Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1164 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 14:00:14 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) How the City Hurts Small Businesses http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7051:how-the-city-hurts-small-businesses http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7051:how-the-city-hurts-small-businesses cn1bdgywyaael6s.jpg large

Street vendors protest the city's cap on permits (photo: @VendorPower)


Independent small businesses -- bodegas, pizza joints, shoe repair shops, fruit vendors -- are the heart and soul of New York City. But they are facing a crisis. Every day there is another story about some beloved neighborhood shop closing due to skyrocketing rents. Landlords then warehouse the vacant spaces in hopes of signing a lease with a bank or big chain. WNYC recently counted 17 vacancies on just two blocks of Christopher Street. And a report by the Manhattan Borough President found almost 200 shuttered storefronts on Broadway alone.

What is Mayor de Blasio doing to fix this problem? Nothing.

When asked about it -- and he frequently is -- the mayor claims the government’s hands are tied because the “free enterprise” system alone controls what landlords do with their space. The mayor had no real comment on a package of reforms unveiled last week by USBnyc, a new citywide coalition of small business owners, most of them immigrant-owned. And a couple months ago, speaking to Tony Danza, actor and owner of a 125-year-old cheese shop in Little Italy, the mayor’s only solution to the problem was to “urge the landlords to be less greedy.” Good luck with that!

But, in fact, the city is not a passive observer - it actively supports large landlords to the detriment of small business owners. For years, the main priority of the city’s Department of Small Business Services has not been to help mom and pops, but to organize and support Business Improvement Districts, the somewhat mysterious, quasi-public organizations that exist across the city, from Montague Street in Brooklyn to Melrose in the Bronx, with more being created each year.

SBS spends more of its yearly budget fostering BIDs (what it calls “neighborhood development”) than it does supporting actual small businesses. Just last month, the city doled out $500,000 for BIDs to create mobile technology apps. And all that is apart from the millions in funding that BIDs receive each year from the City Council.

The BIDS have innocuous-sounding names like the 82nd Street Partnership and the Village Alliance. Their glossy annual reports invariably show smiling shopkeepers and kids frolicking in fountains. Usually they are structured to give some minority of votes to local commercial tenants or residents. But make no mistake: by law, BIDs are controlled by commercial real estate landlords. Their mission is to maximize the cash flow they receive from their valuable investments. If that means kicking out a 50-year-old beauty supply shop to replace it with an artisanal gelato chain, too bad. As Mayor de Blasio would say, that’s capitalism at work.

It’s true that New York neighborhoods are always in flux, and too much nostalgia can be dangerous. But it wasn’t always like this. BIDs have only existed in New York for about 30 years, since the Union Square Partnership was founded in 1984. With the city in financial distress, landlords sought permission to tax themselves to provide basic services, like sanitation and security, where the city was falling short. Who could refuse such an offer? Even as the city rebounded during the Giuliani and Bloomberg eras, the city pushed for BID expansion, boosting their number to 44 in 2002 and 73 today. And the trend continues under Mayor de Blasio, who blessed new BIDs in Springfield Gardens, Queens and New Dorp, on Staten Island.

But BIDs don’t just power-wash sidewalks and post security guards on the corner. They play an active role to advance the interests of real estate owners in shaping public policy. They attend Community Board meetings, hire lobbyists, and nurture relationships with elected officials. With a collective budget in the hundreds of millions, they have a powerful voice. For years, together with the Real Estate Board of New York, they have blocked the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which would require landlords to sit down and talk with their commercial tenants before doubling or tripling their rent.

And, so far, the BIDs have stalled the Street Vendor Modernization Act. In October, no less than a dozen BID managers personally testified against the vending reform package in City Council chambers, while their lobbyists shook hands with officials in the hallway.

Everyone, of course, has a right to testify. But it’s time to have a public discussion about whether, as some have suggested, BIDs have outlived their usefulness. New Yorkers today are concerned about gentrification, not “white flight.” It’s time for a neutral study of whether BIDs lead to unfair distribution of basic services and the privatization of public space. And time to ask Mayor de Blasio why, if he cares about mom and pop small business owners, his administration continues to tip the scales in favor of the very same real estate companies that are driving them out.

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Sean Basinski is director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center. On Twitter @SeanBasinski.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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How the City Hurts Small Businesses Sun, 09 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, March 21 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6231:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-march-21 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6231:the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-march-21 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will be another busy one when it comes to budgets: the City Council continues its preliminary budget hearings and state budget negotiations enter their final ten days - a state budget is due by April 1 and some say a deal could be announced before the end of this week. Don't count on it, though, state budgets usually come in just before (or, as was the case last year, just after) the March 31 midnight deadline. This practice under Governor Andrew Cuomo is actually a serious improvement given that the state used to regularly wind up with late budgets extending weeks past the start of the new fiscal year, which begins April 1.

There are a variety of issues to be worked out, with several of importance to New York City. As always, there are a number of high-profile items, like an increase of the minimum wage or government ethics reform, that could be pushed beyond the budget and into the legislative session to follow. That session runs until mid-June. The budget, after all, only must include necessary state expenses. Expect at least a couple of closed-door meetings among Cuomo and the two legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican. On Monday, City Council "Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Members will travel to Albany to advocate for the City Council's 2016 State Budget and Legislative Agenda," according to Mark-Viverito's public schedule.

Also worth watching in Albany this week, the Assembly will consider internal reforms announced by Heastie and his conference at the end of this past week. The 40-plus reform proposals received a mixed reaction from elected officials and good government advocates, but still indicate a number of changes that many have been advocating for years. And, keep an eye out for a related conference in Albany on Friday, which will look at ethics reform through the lens of a state constitutional convention - details below.

While it is another busy week of budget hearings at the City Council, the Council will also hold a full-body Stated Meeting on Tuesday, at which new bills will be introduced and the Council will vote on the two high-profile zoning changes - Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) - that have been the source of months of discussion, negotiation, and controversy, and that are key to Mayor de Blasio's affordable housing plans.

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - read our day-by-day rundown below.

***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics?
E-mail Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
Mayor de Blasio is doing a series of six media appearances to discuss his affordable housing agenda on Monday. He'll be on NPR, 880AM and 710AM radio, and on NY1, NY1 Noticias, and Univision TV.

Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Monday in Albany.

At 10 a.m. in Albany, following the full meeting of the NYS Board of Regents, the board’s newly-elected Chancellor and Vice Chancellor will hold a press conference with the State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

At noon Monday, a coalition of over 90 HIV/AIDS advocates will launch a statewide Week of Action on the steps of City Hall, calling upon Governor Cuomo to invest $70 million in a plan to end AIDS in the 2016 New York State budget.

At the City Council on Monday:

  • At 9:30 a.m., the Committee on Health will hold a hearing on a bill to prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco products at sports arenas and recreational areas that require tickets.
  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Health will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.
  • At noon, the Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Youth Services will discuss a bill requiring the establishment of a training coordinator to teach certain agency staff throughout departments such as Parks and Recreation, Homeless Services, and Human Resources Administration/Social Services how to identify runaway, homeless or sexually exploited youth and how to connect them with appropriate services. The committee will also discuss several technical changes relating to an annual report produced by the Administration for Children’s Services and the Department of Youth and Community Development on the number of sexually exploited youth each agency has come into contact with over the course of the calendar year.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Public Safety will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.
  • At 1:30 p.m., the Committee on Higher Education will meet to discuss a resolution to increase State funding to CUNY, and to reach a fair labor agreement with the University’s faculty and staff in the 2016-17 NYS Executive Budget.
  • At 3 p.m., the Committee on Civil Rights will examine a bill to broaden or incorporate a right to truthful information for a variety of activities covered by the New York City Human Rights Law, including lending, employment, and access to public accommodations and others.

At 2 p.m. Monday, "First Lady McCray will deliver opening remarks at a panel at Fountain House, an organization dedicated to supporting those living with serious mental illness."

At 6 p.m. Monday, the LGBT Task Force of Manhattan Community Boards 9, 10, 11, and 12 will host an LGBT Resource Fair featuring New York City Agencies. The event is sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

At 6:10 p.m. Monday evening, "Mayor Bill de Blasio will discuss affordable housing with an anticipated 10,000+ AARP members from New York City on an interactive call that allows participants to ask questions," according to AARP-NY.

On Monday at 6:30 p.m., schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will attend a town hall meeting of District 16's Community Education Council at MS 267 in Brooklyn.

Tuesday
Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Tuesday in Albany.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Crain’s New York Business will host an event on how startup businesses take off in New York City, featuring: Gregg Bishop, Commissioner, NYC Department of Small Business Services; Howard Lerman, Co-Founder & CEO, Yext; Rachel Shechtman,, Founder and CEO, STORY; Adam Shwartz, Director, Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech; and moderated by Matthew Flamm, Senior Reporter, Crain's New York Business.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the YWCA of New York City will host “its third breakfast panel for Women’s History Month “New York City Women Leaders: The Power of Influence and Purpose.” The panel will include Maya Wiley, counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio; City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley; and Carmelyn Malalis, commissioner of the city’s Human Rights Commission; among others.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Commission on Public Information and Communication will meet to discuss the implementation of the webcasting law and the establishment of a central portal for webcasts.

At the City Council on Tuesday:

  • At 9 a.m., the Committee on State and Federal Legislation will meet to press for authorization that Christopher Park in Manhattan is discontinued as city parkland.
  • At 10 a.m., the Committee on Finance will meet to approve new designations for certain organizations to receive funding in the expense budget; to communicate the transfer of City funds between various agencies in FY ‘16 in the expense budget; and to communicate the appropriation of new revenues of $982 million in FY ‘16.
  • At 1:30 p.m., the City Council will hold a full-body Stated Meeting. The highlight of the hearing will be the Council’s votes on the MIH and ZQA zoning text amendments.
  • Before the Stated, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will host a pre-Stated press conference at 12:30.

Also prior to the Stated Meeting, at noon, City Council Members Costa Constantinides and Ydanis Rodriguez will host a press conference on the steps of City Hall to rally before introducing a bill to create a pilot program for electric vehicle charging stations on street parking. The program hopes to encourage the use of electric cars and reduce carbon emissions citywide.

Wednesday
Both houses of the New York State Legislature are in session on Wednesday in Albany.

At the City Council on Wednesday:

  • At 10 a.m., the Subcommittee on Libraries will meet jointly with the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations for a preliminary budget hearing on libraries.
  • At 11 a.m., the Committee on Contracts will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.
  • At 1 p.m., the Committee on Courts and Legal Services will meet for a preliminary budget hearing.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will host a Women’s History Month celebration at Mott Haven Library.

Thursday
At 8 a.m. Thursday, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce will host a breakfast event focused on combating the rising tide of cybercrime and featuring Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

Friday and the weekend
At 1:30 p.m. Friday in Albany, a forum, “Can a NYS Constitutional Convention Strengthen Government Ethics?” The event, hosted by The Rockefeller Institute, will feature discussion about whether issues of integrity in government can be fixed statutorily, or if would be better resolved through constitutional change. Speaking will be former NYS Comptroller H. Carl McCall; and Columbia Law School Professor Richard Briffault, who is also a former assistant counsel to Governor Hugh Carey; as well as a panel of experts.

On Saturday, March 26, Participatory Budget voting begins in New York City Council districts running the program. In Participatory Budgeting, Council Members ask New York City residents “to decide how to invest public funds in their neighborhoods.” Voting will take place throughout the nearly 30 participating districts through April 3.

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Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

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by Kelly Fan and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, March 21 Sat, 19 Mar 2016 14:22:16 +0000