New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Upper East Side Patch Bill Aims To Tackle Empty Stores And 'Landlord Extortion' In NYC by Todd Maisel/

Bill Aims To Tackle Empty Stores And 'Landlord Extortion' In NYC

NEW YORK, NY – Fed up with empty storefronts and reports of commercial landlord abuses, the City Council introduced a bill that would protect tenants facing rent hikes in lease renewals and also provide rights to 10-year leases.

The bill, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, will be discussed at a public hearing on Monday by the City Council. It's in its second incarnation, having been introduced nine years ago when it ended up languishing after losing support.

It would establish conditions and requirements for "commercial lease renewal negotiations, including requirements for lease renewal terms, arbitration-triggering conditions, limits on security deposits, and prohibition on landlord retaliation."

The bill will face stiff resistance from landlord lobbies which oppose any changes to property rights for commercial tenants.

"It's about stopping landlord extortion and providing fairness to small businesses in this city that provide so many jobs," said bill sponsor Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, (D-Manhattan), at a news conference on the steps of City Hall Wednesday.

"We need to be a role model for the community and protect the rights of small business – it's about fairness."

Rodriguez and the other sponsors said the legislation is "not commercial rent control." This is "only about rights, fairness and limiting a landlord from retaliation on lease renewals," he said.

Rodriguez noted that lack of protections has led to empty storefronts and encroachment of national chains.

Nick Velkov, owner of Yoga Adora Studio in Astoria, Queens and another studio in Manhattan, said his landlord ignored him after he complained of poor elevator service, electrical problems and other dangers to a studio he had in Harlem.

"We thought the problems in the building were dangerous, but the landlord ignored us and there is no mechanism to get them to fix the issues," Velkov said. "The city said that they couldn't do anything and the landlord could just revoke the lease – we just don't have any rights."

Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson Book stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, said she is being forced out of her store in Manhattan and will have to relocate.

"We are being replaced by chains," McNally said. It would've helped to have the non-binding arbitration and mediation."

Councilman Ben Kallos, (D-Manhattan) a co-sponsor of the bill, ­­decried the spread of chain stores.

"New York City doesn't need another Starbucks or a bank – it's the last thing we need," Kallos said. "Instead, we get empty storefronts and there are vacancies everywhere. We need to save small business in this city instead of having darkness."

Rodriguez maintained that many immigrants achieve "the American dream" by opening their own small business.

"We must help to assure that immigrants can operate their bodegas and book stores and get back a return on their investments," Rodriguez said.

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez says the bill would protect commercial tenants from landlord abuses. (Todd Maisel/Patch)


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