Can Small Businesses Survive in North Brooklyn? Not Without Our Help

Lost our Lease

In the past year covering Greenpoint happenings, I have written about more local businesses closing than I care to remember. A simple peek on Manhattan Avenue shows a smattering of empty store fronts–some shuttered for more than a year—waiting to be taken over by some business with deep enough pockets able to afford a new tier of astronomical rents. Out you go mom and pop. Adios working artists. Sayonara small fry.

Each MONTH an estimated 1,000 to 1,200 NYC small businesses lose their leases due to profiteering rent increases.  And as we’ve bared witness, the only ones who can truly afford to occupy these newly priced spaces usually come strapped with shareholders, millions of dollars in equity, and a black bottom line.

In fact, the crisis is so dire, under the Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure 83,211 commercial tenants received eviction notices, an estimated 240,000 small businesses closed, and NYC saw more than 2 million jobs lost.

Real estate speculation is nothing new, but when it finally swoops in like that long lost relative no one ever wanted to deal with, the affect can be devastating as it takes over our lives.

So you might ask: Is there any real way to stop this? The answer is yes, but you have to keep reading to find out how.

In an effort to stem this tide of skyrocketing commercial rents and the flight of small businesses, The Small Business Congress has teamed up with grassroots organizations like TAKEBACK NYC and the Artist Affordability Project to host a public forum on the crisis this Thursday, June 4th at 7 pm, 80 Willoughby Street. The event is designed to gather working folks, share experiences about the hardships of maintaining a working space in NYC, and discuss ways to address gentrification head on.  Good news for us, a solution to this endemic crisis is at hand and it’s called the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.

The Small Business Jobs Survival Act is simple. It seeks to protect commercial tenants from being displaced by demanding 10 year leases to foster stability, and put an end to stratospheric rent hikes by holding landlords legally accountable through arbitration when it comes time to a renew a lease.

“Landlords can increase the rent at any percentage point once a lease is up and there are no regulations on this. There is no maximum for how high a rent increase can get,” says Stephanie Beck, a supporter of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and an active member of the Artist Affordability Project.

Both TakeBackNYC and the Artist Affordability Project  make it clear this isn’t a fight about nostalgia, their goal is fairness in all present and future commercial tenants’ rights whether that be the corner bodega, an 8th floor medical office, or a working artist renting a studio space.

“Small businesses have reached the ‘tipping point’ in NYC,” says TAKEBACKNYC. “Out of control rents and being forced to pay the landlord’s growing property taxes on top of the already high cost of operating a business have made it next to impossible for most businesses to make a reasonable profit.”

While our own City Councilman, Steve Levin, supports the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, the bill has a plenty of opponents including Williamsburg’s City Councilman Antonio Reynoso and former President of the New York Real Estate Board, Steve Spinola, who recently said mom and pop stores couldn’t afford the rent hikes in NYC because “they weren’t selling enough. Period.”

With attitudes like that, it’s no wonder the wheel of big money keeps turning and mowing over everything in its path—or to be exact crushing 1000+ NYC small businesses each month.

So if you are a small business, or simply care about them, please sign this petition and get help the word out about the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. Even better, show your support by heading down to St. Joseph’s High School 80 Willoughby Street this Thursday, June 4th at 7 pm and participate in the discussion.  Let’s take back New York and make it a better place.

Saint Joseph’s is easily accessible from the N B Q R A C R F 2 3 4 & 5 trains.

About Kim M

Kim is a native New Yorker, local activist and writer. When she's not writing books or playing Erin Brockovich with her Save Greenpoint peeps, you will see her whipping around Greenpoint on her bike, chatting it up with folks, and sharing stories about what it is about her hometown that makes life worth living. Follow her on twitter @kimasson or www.kimmassonwrites.com
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