High rents are causing small businesses to close their doors

By Bob Harris

The civic associations of Queens have always had a good relationship with the small businesses which occupy the many strip malls in and near them. Too many small businesses in New York City are closing because of the exorbitantly high rents that landlords are asking when their old leases end. The Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella group of approximately 100 civic associations in Queens, has long been concerned about the small businesses which serve their communities.

The QCC is working with several business groups to hold a press conference about the closing of too many small businesses in NYC. It will take place March 24 from 11 a.m. -1 p.m. at Flushing House, 38-20 Bowne St., in Flushing. The press conference is an attempt to make the citizens of Queens aware of this problem. Local legislators and other public officials have been invited to come and express their views on the problem and offer solutions. There is a city parking lot two blocks away.

For years, big banks and franchises have been paying high rents to obtain the stores vacated when small businesses are priced out of their stores. The Bronx is leading the city in evictions of small business whose leases have expired. Franchises and banks have been paying high rents for years to obtain stores in prime neighborhoods, but with the very high rents now being imposed many of them can’t afford the rents.

In New York City, commercial tenants have no legal rights when their leases expire. Longtime established businesses just can’t afford the rents being asked. Currently, when a lease expires a tenant can stay for one year at a 15 percent increase, and can then stay on a month-to-month basis. When the landlord or realty company gets a high bid, the tenant has to leave or is evicted. This is no way to treat small businesses, which provide most of the jobs in New York City. Women and immigrant groups are suffering due to this problem.

At a recent Queens Civic Congress meeting, Steven Barrison, an attorney who represents the Korean American Small Business Service Center of New York and other business organizations, gave a presentation. He explained that a bill called the Small Business Survival Act has been introduced into the City Council. The act would provide for arbitration between a landlord and a tenant if regular negotiations can’t provide an agreeable rent solution. This proposal is just one of four proposed laws currently in the City Council. An honest and fair debate on the issue is needed, unhampered by lobbying or pressure by big business organizations who are speculating in rental property. Are some of these hedge funds and business organizations the same who invest in private prisons or set up charter schools to make money from public funds?

There are too many vacant stores in New York City due to the eviction of long-term tenants who can’t afford to pay huge increases in rent. The economic stability of the city depends on the small businesses, which are being forced to leave neighborhoods due to the actions of speculators. Just look at the many vacant stores in your community and you will realize the magnitude of the problem.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Twenty-eight years ago as rookie P.O. Edward Byrne, who was 22 years old, sat in his patrol car guarding the house of a witness in a drug investigation when he was assasinated by four criminals working for a drug dealer. The house had been fire bombed previously. The drug dealer wanted to send a message to the police but instead caused the city to crack down on drug dealers. Each year the city recognizes the sacrifice this police officer made for the people of New York City. The 103rd Precinct, Jamaica, still recognizes his sacrifice.