledge and giving the S.B.J.S.A. a hearing in the City Council. We had confidence that a fair hearing would show that giving rights to small business owners when their leases expire was the best solution to save them. During the hearing, Speaker Johnson emphasized the bill needed to be changed in order to move forward. TakeBackNYC testified that the S.B.J.S.A. has already been changed seven times over the course of 11 Council hearings.

Kirsten Theodos of TakeBackNYC.

Unlike his predecessors, the speaker rightfully acknowledged there’s a small business crisis and pledged to work with the Council to move the S.B.J.S.A. Small business advocates walked out of City Hall with optimism that the S.B.J.S.A. was finally going to be passed.

After patiently waiting 10 months and watching businesses continue to close, that optimism is fading. Five bills touted as helping small businesses were recently passed by the City Council. TakeBackNYC has sponsored small business forums in four boroughs but has never heard a small business owner express a need for what those bills provide. That’s because the bills don’t address the larger picture — the crisis of small business closings due to skyrocketing rents and the unfair lease-renewal process. It was disappointing to learn that five weak bills that do very little were fast-tracked and passed in four short months, while the strong bill — the S.B.J.S.A. — is being neglected.

The City Council should make the S.B.J.S.A. a priority to stop the closings. Given the long history of city government blocking this bill, TakeBackNYC is apprehensive about the current long delay in making changes to it. The S.B.J.S.A.’s prime sponsor, Councilmember Ydanis Rodriquez, stated at the hearing last October, “I am open to listening to any changes to the bill, as long as it makes the bill better and does not take away any rights of the business owners.”

After speaking to Councilmember Rodriguez, he confirmed to us that he hasn’t been included in any of the talks with the Speaker’s Office on fine-tuning the S.B.J.S.A. TakeBackNYC asked Speaker Johnson why he is delaying in making changes to the S.B.J.S.A., when it only took four months to pass five weaker bills, and why Rodriguez apparently was not part of any meetings regarding such changes. The speaker did not respond to these questions, even when deadlines were extended twice.

TakeBackNYC is also disappointed to learn that Councilmember Carlina Rivera — who campaigned for office advocating for the S.B.J.S.A. — was unwillingly removed from the City Council’s Small Business Committee. Her absence leaves businesses in her district, which includes the East Village, unrepresented and their fate in the hands of the committee’s chairperson, Mark Gjonaj. Gjonaj owns a real estate company and explicitly stated at last year’s hearing that he opposes the S.B.J.S.A.

Small business owners deserve to know why City Hall decided to remove Rivera from this key committee at the height of a crisis where small businesses in the West Village and East Village — and throughout Manhattan — are rapidly disappearing.

When asked who was responsible for removing Rivera from the Small Business Committee and if she fought to remain on it, her office replied: “Councilwoman Rivera did not remove herself from the Committee… . [She] did voice her concerns regarding not being able to serve on the Committee.”

Her office added that the change in her committee assignment came from the Rules Committee. Multiple inquiries to Karen Koslowitz, the Rules Committee chairperson, and Speaker Johnson, who sits on the Rules Committee, on why Rivera was removed from it also went unanswered.

It’s concerning that the City Council speaker and Rivera did not respond to our specific questions regarding the delay on the revision of the S.B.J.S.A. and the reason why she was removed from the Small Business Committee.

To all lawmakers: Stop stalling with small business initiatives and studies that don’t address the heart of the small business crisis. If our lawmakers are sincere in passing progressive legislation to save our economic backbone, they will quickly make the needed changes to the S.B.J.S.A. and pass it.

Theodos is the founder of TakeBackNYC.

17 Responses to OPINION: Dear lawmakers, stop stalling and save our businesses

  1. A disappointed voter

    I agree with Ms. Theodos’s thoughtful op-ed.

    Small businesses continue to shutter each day.

    Politicos- Pass the SBJSA.

    We need real action, not studies and trackers.

  2. The correct term for what Speaker Johnson and Chairman Gjonaj are doing to stop the Jobs Act is not “stalling” but “rigging”. Johnson and Gjonaj are continuing the rigging started by former Speaker Quinn and carried on by Speaker MVV to deny justice for small business owners at City Hall. The collusion with REBNY by the Speaker’s Office
    is a disgrace to good government and is responsible for the empty storefronts on every main street. Blaming Amazon or changing times thru fake studies does not fool the public who know the cause of their favorite businesses closing is pure greed of landlords.
    The only way to save our mom and pop businesses is to vote REBNY cronies out of office and support new independent real progressive candidates.

  3. I am guessing that they stall because they mistakenly think it is about ‘rent control’, one of REBNY’s favorite insults inevitably used to create vague “legal questions” and otherwise make the politicians in the City Council cower in terror.

  4. The Big Real Estate mafia controls our electeds. Their money and their power dictate what your Council Member and mine do-what Bills they put on the floor-what Bills that will never see the light of day-as in the case of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. It has been ‘disappeared’ by Council Speaker Johnson-the very same chap who thinks you’ll be fooled and vote for him for Mayor!?!

  5. There’s no mystery why the Small Business Survival Act is being strangled in the City Council. Anyone paying attention to this has understood for years that the billionaire landholders of New York in their lust for money, power and dominance have utterly compromised our city government just as one of their members, Donald Trump, (a lifetime stalwart of REBNY), is now hell bent on strangling our democracy — and for the same reasons. Yes, REBNY is in the White House! And with the enthusiastic support of the New York money and power drunk real estate potentates, he’s raised millions and millions for his scorched earth policies at a fund raiser in the South Hampton mansion of Steven Ross, a giant in the gentrification scourge so threatening us. Passing this Small Business Survival act would no only save our urgently needed neighborhood stores, it would poke a long needed finger in the eye of REBNY and in the eye of their hero in the white house. All things a related in politics. And securing the SBJSA would be a blessed victory too for our staggering American democracy now demanding that we all save it.

  6. The East and West Villages are two of the most iconic neighborhoods in the city and they have both been decimated. The residents of these neighborhoods should know the role their elected officials are playing on blocking the small business bill SBJSA that would save our Mom & Pops.

  7. The Small Business Committee doesn’t care about the stores, no matter who the chair is. Gjonaj is bad but no worse than Cornegy before him. The committeeship brings is lucrative for the chair, earning one of those famous fat lulus. The struggling little stores get nothing much to nothing at all. The Council has let the S.B.J.S.A. die in the waiting line while cleverly rushing five decoy bills into law and throwing the one CouncilMember who cares about Mom n Pops off the Small Business Committee. Small businesses are on their own in this City. They don’t have a friend in City Hall.

  8. REBNYs strangle hold on the City and the politicians is destroying the City. Article today said that more people are leaving the City now more than ever. Many storefronts are empty and many apartments empty in the new highrises. It can be depressing just walking down the street seeing the empty store fronts with our favorite shops and restaurants gone and the new towers lurching and shadowing the neighborhoods. Sounds like Johnson is afraid that he won’t get that REBNY support for his campaign.

  9. Anybody But CoJo

  10. The New York fabric, legacy and its energy is built on small businesses! They provide the city with not only jobs but also character and need to be protected.

    Thank you Mrs Theodos for advocating with such clarity! We meed more of you and the elected members to stand up for what is right and needed!!

  11. It is disappointing that Cory Johnson refuses to take a stand to protect small businesses. Clearly he has other interests at heart which is big real estate. Thanks to Ms. Theodos for informing the public about this bill and where our officials stand on it. Let’s keep this in mind come election time!

  12. Katherine O'Sullivan

    Well said Kirsten Theodos. Take back NYC

  13. Katherine O'Sullivan

    Our City politicians are helping to destroy our city.

  14. One of the larger problems with pushing the SBJSA is that I think many were hoodwinked into giving Corey Johnson the benefit of the doubt. And this is where activists need to do better. Having a public hearing doesn’t mean anything if it is rigged. In fact, it is even more detrimental to the cause because the electeds take that venue and throw everything they can to manipulate and spread a false narrative (i.e.: commercial rent control, the bill has constitutional problems, pack the hearing with REBNY supporters, make activists speak last after media leaves, etc.), while a naive and ill-informed media eats it up. But what bothers me even more, is seeing Corey Johnson shills like David Eisenbach and his Friends of the SBJSA go to Save NYC and other events and pontificate that the crisis of small business closures is due to REBNY but not City Council. Such lies that do not apportion blame to the real villains stunts the legislation moving forward and continues the bleed. Speaker Johnson, shown by Ms. Theodos to be intentionally impotent for months, is obviously to blame. (And his campaign contributions in 2017 show this was his compromised path to begin with: https://coreyquinnforcitycouncil.com/2017/10/27/i…. But perhaps also to blame are those ‘activists’ playing that inside game — those individuals, groups funded by City Council, folks who would rather have access, than actually being principled and taking a real stand to transforming this city to a more equitable place. They also need to also be called out that the blood of small businesses is on their hands too. Often I wonder how City Council and their shills sleep at night, but I already know the answer: fine.

  15. “it would poke a long needed finger in the eye of REBNY” — it’s starting to feel like we’re not doing this for the Right reasons. sad.

  16. Steve Barrison, Ex VP SBC

    Kirsten is right and so is Marni! And CoJo is a NoGo! People inside and now all of us on the outside know that Speaker Johnson sold out small business and every business closing since he took office and every lost job is on him along with the rest of REBNY HALL all the way to DeBLAHHHHsio. Look at all the closed businesses and the many times more that you don’t even see which are not on the ground floor, but either below street level or on the second or third or higher floors. There are vacancies across the five boroughs like a cancer destroying each special community main street and countless American dreams for our immigrants still coming here to make a go of it. Time to stand up and throw them all out of office. Enough of the Distraction, Destruction, Delays; just pass the JOBS Act or step aside. The other 100% meaningless bills passed in the name of “small business” are a diversion, delay and will not save one business. Anybody but Corey because he drank the Bloomberg/Quinn REBNY Aid and NYC has had enough of the same old people. You’re out! Go Small Business Congress and the Jobs Act. If you are truly interested in FACTS for a change in this world of distraction hype, then check out> http://www.saveNYCjobs.org Thank you all for fighting for what is right.

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