Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/small-businesses 2018-11-12T18:49:04+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com The City is Helping Small Businesses Now More Than Ever 2017-07-11T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7057-the-city-is-helping-small-businesses-now-more-than-ever Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/bishop_mmv_nyccouncil.jpg" alt="bishop mmv nyccouncil" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>SBS Commissioner Bishop, the author, right (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this week, an op-ed appeared in Gotham Gazette entitled "<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7051-how-the-city-hurts-small-businesses" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">How the City Hurts Small Businesses</a>." This column reminded me of a great saying by New York’s late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” The truth is that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Department of Small Business Services are working every day to support small, neighborhood businesses across the five boroughs. A few facts:</p> <ul> <li>Our Small Business Support Center has provided more than 12,000 services to small businesses since its launch last year.</li> <li>Small business fines are down 40% since the mayor took office.</li> <li>Since 2014, we’ve helped small business owners access $169 million in capital to grow their businesses.</li> <li>Restaurants that take advantage of our services open three months faster.</li> <li>We’ve served more than 12,000 foreign-born entrepreneurs.</li> <li>Over the last year alone, we’ve provided nearly 1,500 free, on-site consultations to help small business owners avoid costly fines and penalties.</li> </ul> <p>The City offers these, and many other services because we recognize that part of what makes New York City special is the diverse mix of small businesses that give our neighborhoods character. We care about the local hardware stores, beauty salons, and pizza shops where the owners know your name and are invested in their communities. We are moving government out of the way of small business owners, cutting red tape, providing new legal protections, and leveling the playing field for minority, women, and foreign-born business owners.</p> <p>Every year, our team at SBS reaches thousands of small businesses through an array of free, accessible services. We help small businesses in every phase of their development as they start, operate, and grow. This support helps small business owners cut costs and boost their bottom lines, offsetting some of the competitive pressures that exist in New York. &nbsp;</p> <p>We help small businesses to write business plans as they are starting up, learn how to negotiate a commercial lease, and understand City rules and regulations. We keep them running with free educational resources, legal consultations, and compliance services to avoid costly fines and penalties. And we help small businesses to grow through programs to help them secure financing, sell to the government, and other tailored services for minority, women, and immigrant-owned businesses.</p> <p>This year SBS also launched a citywide program called Love Your Local, which encourages New Yorkers to share their favorite independent small business through social media and on an interactive map on SBS’ website. So far, over 2,000 businesses were shared for other New Yorkers to discover. In addition to this free publicity, these businesses are eligible to apply for grant funding to help them better compete.</p> <p>The author of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7051-how-the-city-hurts-small-businesses" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the op-ed</a> also questions the value of the City’s work with Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). At SBS, we provide technical assistance to communities that wish to form a BID. We help make sure that BIDs are accountable and formed through ground-up community engagement. There are BIDs across New York City that are both big and small, providing supplemental sanitation services, merchant organizing, and neighborhood beautification to strengthen existing small businesses. The 74 BIDs that operate across the city include 35 low-to-moderate income neighborhoods and each of them is governed by a locally-controlled nonprofit board of directors.</p> <p>The daily work of BIDs makes a difference for small businesses and local residents alike. If you drill down and look at the nuts and bolts of what BIDs are doing, it is work that benefits everyone. On an average day, BIDs across the city:</p> <ul> <li>Collect 10,800 bags of trash.</li> <li>Remove 233 incidents of graffiti.</li> <li>Distribute 10,036 marketing materials promoting small businesses.</li> <li>Interact with 5,752 visitors who keep shops bustling with activity.</li> </ul> <p>We are proud of the work we are doing each and every day to support stronger businesses and build stronger neighborhoods across the five boroughs. I encourage all small business owners to take advantage of the free services that SBS offers. We can help your business start, operate, and grow, and we are also here to provide assistance to communities that choose to form a BID. More information on our services can be found by visiting&nbsp;<a href="http://nyc.gov/sbs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">our website</a> or by calling 311.</p> <p>***<br />Gregg Bishop is the Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. On Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/NYC_SBS" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@NYC_SBS</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/GreggBishopNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GreggBishopNYC</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/bishop_mmv_nyccouncil.jpg" alt="bishop mmv nyccouncil" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>SBS Commissioner Bishop, the author, right (photo: @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this week, an op-ed appeared in Gotham Gazette entitled "<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7051-how-the-city-hurts-small-businesses" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">How the City Hurts Small Businesses</a>." This column reminded me of a great saying by New York’s late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” The truth is that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Department of Small Business Services are working every day to support small, neighborhood businesses across the five boroughs. A few facts:</p> <ul> <li>Our Small Business Support Center has provided more than 12,000 services to small businesses since its launch last year.</li> <li>Small business fines are down 40% since the mayor took office.</li> <li>Since 2014, we’ve helped small business owners access $169 million in capital to grow their businesses.</li> <li>Restaurants that take advantage of our services open three months faster.</li> <li>We’ve served more than 12,000 foreign-born entrepreneurs.</li> <li>Over the last year alone, we’ve provided nearly 1,500 free, on-site consultations to help small business owners avoid costly fines and penalties.</li> </ul> <p>The City offers these, and many other services because we recognize that part of what makes New York City special is the diverse mix of small businesses that give our neighborhoods character. We care about the local hardware stores, beauty salons, and pizza shops where the owners know your name and are invested in their communities. We are moving government out of the way of small business owners, cutting red tape, providing new legal protections, and leveling the playing field for minority, women, and foreign-born business owners.</p> <p>Every year, our team at SBS reaches thousands of small businesses through an array of free, accessible services. We help small businesses in every phase of their development as they start, operate, and grow. This support helps small business owners cut costs and boost their bottom lines, offsetting some of the competitive pressures that exist in New York. &nbsp;</p> <p>We help small businesses to write business plans as they are starting up, learn how to negotiate a commercial lease, and understand City rules and regulations. We keep them running with free educational resources, legal consultations, and compliance services to avoid costly fines and penalties. And we help small businesses to grow through programs to help them secure financing, sell to the government, and other tailored services for minority, women, and immigrant-owned businesses.</p> <p>This year SBS also launched a citywide program called Love Your Local, which encourages New Yorkers to share their favorite independent small business through social media and on an interactive map on SBS’ website. So far, over 2,000 businesses were shared for other New Yorkers to discover. In addition to this free publicity, these businesses are eligible to apply for grant funding to help them better compete.</p> <p>The author of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7051-how-the-city-hurts-small-businesses" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the op-ed</a> also questions the value of the City’s work with Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). At SBS, we provide technical assistance to communities that wish to form a BID. We help make sure that BIDs are accountable and formed through ground-up community engagement. There are BIDs across New York City that are both big and small, providing supplemental sanitation services, merchant organizing, and neighborhood beautification to strengthen existing small businesses. The 74 BIDs that operate across the city include 35 low-to-moderate income neighborhoods and each of them is governed by a locally-controlled nonprofit board of directors.</p> <p>The daily work of BIDs makes a difference for small businesses and local residents alike. If you drill down and look at the nuts and bolts of what BIDs are doing, it is work that benefits everyone. On an average day, BIDs across the city:</p> <ul> <li>Collect 10,800 bags of trash.</li> <li>Remove 233 incidents of graffiti.</li> <li>Distribute 10,036 marketing materials promoting small businesses.</li> <li>Interact with 5,752 visitors who keep shops bustling with activity.</li> </ul> <p>We are proud of the work we are doing each and every day to support stronger businesses and build stronger neighborhoods across the five boroughs. I encourage all small business owners to take advantage of the free services that SBS offers. We can help your business start, operate, and grow, and we are also here to provide assistance to communities that choose to form a BID. More information on our services can be found by visiting&nbsp;<a href="http://nyc.gov/sbs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">our website</a> or by calling 311.</p> <p>***<br />Gregg Bishop is the Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. On Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/NYC_SBS" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@NYC_SBS</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/GreggBishopNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GreggBishopNYC</a>.</p> <p>

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How the City Hurts Small Businesses 2017-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7051-how-the-city-hurts-small-businesses Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cn1bdgywyaael6s.jpg-large.jpeg" alt="cn1bdgywyaael6s.jpg large" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Street vendors protest the city's cap on permits (photo: @VendorPower)</p> <hr /> <p>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 <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/there-seem-be-lot-empty-storefronts-problem/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">17 vacancies</a> on just two blocks of Christopher Street. And a report by the Manhattan Borough President found almost <a href="https://www.amny.com/amp/real-estate/broadway-s-empty-storefronts-total-almost-200-borough-president-says-1.13732598" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">200 shuttered storefronts</a> on Broadway alone.</p> <p>What is Mayor de Blasio doing to fix this problem? Nothing.</p> <p>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 <a href="https://anhd.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/USBnyc-Platform.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">package of reforms</a> 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!</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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 <a href="http://bklyner.com/myrtle-avenue-brooklyn-partnership-awarded-100000-grant-to-fund-outreach-app/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500,000</a> for BIDs to create mobile technology apps. And all that is apart from the <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20150714/BLOGS04/150719955/council-adds-1-25-million-for-neighborhood-business-groups" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">millions</a> in funding that BIDs receive each year from the City Council.</p> <p>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 <a href="http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/2017/06/ray-today.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">artisanal gelato chain</a>, too bad. As Mayor de Blasio would say, that’s capitalism at work.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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 <a href="http://prtl-drprd-web.nyc.gov/lobbyistsearch/search?client=New+York+City+BID+Association" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">lobbyists</a>, 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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>Everyone, of course, has a right to testify. But it’s time to have a public discussion about whether, as <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20160918/REAL_ESTATE/160919896/clean-operators-or-shadow-governments-critics-of-bids-say-its-time" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">some have suggested</a>, BIDs have outlived their usefulness. New Yorkers today are concerned about <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/130188/business-improvement-districts-ruin-neighborhoods" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gentrification</a>, 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.</p> <p>***<br />Sean Basinski is director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/SeanBasinski" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@SeanBasinski</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cn1bdgywyaael6s.jpg-large.jpeg" alt="cn1bdgywyaael6s.jpg large" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Street vendors protest the city's cap on permits (photo: @VendorPower)</p> <hr /> <p>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 <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/there-seem-be-lot-empty-storefronts-problem/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">17 vacancies</a> on just two blocks of Christopher Street. And a report by the Manhattan Borough President found almost <a href="https://www.amny.com/amp/real-estate/broadway-s-empty-storefronts-total-almost-200-borough-president-says-1.13732598" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">200 shuttered storefronts</a> on Broadway alone.</p> <p>What is Mayor de Blasio doing to fix this problem? Nothing.</p> <p>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 <a href="https://anhd.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/USBnyc-Platform.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">package of reforms</a> 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!</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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 <a href="http://bklyner.com/myrtle-avenue-brooklyn-partnership-awarded-100000-grant-to-fund-outreach-app/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500,000</a> for BIDs to create mobile technology apps. And all that is apart from the <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20150714/BLOGS04/150719955/council-adds-1-25-million-for-neighborhood-business-groups" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">millions</a> in funding that BIDs receive each year from the City Council.</p> <p>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 <a href="http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/2017/06/ray-today.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">artisanal gelato chain</a>, too bad. As Mayor de Blasio would say, that’s capitalism at work.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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 <a href="http://prtl-drprd-web.nyc.gov/lobbyistsearch/search?client=New+York+City+BID+Association" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">lobbyists</a>, 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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>Everyone, of course, has a right to testify. But it’s time to have a public discussion about whether, as <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20160918/REAL_ESTATE/160919896/clean-operators-or-shadow-governments-critics-of-bids-say-its-time" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">some have suggested</a>, BIDs have outlived their usefulness. New Yorkers today are concerned about <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/130188/business-improvement-districts-ruin-neighborhoods" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gentrification</a>, 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.</p> <p>***<br />Sean Basinski is director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/SeanBasinski" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@SeanBasinski</a>.</p> <p>

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The Holiday Season Opportunity to Bolster Our Local Businesses 2016-12-21T05:00:00+00:00 2016-12-21T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/6682-the-holiday-season-opportunity-to-bolster-our-local-businesses Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/espinal_supermarket_tour.jpg" alt="espinal supermarket tour" width="600" height="383" /></p> <p>Council Member Espinal, the author (middle), tours a local market</p> <hr /> <p>The holidays are my favorite time of year: a time when we can open ourselves up to one another and reflect on what makes us grateful. Whether through wishing a stranger a happy holiday, participating in charity, or simply sharing traditions with friends and family, the holidays are a time for community.</p> <p>Yet, amid the joy and cheer that accompany the holiday season, the pressure to find perfect gifts for our loved ones while also balancing our checkbooks can be daunting. Especially when income inequality in New York City is at an all-time high and working people are struggling to get by, the sense of obligation to buy presents is often an added burden on already financially strained families.</p> <p>Even with specific family situations being what they are, New York City consumers will spend a lot of money this holiday season. We live in a heavily consumerist culture, with pressure constantly upon us to buy more and more -- pressure that is even more present during the holiday season. Whether through the temptations of often sneaky “sales” in big-box stores or more modern techniques, such as the constant slew of advertisements targeted at us on our Facebook pages or in emails, large corporations are always trying to reach us; always trying to sell us the next big thing.</p> <p>Big companies often do provide us with the stuff we need to live our unique lives, while also providing jobs for our families and neighbors. But corporations do not have to be our main providers and an over-reliance on their services does not offer the best economic opportunities for our city.</p> <p>This holiday season there is again an important opportunity for us to create a stronger local economy by patronizing local businesses. That is why, as a City Council member, the chair of the Consumer Affairs committee, and a Brooklynite, I am urging my fellow New Yorkers to shop locally.</p> <p>Look for items made in New York to encourage local manufacturing and skip the big malls for your local business corridors. You’ll be amazed at the variety and quality of goods available to you locally, if you look.</p> <p>If you prefer online shopping, consider replacing amazon.com for <a href="http://madeinnyc.org/" target="_blank">madeinnyc.org</a>, an online platform that directly connects New Yorkers with local manufacturers offering the latest in food, fashion, furnishings, and other products. There's nothing like shopping local for all your last-minute gifts, too.</p> <p>One recent study found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 stays in the community. Yet, when the same amount of money is spent at a non-local business, it produces only $43 for the local community. That difference of $25 per $100 could be going to community businesses, which are often owned by families and employ neighborhood folk. Local ‘mom and pops’ have long been the backbone of our society -- they sustain families and provide jobs to community members. In fact, since 1990, small businesses alone have created 8 million jobs and most owners support paying above and raising the minimum wage.</p> <p>These are key reasons to shop local this holiday season -- and beyond.</p> <p>Small businesses no doubt contribute to the economic fabric and sustainability of our local communities. And, if that is not reason enough to support your local shops, consider this: a Harvard Business School Study found that CEOs make 350 times more than the average worker. Income inequality is one of the most crucial and wide-reaching issues of our day. We saw this as a major theme in our recent presidential election, both in the Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and in the general election with the nomination of Donald Trump -- a radical rejection of the political status quo -- because it spoke to many Americans’ innermost economic and social grievances.</p> <p>Each of us has ample opportunities to make personal choices that hold large corporations accountable and bolster our local businesses. As chair of the City Council Committee on Consumer Affairs, and as a proud Brooklynite, I urge New Yorkers to spread the cheer to their local retailers and shop locally this holiday season.</p> <p>***<br />Rafael Espinal is a New York City Council member representing parts of Bushwick, East New York and Oceanhill-Brownsville in Brooklyn. As Chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs, Council Member Espinal works to enact legislation that protects consumers, strengthens businesses, and empowers New Yorkers. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/RLEspinal" target="_blank">@RLEspinal</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/espinal_supermarket_tour.jpg" alt="espinal supermarket tour" width="600" height="383" /></p> <p>Council Member Espinal, the author (middle), tours a local market</p> <hr /> <p>The holidays are my favorite time of year: a time when we can open ourselves up to one another and reflect on what makes us grateful. Whether through wishing a stranger a happy holiday, participating in charity, or simply sharing traditions with friends and family, the holidays are a time for community.</p> <p>Yet, amid the joy and cheer that accompany the holiday season, the pressure to find perfect gifts for our loved ones while also balancing our checkbooks can be daunting. Especially when income inequality in New York City is at an all-time high and working people are struggling to get by, the sense of obligation to buy presents is often an added burden on already financially strained families.</p> <p>Even with specific family situations being what they are, New York City consumers will spend a lot of money this holiday season. We live in a heavily consumerist culture, with pressure constantly upon us to buy more and more -- pressure that is even more present during the holiday season. Whether through the temptations of often sneaky “sales” in big-box stores or more modern techniques, such as the constant slew of advertisements targeted at us on our Facebook pages or in emails, large corporations are always trying to reach us; always trying to sell us the next big thing.</p> <p>Big companies often do provide us with the stuff we need to live our unique lives, while also providing jobs for our families and neighbors. But corporations do not have to be our main providers and an over-reliance on their services does not offer the best economic opportunities for our city.</p> <p>This holiday season there is again an important opportunity for us to create a stronger local economy by patronizing local businesses. That is why, as a City Council member, the chair of the Consumer Affairs committee, and a Brooklynite, I am urging my fellow New Yorkers to shop locally.</p> <p>Look for items made in New York to encourage local manufacturing and skip the big malls for your local business corridors. You’ll be amazed at the variety and quality of goods available to you locally, if you look.</p> <p>If you prefer online shopping, consider replacing amazon.com for <a href="http://madeinnyc.org/" target="_blank">madeinnyc.org</a>, an online platform that directly connects New Yorkers with local manufacturers offering the latest in food, fashion, furnishings, and other products. There's nothing like shopping local for all your last-minute gifts, too.</p> <p>One recent study found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 stays in the community. Yet, when the same amount of money is spent at a non-local business, it produces only $43 for the local community. That difference of $25 per $100 could be going to community businesses, which are often owned by families and employ neighborhood folk. Local ‘mom and pops’ have long been the backbone of our society -- they sustain families and provide jobs to community members. In fact, since 1990, small businesses alone have created 8 million jobs and most owners support paying above and raising the minimum wage.</p> <p>These are key reasons to shop local this holiday season -- and beyond.</p> <p>Small businesses no doubt contribute to the economic fabric and sustainability of our local communities. And, if that is not reason enough to support your local shops, consider this: a Harvard Business School Study found that CEOs make 350 times more than the average worker. Income inequality is one of the most crucial and wide-reaching issues of our day. We saw this as a major theme in our recent presidential election, both in the Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and in the general election with the nomination of Donald Trump -- a radical rejection of the political status quo -- because it spoke to many Americans’ innermost economic and social grievances.</p> <p>Each of us has ample opportunities to make personal choices that hold large corporations accountable and bolster our local businesses. As chair of the City Council Committee on Consumer Affairs, and as a proud Brooklynite, I urge New Yorkers to spread the cheer to their local retailers and shop locally this holiday season.</p> <p>***<br />Rafael Espinal is a New York City Council member representing parts of Bushwick, East New York and Oceanhill-Brownsville in Brooklyn. As Chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs, Council Member Espinal works to enact legislation that protects consumers, strengthens businesses, and empowers New Yorkers. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/RLEspinal" target="_blank">@RLEspinal</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Proposed Zoning Changes Raise Questions About Small Businesses 2016-01-05T02:48:52+00:00 2016-01-05T02:48:52+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6062-proposed-zoning-changes-raise-questions-about-small-businesses Carmen Russo <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/morschers_pork_store_queens_james_karla_murray.jpg" alt="morschers pork store queens james karla murray" height="461" width="600" /></p> <p>Queens, 2009; photo by James and Karla Murray from <em><a href="http://gingkopress.com/shop/store-front-2/" target="_blank">Store Front II: A History Preserved</a></em></p> <p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">As the mayor‘s recently proposed, and in many cases fiercely opposed, zoning text amendments have fanned the flames of New Yorkers‘ ever-simmering fear of gentrification, one type of at-risk tenant has gone unmentioned: small business owners.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whether it is the famous <a href="https://twitter.com/Arepalady">Arepa Lady of Queens</a> who cooks up corn pancakes with mozzarella, the baby Jesus doll boutique showcased in Frederick Wiseman‘s recent film “<a href="http://filmforum.org/film/in-jackson-heights-film">In Jackson Heights</a>,” or the local bodega still selling expired $1 honey-buns, locally-owned and servicing mom-and-pop boutiques provide much of the diverse commercial life that has long characterized New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the de Blasio administration looks to change zoning requirements throughout the city, including to allow more and better retail space, and wants to see significant real estate development to increase affordable housing, there is a great deal at stake for small business owners - both current and prospective.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Small business are critical to the vitality of the community,” Rachel Meltzer, an assistant professor of urban policy at the New School’s Milano School, told Gotham Gazette. “In economics terms there are ‘positive spillovers’ in a community from having operating, lively, and functional business, but there are also benefits that extend beyond just what it means for that owner.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In a recent <a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/12/03/why-support-small-businesses-its-more-than-the-economy-stupid/">column</a> for City Limits, Meltzer detailed how these local enterprises increase diversity, develop community, and provide economic stability.</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet as rents skyrocket, chains <a href="https://nycfuture.org/research/publications/state-of-the-chains-2014">descend</a> upon New York City, and bodegas transform into <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/nyregion/bodegas-declining-in-manhattan-as-rents-rise-and-chains-grow.html?_r=0">banks</a>, local shops into Duane Reades. The free market largely dictates these trends, while some continue to call for commercial rent control or, more moderately, adjusting leasing rules to help protect current tenants.</p> <p dir="ltr">With the city economy and population booming and neighborhoods changing, it is increasingly difficult for small businesses to survive. There is little city policy dedicated to protecting these institutions of community character from the ruthless churn of the New York real estate market.</p> <p dir="ltr">Commercial space is treated quite differently from residential space. Discussions around zoning guidelines, tax breaks, and other government policy almost exclusively centers around affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There really is no [preservation strategy] that I know of, and I do research in this area.” said Meltzer about small businesses.</p> <p dir="ltr">Benjamin Dulchin, executive director of Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD, an equitable development advocacy group), told Gotham Gazette that in one sense, this is understandable.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Rent stabilization,” he explained, “exists because there‘s a sense that [residential] tenants are uniquely vulnerable because the stability of your home is a tremendously important thing and it is uniquely necessary for family and neighborhood stability...It’s a different thing between a landlord and a business.”</p> <p dir="ltr">On the other hand, Dulchin says, “part of what we like about our neighborhoods are small- to medium-size indigenous businesses” and “as a neighborhood gentrifies, as rents go up, you see displacement pressure not just on the current residents, you also see lots of stores finding it very hard to hang on...I don‘t think the city has figured out what an effective tool for addressing that would be.”</p> <p dir="ltr">With gentrification on the move in all five boroughs and the de Blasio administration looking to change the rules of the game while also spurring more development, there’s no clear indication about what may be done to protect existing small businesses in the next hot neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">Meltzer suggests a place to start might be expanding various zoning initiatives designed to support small business and stymy the invasion of national corporations. She listed legislation from the Upper West Side, where former City Council Member Gale Brewer (now Manhattan Borough President) passed storefront width restricts to stop the spread of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/nyregion/city-council-limits-size-of-banks-on-upper-west-side.html?_r=0">banks</a>, as an example. So far this measure has been successful.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio’s Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposal (one of the two zoning plans, along with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing) includes allowing for taller first-floor retail space in mixed-use development, but proponents note that the new allowances would still be unconducive to bigger chain stores.</p> <p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, this past summer residents of the Lower East Side proposed a type of zoning amendment already enacted in San Francisco that would cap the number of chain stores allowed in the <a href="http://gothamist.com/2015/06/17/east_village_chains.php">neighborhood</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Meltzer also mentioned “productive zoning” as a potential tool, which instead of mandating spatial inputs like height limitations and store width, focuses on the outputs of the space - meaning what, generally speaking, the space will be used for. This way zoning can mandate retail space goes towards meeting certain communal needs, as opposed to merely stipulating what types of stores cannot be there through measurements.</p> <p dir="ltr">The legal limitations of what zoning can achieve are unclear, though, according to Meltzer. “I’m not sure to what extent you can say ‘you have to put this type of business here with this kind of owner,’” she said. “I am not a lawyer.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The ZQA text amendment, which is currently under City Planning Commission review and will soon move to the City Council, has some version of each of Meltzer‘s suggestions. City Planning told Gotham Gazette that the retail space permitted by ZQA is not suitable for big box retail (although Target started a program to get around <a href="http://fortune.com/2015/11/12/target-manhattan-small-store/">this</a>) and that in certain locations the city‘s FRESH program, which incentivizes supermarket development in health-deficient neighborhoods, will help fill the space.</p> <p dir="ltr">The lack of protective zoning for the small business entrepreneurs of the city, Meltzer says, is only indicative of a larger void in the government‘s supportive framework for those individuals and enterprises. The “institutional arrangement and responsibilities” fall short, she says.</p> <p dir="ltr">To fill the gap, Meltzer argues the government could create some type of bureaucratic infrastructure for retail space oversight - an entity that would have responsibilities comparable to that of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, but for retail space. Such a body could supply subsidies to businesses when it made sense and assure the spaces these businesses occupied were not being exploited by landlords hungry for profit.</p> <p dir="ltr">“HPD is really sophisticated and experienced in regulating housing and thinking about ways to preserve it,” she said. “There have been a lot of affordable housing developments that in the past have tried to be very conscientious about the retail that goes into those projects, but the success has been limited partially because the subsidy for housing is separate from the commercial subsidy. So when [the government says to the developer], ‘we will give you x dollars per unit,‘ that doesn’t include commercial space. There is no way to say ‘this is what the market is asking, we want a certain type of business that may not be able to pay that, so we will give a subsidy to fill that gap.’ There is not anything, at least that is coming out of the City, that does that in a large scale way like HPD or HDC does with housing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Meltzer went on to say that if the city did try something like that, the small business services agency could be the one to oversee it, but none of this is part of the equation right now.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whether or not subsidizing commercial space, like HPD does residential, is even a good idea is up for debate. Meltzer said herself that she was “not prepared to argue that we should be subsidizing commercial rent,“ but went on to say that such a practice could prove a powerful tool in supporting businesses in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, adding “I think it‘s the government’s responsibility to support these businesses to try to stay in business.”</p> <p dir="ltr">However, businesses should only receive subsidies, Meltzer says, if they show adequate interest in adjusting to the changing climate of the neighborhood. There‘s no point in financing an owner who wants to run their business the same regardless of environment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Supporting businesses in transitioning neighborhoods is where existing services provided by the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) can be of use. In a response to an inquiry from Gotham Gazette, an SBS spokesperson said the agency was working to roll out programs targeting these businesses and listed business education and assistance, along with tools to help businesses navigate leases and the retail market as examples.</p> <p dir="ltr">SBS also pointed Gotham Gazette to two other programs geared toward supporting the city’s less powerful retail operations: <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/sbs/nycbiz/html/home/home.shtml">NYC Business Solutions</a>, which, among other things, provides businesses with free financial assistance, recruitment and training services, and referrals to pro-bono legal services, and Small Business First, a program aiming to consolidate small business resources and requirements currently spread across 15 different city agencies into one portal. (Unfortunately, NextCity <a href="https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/small-business-owners-worries-new-york-city">reported</a> in September that there has been little progress since the program launched in <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/120-15/de-blasio-administration-small-business-first-reduce-regulatory-burden-city-s">February</a>.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio has dramatically cut fines imposed on small businesses across the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/530-15/de-blasio-administration-reduces-fines-assessed-consumer-affairs-businesses-half-cuts">city</a> and worked, through SBS, to expand opportunities for immigrant <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/sbs/html/pr/2014_05_16_Immigrant_Business_Initiative.shtml">entrepreneurs</a>. The administration got a recent boost for its zoning proposals when a dozen ethnic and local business groups, including the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, endorsed the plans, as <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-support-housing-plan-business-groups-article-1.2484322">reported by the Daily News</a>. The proposals are being considered by the City Planning Commission before it sends recommendations to the City Council for consideration.</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the past couple of years there has also been clamor about commercial tenant protection, as landlords have been accused of dumping their property taxes onto small business owners and multiplying rents by four or five upon lease expiration. City Council Member Robert Cornegy, head of the Council’s small business committee, introduced legislation in July along with Council Member Mark Levine aimed at curbing harassment, but their bill <a href="http://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-851-2015/">has not moved</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many small business advocates point to the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), which gives tenants a prodigious amount of lease negotiating power and has been floating around the City Council in various iterations for around 30 years, as the holy grail of business preservation.</p> <p dir="ltr">Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who helped craft the bill while working for Ruth Messinger in the ‘80s, says SBJSA is misguided. Among other critiques, Brewers <a href="http://www.ourtownny.com/columnsop-ed/20150513/brewer-why-the-sbjsa-cant-pass">insists</a> the law would make the lease negotiation process inefficient and there are “serious” doubts as to the bill‘s legality. She plans to propose a more moderate plan with Cornegy in the near future.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ultimately, Meltzer thinks tenant protection and lease renewal negotiation reform are “great,” but that the best hope for strong, long-lasting mom-and-pop commercial retail space stands in how the city negotiates with developers looking to build.</p> <p dir="ltr">“What we want to think about are the best points of leverage, which are new development,” Meltzer says. “Even in housing, you cannot do that much with existing orders. When a building gets built and the developers are trying to secure zoning and subsidies, those are the moments when the city can say ‘oh, OK, you want the rights from us? Here’s what you are going to have to do in order to build bigger.’“</p> <p dir="ltr">Commenting on the zoning proposals currently up for review, Meltzer said, “It would be interesting to know if in the zoning, because it is not finalized by any means, [the city] would start to incorporate things like that.“</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Colin O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/morschers_pork_store_queens_james_karla_murray.jpg" alt="morschers pork store queens james karla murray" height="461" width="600" /></p> <p>Queens, 2009; photo by James and Karla Murray from <em><a href="http://gingkopress.com/shop/store-front-2/" target="_blank">Store Front II: A History Preserved</a></em></p> <p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">As the mayor‘s recently proposed, and in many cases fiercely opposed, zoning text amendments have fanned the flames of New Yorkers‘ ever-simmering fear of gentrification, one type of at-risk tenant has gone unmentioned: small business owners.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whether it is the famous <a href="https://twitter.com/Arepalady">Arepa Lady of Queens</a> who cooks up corn pancakes with mozzarella, the baby Jesus doll boutique showcased in Frederick Wiseman‘s recent film “<a href="http://filmforum.org/film/in-jackson-heights-film">In Jackson Heights</a>,” or the local bodega still selling expired $1 honey-buns, locally-owned and servicing mom-and-pop boutiques provide much of the diverse commercial life that has long characterized New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the de Blasio administration looks to change zoning requirements throughout the city, including to allow more and better retail space, and wants to see significant real estate development to increase affordable housing, there is a great deal at stake for small business owners - both current and prospective.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Small business are critical to the vitality of the community,” Rachel Meltzer, an assistant professor of urban policy at the New School’s Milano School, told Gotham Gazette. “In economics terms there are ‘positive spillovers’ in a community from having operating, lively, and functional business, but there are also benefits that extend beyond just what it means for that owner.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In a recent <a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/12/03/why-support-small-businesses-its-more-than-the-economy-stupid/">column</a> for City Limits, Meltzer detailed how these local enterprises increase diversity, develop community, and provide economic stability.</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet as rents skyrocket, chains <a href="https://nycfuture.org/research/publications/state-of-the-chains-2014">descend</a> upon New York City, and bodegas transform into <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/nyregion/bodegas-declining-in-manhattan-as-rents-rise-and-chains-grow.html?_r=0">banks</a>, local shops into Duane Reades. The free market largely dictates these trends, while some continue to call for commercial rent control or, more moderately, adjusting leasing rules to help protect current tenants.</p> <p dir="ltr">With the city economy and population booming and neighborhoods changing, it is increasingly difficult for small businesses to survive. There is little city policy dedicated to protecting these institutions of community character from the ruthless churn of the New York real estate market.</p> <p dir="ltr">Commercial space is treated quite differently from residential space. Discussions around zoning guidelines, tax breaks, and other government policy almost exclusively centers around affordable housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There really is no [preservation strategy] that I know of, and I do research in this area.” said Meltzer about small businesses.</p> <p dir="ltr">Benjamin Dulchin, executive director of Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD, an equitable development advocacy group), told Gotham Gazette that in one sense, this is understandable.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Rent stabilization,” he explained, “exists because there‘s a sense that [residential] tenants are uniquely vulnerable because the stability of your home is a tremendously important thing and it is uniquely necessary for family and neighborhood stability...It’s a different thing between a landlord and a business.”</p> <p dir="ltr">On the other hand, Dulchin says, “part of what we like about our neighborhoods are small- to medium-size indigenous businesses” and “as a neighborhood gentrifies, as rents go up, you see displacement pressure not just on the current residents, you also see lots of stores finding it very hard to hang on...I don‘t think the city has figured out what an effective tool for addressing that would be.”</p> <p dir="ltr">With gentrification on the move in all five boroughs and the de Blasio administration looking to change the rules of the game while also spurring more development, there’s no clear indication about what may be done to protect existing small businesses in the next hot neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">Meltzer suggests a place to start might be expanding various zoning initiatives designed to support small business and stymy the invasion of national corporations. She listed legislation from the Upper West Side, where former City Council Member Gale Brewer (now Manhattan Borough President) passed storefront width restricts to stop the spread of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/nyregion/city-council-limits-size-of-banks-on-upper-west-side.html?_r=0">banks</a>, as an example. So far this measure has been successful.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio’s Zoning for Quality and Affordability proposal (one of the two zoning plans, along with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing) includes allowing for taller first-floor retail space in mixed-use development, but proponents note that the new allowances would still be unconducive to bigger chain stores.</p> <p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, this past summer residents of the Lower East Side proposed a type of zoning amendment already enacted in San Francisco that would cap the number of chain stores allowed in the <a href="http://gothamist.com/2015/06/17/east_village_chains.php">neighborhood</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Meltzer also mentioned “productive zoning” as a potential tool, which instead of mandating spatial inputs like height limitations and store width, focuses on the outputs of the space - meaning what, generally speaking, the space will be used for. This way zoning can mandate retail space goes towards meeting certain communal needs, as opposed to merely stipulating what types of stores cannot be there through measurements.</p> <p dir="ltr">The legal limitations of what zoning can achieve are unclear, though, according to Meltzer. “I’m not sure to what extent you can say ‘you have to put this type of business here with this kind of owner,’” she said. “I am not a lawyer.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The ZQA text amendment, which is currently under City Planning Commission review and will soon move to the City Council, has some version of each of Meltzer‘s suggestions. City Planning told Gotham Gazette that the retail space permitted by ZQA is not suitable for big box retail (although Target started a program to get around <a href="http://fortune.com/2015/11/12/target-manhattan-small-store/">this</a>) and that in certain locations the city‘s FRESH program, which incentivizes supermarket development in health-deficient neighborhoods, will help fill the space.</p> <p dir="ltr">The lack of protective zoning for the small business entrepreneurs of the city, Meltzer says, is only indicative of a larger void in the government‘s supportive framework for those individuals and enterprises. The “institutional arrangement and responsibilities” fall short, she says.</p> <p dir="ltr">To fill the gap, Meltzer argues the government could create some type of bureaucratic infrastructure for retail space oversight - an entity that would have responsibilities comparable to that of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, but for retail space. Such a body could supply subsidies to businesses when it made sense and assure the spaces these businesses occupied were not being exploited by landlords hungry for profit.</p> <p dir="ltr">“HPD is really sophisticated and experienced in regulating housing and thinking about ways to preserve it,” she said. “There have been a lot of affordable housing developments that in the past have tried to be very conscientious about the retail that goes into those projects, but the success has been limited partially because the subsidy for housing is separate from the commercial subsidy. So when [the government says to the developer], ‘we will give you x dollars per unit,‘ that doesn’t include commercial space. There is no way to say ‘this is what the market is asking, we want a certain type of business that may not be able to pay that, so we will give a subsidy to fill that gap.’ There is not anything, at least that is coming out of the City, that does that in a large scale way like HPD or HDC does with housing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Meltzer went on to say that if the city did try something like that, the small business services agency could be the one to oversee it, but none of this is part of the equation right now.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whether or not subsidizing commercial space, like HPD does residential, is even a good idea is up for debate. Meltzer said herself that she was “not prepared to argue that we should be subsidizing commercial rent,“ but went on to say that such a practice could prove a powerful tool in supporting businesses in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, adding “I think it‘s the government’s responsibility to support these businesses to try to stay in business.”</p> <p dir="ltr">However, businesses should only receive subsidies, Meltzer says, if they show adequate interest in adjusting to the changing climate of the neighborhood. There‘s no point in financing an owner who wants to run their business the same regardless of environment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Supporting businesses in transitioning neighborhoods is where existing services provided by the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) can be of use. In a response to an inquiry from Gotham Gazette, an SBS spokesperson said the agency was working to roll out programs targeting these businesses and listed business education and assistance, along with tools to help businesses navigate leases and the retail market as examples.</p> <p dir="ltr">SBS also pointed Gotham Gazette to two other programs geared toward supporting the city’s less powerful retail operations: <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/sbs/nycbiz/html/home/home.shtml">NYC Business Solutions</a>, which, among other things, provides businesses with free financial assistance, recruitment and training services, and referrals to pro-bono legal services, and Small Business First, a program aiming to consolidate small business resources and requirements currently spread across 15 different city agencies into one portal. (Unfortunately, NextCity <a href="https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/small-business-owners-worries-new-york-city">reported</a> in September that there has been little progress since the program launched in <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/120-15/de-blasio-administration-small-business-first-reduce-regulatory-burden-city-s">February</a>.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio has dramatically cut fines imposed on small businesses across the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/530-15/de-blasio-administration-reduces-fines-assessed-consumer-affairs-businesses-half-cuts">city</a> and worked, through SBS, to expand opportunities for immigrant <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/sbs/html/pr/2014_05_16_Immigrant_Business_Initiative.shtml">entrepreneurs</a>. The administration got a recent boost for its zoning proposals when a dozen ethnic and local business groups, including the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, endorsed the plans, as <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/de-blasio-support-housing-plan-business-groups-article-1.2484322">reported by the Daily News</a>. The proposals are being considered by the City Planning Commission before it sends recommendations to the City Council for consideration.</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the past couple of years there has also been clamor about commercial tenant protection, as landlords have been accused of dumping their property taxes onto small business owners and multiplying rents by four or five upon lease expiration. City Council Member Robert Cornegy, head of the Council’s small business committee, introduced legislation in July along with Council Member Mark Levine aimed at curbing harassment, but their bill <a href="http://nyc.councilmatic.org/legislation/int-851-2015/">has not moved</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many small business advocates point to the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), which gives tenants a prodigious amount of lease negotiating power and has been floating around the City Council in various iterations for around 30 years, as the holy grail of business preservation.</p> <p dir="ltr">Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who helped craft the bill while working for Ruth Messinger in the ‘80s, says SBJSA is misguided. Among other critiques, Brewers <a href="http://www.ourtownny.com/columnsop-ed/20150513/brewer-why-the-sbjsa-cant-pass">insists</a> the law would make the lease negotiation process inefficient and there are “serious” doubts as to the bill‘s legality. She plans to propose a more moderate plan with Cornegy in the near future.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ultimately, Meltzer thinks tenant protection and lease renewal negotiation reform are “great,” but that the best hope for strong, long-lasting mom-and-pop commercial retail space stands in how the city negotiates with developers looking to build.</p> <p dir="ltr">“What we want to think about are the best points of leverage, which are new development,” Meltzer says. “Even in housing, you cannot do that much with existing orders. When a building gets built and the developers are trying to secure zoning and subsidies, those are the moments when the city can say ‘oh, OK, you want the rights from us? Here’s what you are going to have to do in order to build bigger.’“</p> <p dir="ltr">Commenting on the zoning proposals currently up for review, Meltzer said, “It would be interesting to know if in the zoning, because it is not finalized by any means, [the city] would start to incorporate things like that.“</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Colin O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p>