The Race in District 3: Small Business Strategies

The incumbent and challenger in District 3’s City Councilmember race were asked to weigh in on NYC’s small business landscape. For info. on the Tues., Nov. 7 election, visit nyccfb.info/voterguide.

Marni Halasa. | Photo by Greg Salvatori.

Small Business Survival | BY MARNI HALASA, JD, MS (Eco Justice candidate; challenger) | It is no secret that one of the most important issues that need to be addressed in our district is escalating rents on small businesses. Since Mayor de Blasio and our City Councilmember Corey Johnson have been in office, over 1,000 small businesses have closed each month, and 8,000 jobs have been lost. In our district, neighborhood landmarks like the Garden of Eden, House of Cards and Curiosities, and Gray’s Papaya have all closed due to escalating rents.

Escalating rents has led to small businesses wondering about their long-term viability and whether or not they should invest in their neighborhoods for the long haul. This has had devastating effects in our district. Our community is suffering from empty storefronts, a lack of vital services, and an economic malaise that is manufactured solely from greed. The few stores left have no choice but to charge a premium for their goods and services if they want to avoid the same fate. As a result, necessary items are outrageously expensive — making the neighborhood virtually unlivable for most elderly residents and impossible to enjoy for the rest of us.


The solution to this problem is to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA) — a bill which has been in front of the City Council for quite some time, but no one, including Corey Johnson, has the guts to bring it to a vote. The law would give any tenant of a commercial space, whether they are a bodega, a medical office or nonprofit, the right to a 10-year lease, with the right to renew the lease. If not agreed upon, the dispute would be presented to an independent arbitrator who would then determine a fair rent. This law is designed to help both small businesses and landlords. With this law small businesses can have an easier time controlling their overhead costs and the law will provide landlords with a boost to their occupancy rates and ensure that they are getting top dollar for their spaces.

To ensure the passage of this act, one of the very first things I plan on doing when elected is to bring the Small Business Survival Act to a vote. Specifically, I will bring a motion to discharge the act. Doing so will fast track it to the floor and force the City Council to vote on a law that is supported by a vast majority of its current members. The likely passage will give small business owners a new lease on life and it will make the American Dream more accessible to all individuals who desire a level playing field. The rest of us can enjoy reduced prices on goods and services that are both necessary allow us to, once again, experience the joys of living in New York City.

District 3 City Councilmember Corey Johnson. | Photo by William Alatriste.

Saving Our Small Businesses — The Heart and Soul of New York City | BY COUNCILMEMBER COREY JOHNSON (incumbent; Democrat & Working Families candidate) | Our local small businesses are more than just brick and mortar. They’re more than just places to shop. They are the lifeblood of our communities. The corner deli, bric-a-brac thrift store, affordable supermarket, and lampshade shop collectively make up the essence of our neighborhoods. They create the beautiful “sidewalk ballet” that Jane Jacobs famously identified as a city’s heart and soul.

Sadly, our mom-and-pop stores are in crisis. Unchecked real estate speculation, skyrocketing rents, fines, competition from deep-pocketed corporate chains, and online shopping are putting unprecedented pressure on small businesses. Many landlords are opting to let their storefronts sit vacant, holding out for exorbitant rents.

We cannot allow this trend to continue. Government has a responsibility to take action before it’s too late. We must use every tool in our toolbox.

I am a proud co-sponsor of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), which would give tenants a right to lease renewal, a right to arbitration by a third party if fair terms cannot be reached, and restrictions to prevent landlords from passing their property taxes on to small business owners. The importance of these measures cannot be overstated. This bill would give mom and pops a fighting chance.

Recently enacted legislation that I co-sponsored includes the Non-Residential Tenant Harassment Law, which cracks down on harassment of commercial tenants by landlords. Another bill creates the role of small business advocates within the Department of Small Business Services. We also recently passed a Business Owner’s Bill of Rights.

It’s also time to address the Commercial Rent Tax, an unfair 3.9 percent rent surcharge on Manhattan businesses below 96th St. that pay an annual rent of over $250,000. When that threshold was established, it didn’t apply to many small businesses, but now it does. Councilmember Dan Garodnick has introduced legislation to raise that threshold to $500,000, which I support. But there is one business that should be entirely exempt from this tax: affordable supermarkets. My bill with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer would exempt them, reducing overhead costs and promoting healthier grocery practices by requiring a minimum amount of floor space for the sale of fresh produce.

Another bill I’m sponsoring, with Councilmember Robert Cornegy, would help relieve business owners from fines by creating an on-site compliance consultation program. Other bills include legislation that would create a Small Business Disaster Recovery and Resiliency Advisory Board, and a bill that would create a notification system whereby small business owners can be informed of complaints lodged against them.

Importantly, we all need to personally support our small businesses. Think twice about choosing Amazon over your local store. In November, I am partnering with the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce on the #ShopBleecker campaign. Please join us!

This Talking Point is too small to outline everything that needs to be done, both here and in Albany. This issue has been, and always will be, one of my top priorities. Thank you for your partnership as we work together on this and many other issues of vital importance to our community.

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