Supporting Small Business Survival in NYC

Legislative Advocacy

TakeRoot supports the legislative platform of the USBnyc Coalition, particularly the current campaign to create Commercial Rent Stabilization in NYC.

Below are the past results of the Coalition’s work:

  • Commercial Tenant Harassment Law: The Commercial Tenant Harassment Law in New York City prohibits a landlord from harassing their commercial tenants by way of making discriminatory threats (e.g., age, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.), requesting citizenship status, and interfering with a tenant’s construction or repairs. If a landlord does harass their tenant, they can be fined up to $50,000 per property and a court can deny that landlord construction plans at the building until the harassment has ceased.
  • Storefront Tracker Legislation: The City now has to maintain a public and searchable database – a Storefront Tracker – that requires landlords to report the median rents, lease terms, and vacancies of all first and second floor commercial spaces. This data will allow policymakers, advocates, and community members to track vacancy trends in their own neighborhoods and communities while holding landlords accountable for failing to register. Aggregate data is now available here (as of July 1, 2021). More details on the required registration is here on the NYC Department of Finance website.
  • State of the Storefronts Legislation: The City is now required to conduct a comprehensive analysis of neighborhood commercial corridors every five years. Very little data exists about commercial spaces in the city, which means we have a very unclear picture of how vast our commercial vacancy issue is. This legislation – the State of the Storefronts – gives policymakers and advocates the necessary information to create meaningful protections for New York’s commercial tenants.

Selected Press

Next City: Maybe Commercial Rent Shouldn’t Be a Wedge Between Low-Income Housing and Local Business | Jan. 4, 2022

New Yorker: Casa Adela and the Dreams of Loisaida | Dec. 30, 2021

Curbed: Most Storefront Rents in New York Are As High As Ever | Oct. 6, 2021

Gothamist: In Pandemic’s Aftermath, Calls Grow For NYC To Regulate Commercial Rents | Sept. 16, 2021

Testimony

Testimony to the NYC City Council Committee on Small Business on Commercial Vacancy, the Storefront Registry and Proposed Legacy Business Fund (June 9, 2022) – “Our clients–repair shop owners, barbers, restauranteurs serving culturally appropriate food to their immigrant communities–are regularly hit with 50-100% rent increases at the end of their lease terms, foreclosing the possibility of renewal and effectively functioning as evictions. Their landlords fantasize that they will make way for higher-paying commercial tenants but, often instead, result in years-long commercial vacancies in anticipation of the higher-paying tenants that do not arrive. The City Council can help our clients and tenants like them avoid displacement-through speculation by regulating commercial rents. The strategies that Council is focused on at today’s hearing do not reach this crucial aspect of curbing vacancy and protecting NYC neighborhoods.” Video here; 1:22:00.

Testimony to the NYC City Council Committee on Small Business on SBS’s Response to COVID-19 (March 7, 2022) – “Today, the most frequent case I see is a small business with 3-6 months of rent still due from Spring 2020, with average arrears of $40,000, seeking financial assistance to resolve that debt to avoid eviction and bankruptcy. Even if business has come back and they were able to pay after reopening, there is no way for a business like a barber shop or sewing machine repair to make enough money to pay for months when it made none.”

Testimony in Support of Commercial Rent Stabilization to the Small Business Committee of the NYC City Council (Sept. 17, 2021) – “Unregulated commercial rents regularly result in rent increases of over 100%… We urge the City to use its powers under the New York State municipal home rule and its police powers to regulate the commercial leasing market. In stark contrast with the regulation and control of housing accommodations,5 there is no state statute like the Urstandt law forbidding the City from regulating commercial leases and no current State regulation of that area of the economy. Absent such law or regulation the City is free to act; in the current climate, where rent escalations are forcing small businesses out daily, it is imperative that it does.”