Leading chants of “Enough is enough!” and “What do we want?” “Jobs!” “When?” “Now!” Councilman Mark Gjonaj on Thursday, June 28, headed scores of chamber of commerce members and small business owners in a City Hall rally demanding the de Blasio administration stop crushing small merchants with burdensome taxes and regulations.
The ‘Protect NYC Jobs and Businesses’ rally, was the uniting platform for electeds, chambers of commerce and small business owners from all industries to voice their opinion on the issue.
“All we want is fair treatment and as much as government supports big business, they need to realize how much they should support small business, too,” said Bobby Jaen after the rally.
He, along with other small business owners in the Throggs Neck Merchants Association and throughout the borough were part of the entourage that travelled from the Bronx in support of the larger issue.
“The Department of Small Business Services had a $191 million (fiscal year 2018) budget they’re supposed to utilize to support small businesses,” said John Bonizio, chairman of the Westchester Square BID during the rally. “Where are they,” he continued, in reference to the lack of SBS personal or representatives at the rally.
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our community and we need to ensure that they are protected,” said Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez, who stood alongside Gjonaj during the rally accompanied by Brooklyn’s borough president Eric Adams and councilman Robert Cornegy, Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, and Queens Councilmen Robert Holden and Paul Vallone.
The rally, however, also acted as a segway for Councilman Gjonaj to introduce another piece of legislation, the Micro-Business Transparency Act.
The bill would define a ‘micro-business’ as a locally owned company with 10 or fewer employees. The measure would also require the city’s Department of Small Business Services to conduct an annual survey to identify micro-businesses and the economic sectors in which they predominate to enable the city to develop programs to assist those that are struggling to keep their doors open.
Factors like the presence of national big-box stores, the rise of Internet shopping and escalating taxes and fees have played a role in the increased hardships many small businesses face, according to Gjonaj who chairs the City Council’s Small Business Committee.
“The first step in protecting our local mom-and-pop shops is to identify exactly who they are, to develop solutions specific to their needs,” he said at the rally.
The Bronx in particular has seen first hand the physical effects of the new age of business, as the borough has long been considered to far outnumber Manhattan in the number of mom-and-pop shops.
The increasing number of vacant store fronts in the once economically rich commercial corridors like East Tremont, City Island and Jerome avenues, Westchester Square, and White Plains Road in the last 10 years has surprised both Bronxites and visitors alike.
Census data tells us that 50 percent of all new small businesses in the city close by the fifth year of operation, although businesses with fewer than 10 workers account for 80 percent of all jobs created in the city, according to a handout sheet provided by Gjonaj.
In addition to the bill, Gjonaj said a long-sought hearing for another bill to help mom-and-pops — the Small Business Jobs Survival Act — will be held by his committee this month.
The SBJSA would guarantee all commercial tenants the right to negotiate fair lease terms, the right to renew leases for a minimum of 10 years, an end to oppressive landlord ‘pass-along’ costs to commercial tenants, and a right to arbitration to stop ‘rent-gouging.’
Advocates of the SBJSA led a smaller, quieter rally on the south side of the City Hall Plaza holding signs that called on the mayor and Corey Johnson to support an ‘intact’ SBJSA.
They argue that laws, not tax breaks, were the answer to saving small businesses.