Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


Adams 2021: Economy - Sustaining Our Small Businesses

Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy—and we must provide them with the support to re-open and grow. At the same time, we have to spend New Yorkers’ tax dollars on New Yorkers and their businesses, focusing on minority and women-owned businesses that have historically not been included in economic booms and City spending.

  • Prioritizing minority- and women-owned businesses for City contracts.
  • Eliminating fees and significantly reducing fines for small business.
  • Supporting our bars and restaurants – and their workers – with tax breaks.

Slash the red tape to save small businesses.  

Right now, small businesses pay up to $5,000 in fees for small violations like using the wrong type or accidentally listing the wrong phone number due to a lack of education about the laws. The last thing we want to do in an economic crisis is charge people to start a new business and re-start a closed one. We will make the permitting process easier and cheaper through our online portal, and institute a warning system for relatively minor violations so first-time offenders are educated instead of fined. We will provide additional clarity by instituting a three-level warning system signifying the number of days the owner has until the cure must be implemented.

Be the “back office” for our small businesses.

On average, small business owners spend 120 workdays a year on all the administrative tasks that come with owning a business. The City can offer “back office” assistance through local Chambers of Commerce, so our mom-and-pop shops and entrepreneurs can save time and money on accounting and compliance needs and focus on growing their businesses.

Create “Tax-Free Tuesdays.”

Out-of-town tech companies like Amazon have asserted market dominance here at the expense of small business owners—a problem that only deepened during the pandemic. My administration will implement a weekly sales tax holiday, every Tuesday, on services and products that are more likely to be paid for in-person to incentivize New Yorkers to spend locally. We will offset the cost of this weekly holiday by more fairly taxing online transactions such as streaming services, which are not taxed.

Save our hotel industry, bars and restaurants.

Tourism is a key sector of our economy, and we must keep the welcome mat out for visitors who bring billions of dollars into our city every year. The pandemic shuttered 200 hotels – many permanently — and cut the workforce from 50,000 to 10,000.  Nearly 100,000 once-occupied rooms are empty in an industry that once raised $3.2 billion a year in tax revenue and added some $22 billion in economic benefits annually. To fix that, we must suspend property tax debt interest for two years so that we do not push financially distressed hotels deeper into debt, forcing closures and layoffs.

Keep businesses open and employees working with tax relief.

Business owners are struggling to stay afloat due to the pandemic, forcing them to lay-off workers and close up shop. The city lost upward of 750,000 payroll and self-employment jobs, and the unemployment rate was 16% in September, twice as high as the rest of the country. To keep New Yorkers working — particularly in the service industries — we will allow businesses that pay the Commercial Rent Tax a break for two years if they demonstrate hardship and commit to certain employment levels.

Expand the City’s M/WBE program.

The City does not do nearly enough to ensure that its M/WBE program is effectively leveling the playing field for business owners of color, who are in a much more dire situation during COVID. For instance, M/WBE companies are often unable to participate in the City contracting process because prime contractors are not aware of how to connect with them. To fix this, we will match M/WBE companies with prime contractors and other agencies. We can do that by developing a Preferred M/WBE questionnaire to determine which companies are qualified to participate in bids and log the survey data in a searchable database.

Ensure diverse, equitable growth.

To ensure we are making our economy fairer as we make it larger, we will hire a Chief Diversity Officer to drive change on equity for minorities and women, and also create a tool to track the share of M/WBE contracts and how much the City is spending on those companies versus others in real-time. We will also much more closely track who these M/WBE employers and contractors are employing. And the Officer will be tasked with tracking gender pay equity and the progress we are making toward closing the gap. First they will focus on pay equity within City agencies and then we will push to track it across private employers in the City.

Create a network of community-based banks to invest in underserved areas.

Locally owned businesses did not get adequate help from the federal aid package because the government funneled money through big banks who were unable or unwilling to provide direct assistance—especially to small businesses in communities of color. We will create a formal local banking network and help these lenders have a more robust equity base. Once these lenders are eligible for state and federal loan programs — like the big banks – our administration will help them determine the best small business owners to lend to.

Remind the world that NYC is still the center of the universe.

We will organize the largest employers in New York to develop, fund and implement a marketing plan for our city to the rest of the world unlike any ad campaign we have ever undertaken. In addition to pitching our city as the place to visit, live and invest, we will showcase our commitment to public health and safety to inspire confidence that this is the place to be.

Allow for more local economic development groups.

To create on-the-ground leadership that will aid local economic growth, we will ease restrictions for communities to form new Business Improvement Districts and merchants’ associations along diverse commercial corridors.

Invest New Yorkers’ taxes in New Yorkers.

We will boost the local economy by prioritizing procurement of locally provided services and city-made products for City contracts, and by adjusting building and zoning rules to speed the growth of local manufacturers and producers. We will also engage in a “Loyal to NY” marketing campaign to remind New Yorkers what great products and services are available to them that are made and provided right in their own city. And we will report quarterly the percentage of City contracts that are held by out-of-state vendors.

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