“As small businesses disappear from the city, and bodegas and hardware stores and music venues are supplanted by chain drugstores and bank branches, or sit vacant for months, it’s worth remembering that New York City had commercial rent controls for 18 years, from 1945 to 1963. Yet much milder measures to restrain runaway rent increases have been blocked in the City Council for more than 30 years.
That may change this fall: The City Council plans to hold a hearing on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA) in the last week of October, according to Small Business Committee chair Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx). Sponsored by Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), the bill would require landlords to tell commercial tenants 180 days before their lease expires whether they intend to renew it or state a valid legal reason why they won’t, enable the tenant to get a 10-year lease, and empower tenants to demand arbitration if they believe the rent increase is too much.
“It looks like we’re going to pass this,” says David Eisenbach of Friends of SBJSA, a coalition of small businesses, residents, and advocacy groups backing the bill. “We’re extremely optimistic that the essential principles of the bill will remain intact.”
Steve Barrison, executive vice president of the Small Business Congress, is much more pessimistic. He predicts the bill will be watered down under pressure from the real estate lobby, or killed on the grounds of vague legal objections. “How could you think it’s not going to be touched?” he asks.
“I am committed to hearing this bill, and seeing it through the legislative process,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in an email to Gothamist. “Preserving small businesses is a top priority of mine, and I know they are hurting. The Council is actively working on solutions.”
However, a spokesperson declined to say whether Johnson supported the bill as is.
Councilman Rodriguez says he hopes the hearing will enable his colleagues “to hear the stories of local small businesses who are closing” because they have “no control over rent increases.” He cites the Galicia, a Spanish restaurant in his Washington Heights neighborhood that closed in June when its rent was raised from $7,000 a month to $25,000.”