A town hall forum is planned to discuss small business solutions to unfair practices by certain landlords.
Take Back NYC, an organization advocating for legislation it feels would halt exorbitant rent increases and unfair lease terms for businesses, is coordinating the community forum.
It is scheduled for Wednesday, September 30 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Hellenic Orthodox Community Church at 3573 Bruckner Boulevard.
Among the sponsors are the Bronx Times, as well as the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Townsquared New York City, Jetro Cash & Carry, Take Back NYC and the Bronx Merchants Coalition.
Subjects to be discussed include the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, as well as other legislation pending before the city council, said Bob Bieder of Bronx Merchants Coalition.
Councilwoman Annabel Palma will be presenting opening remarks, he confirmed.
She is a sponsor of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, said Bieder, legislation that two dozen council members support, which has been proposed in one form or another over the last three decades, but has never passed.
“There are several proposals in the city council to help small businesses,” said Bieder. “The forum is there to discuss those different items, and make the public aware of what is out there, because a lot of it is being supported and pushed by the Real Estate Board (of New York), not by the merchants.”
Bieder is an advocate for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, saying that many of the other proposals that include loans for small businesses and help with fines don’t touch on the most pressing needs of small businesses with shops.
“The Small Business Jobs Survival Act is the only legislation that provides binding arbitration in the lease renewal process,” said Bieder, adding that the legislation only affects lease renewals of established businesses and not new leases.
In some of the most egregious cases, Bieder said, established businesses are being forced to fork over under-the-table payments to unscrupulous landlords to simply negotiate terms of a lease.
In other cases, Bieder said that businesses are being forced to sign short term, or month-to-month leases that do not allow them to plan for the future.
Concerns about working with landlords as lease renewals approach is a major concern, said John Cerini, board member and past president of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association.
“Most small businesses that have leases coming up for renewal are always concerned about what the renewal conditions will entail,” said Cerini. “We need some type of regulations set up for businesses the same way they have it set up for residential tenancy.”
Many business owners do not know what to expect when it comes to lease renewals, he said, and it creates concern because after establishing a business in a certain location for years, it might become necessary to move.
Landlords can raise the rents significantly, or decide not to negotiate a renewal, he explained.
Small businesses employ over half of the city’s workforce, said Cerini, but many small business owners feel that no one is advocating for them.
“The New York City Council should appoint a business advocate,” said Cerini, adding that this could be modeled on the Internal Revenue Service’s Taxpayer Advocate and would give small businesses some say inside city government when it comes to regulations.