Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer yesterday outlined several ideas to help small businesses survive in New York’s increasingly brutal marketplace. In a press conference at the Halal Guys restaurant on the Upper West Side, she endorsed a proposal that would mandate mediation between landlords and commercial tenants. Here’s a summary of all of Brewer’s suggestions (via a news release put out by her office):
- Take the pressure off lease renewals. Brewer proposed legislation, with City Council Small Business Committee Chair Robert Cornegy, to dramatically depressurize the commercial lease renewal process for small businesses by instituting a mandatory negotiation and mediation period for storefront tenants and landlords. Landlords would be required to give small business tenants in storefront spaces notice of their intentions 180 days in advance of the end of a lease, followed by a negotiation period in which either party can request nonbinding mediation to assist with negotiations. The legislation would also provide the option of a one-year lease extension with no more than a 15 percent rent increase to give businesses the opportunity to transition to new space smoothly when necessary.
- Modernize policies governing street vending. Street vending is a low cost gateway to business ownership. Overhauling New York City’s antiquated policies governing street vending and lifting the 1980s-era cap on vending licenses will jump-start small businesses that could eventually transition to a storefront model and even a larger brand, as The Halal Guys have successfully done.
- Help established small businesses threatened by rent increases by encouraging “condo-ization” of storefront space. Many successful small businesses still face rental insecurity; helping them buy their space as a commercial condominium can be a win-win for landlord and tenant alike. This model is already possible under current law, but the Borough President’s report details strategies the city can use to encourage wider adoption of this strategy.
- Creation of “low-intensity” commercial districts. In certain neighborhoods experiencing rapid storefront rent increases, creation of new “low-intensity” commercial districts on quieter streets can act as a safety valve, reducing competition for rental space on high-traffic commercial streets.
- Additional recommendations in the report include reform of the commercial rent tax, leveraging civic tech and app development to benefit small businesses, and developing microcredit assistance options for small businesses in New York City.
Brewer also released a report on the status of small businesses in the city and announced a series of roundtable conversations across Manhattan with business owners and residents.
Brewer’s support offers more momentum to #SaveNYC, the campaign in support of small business started by Jeremiah Moss of Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.