It seems that every day we’re hearing of small businesses being forced to move or shut down altogether due to rising rents in just about every corner of the city. Even icons like St. Mark’s Bookshop and Other Music have packed it in after years at their well-loved locations. And new businesses have an even tougher road ahead, trying to gain a foothold in changing neighborhoods where landlords hope change brings high-paying tenants.
There are a number of grassroots efforts in the works to help businesses gain and maintain a foothold when faced with skyrocketing rents and challenging regulatory hurdles–and more help may be on the way. DNAInfo reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign legislation Tuesday that prevents harassment of commercial tenants by greedy landlords. Advocates hope the new law will make it less difficult for small businesses to thrive and grow.
Image via flickr.
The new legislation would give business owners who claim they were harassed or wrongfully forced out of their space the ability to recover possession of property, attorney fees and damages amounting to the higher of one month’s rent or $1,000 from the landlord, among other costs. Harassment could include “threats, unnecessary construction or repairs on the property that interfered with business, interruptions to essential services like heat or hot water, and the use of ‘frivolous’ court proceedings against a tenant.”
Lena Afridi, policy coordinator from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development feels the legislation is a good first step: “It’s the first time any real meaningful reforms and protections have been created to protect small businesses who don’t own their property,” recalling the plight of a Bushwick restaurant owner whose landlord recently turned off her water during the busiest shift. “Small businesses make up a neighborhood.” Afridi notes that there’s still much to be done to offer significant protection to small business tenants and points to the need for resources like funding to help provide legal services for small businesses that can’t afford to hire lawyers.
Small business advocacy groups–like Take Back NYC–say the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, introduced in 2014 but stalled since then, would do more for the merchants, as it specifically addresses the vital commercial lease renewal process, introducing a minimum 10-year lease with the right to renewal among other things. Ahmad El-Najjar of Take Back NYC said of the new anti-harassment law, “It’s not even a band aid,” as the worst kind of “harassment” is the lack of right to lease renewal.
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