Small Business Owners and Community Leaders Urge NYC City Council to Take Action on Rent Hike Limitations

Small businesses and advocates gathered at Diversity Plaza in Queens to highlight the challenges that excessive rent hikes are creating in neighborhoods throughout the borough. Predatory landlords’ doubling and tripling of rents have been displacing small businesses and exacerbating gentrification for decades. The commercial rent challenge has become increasingly critical across the five boroughs. Small businesses and nonprofits that were there to support New Yorkers during the worst months of the pandemic are now struggling even more to plan for their future with inflation, minimum wage increases, and the added handicap of back rent and other accrued debt.

“District 22 is home to many vital, beloved small businesses that set our area apart, nourish our local culture, and foster community bonds between neighbors,” said Council Member Tiffany Cabán (D-22, Queens). “They cannot and must not be sacrificed for the profits of massive corporate landlords who don’t even live here. I know what local small businesses provide to our neighborhood: charm and character, not to mention goods and services. All I see well-connected billionaire landlords doing is bleeding our neighborhood dry. It’s time for commercial rent stabilization, simple and plain.”

“We stand in solidarity with immigrant small businesses, the vibrant heart of our communities, and vehemently oppose any rent increases that threaten their livelihoods,” said Council Member Shekar Krishnan (D-25, Queens). “These businesses have already overcome countless obstacles to contribute to our economy, and we must ensure they have a fair and stable environment to thrive. Commercial rent stabilization will protect the aspirations of our immigrant entrepreneurs and the vitality they bring to our neighborhoods.”

“In my district, I speak to small business owners who owe tens of thousands of dollars in back rent or are forced to shut down due to unreasonable rent hikes. We need to pass commercial rent stabilization laws that help small businesses not only survive but thrive in our city,” said Council Member Julie Won (D-26). “Small businesses and nonprofits that provide our neighbors with food, programs, and other essential goods and services are the lifeblood of communities. More rent hikes will kill these businesses that so many of our neighbors rely on.”

“Rent is among the principal concerns of small businesses, and when many of them are displaced or even shuttered by rent hikes, our communities suffer. This isn’t only an issue that affects the well-being of our local economies. It’s about the very fabric of our neighborhoods and the bonds we foster between one another to ensure we all feel safe and cared for. In fact, a study by the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging confirms that older adults view local businesses as crucial components of their everyday life. For decades, exorbitant rents displaced small businesses and nonprofits that serve as anchors in our communities. But we have the tools to end this cycle and promote not only vibrant and diverse local economies but also healthy communities across the City. To do this, let’s start by passing Commercial Rent Stabilization,” said Council Member Crystal Hudson, Chair of the Committee on Aging (D-35, Brooklyn).

“We must pass Intro 93 and finally establish commercial rent stabilization rules to promote the long-term stability of our small business community and the health of our commercial corridors. The current landscape makes it clear that the tools being leveraged by the City are insufficient, and we must enhance support. Commercial rent stabilization is needed to reduce displacement and financial uncertainty,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-02, Manhattan).

“While there is a narrative that the pandemic caused a drop in commercial rents, that’s a story focused on office buildings in midtown Manhattan,” said Sonia Kaur, owner of Didi Dukan, a clothing shop on 74th Street in Jackson Heights. “That isn’t what’s happening in Jackson Heights. Rents keep going up! Since I opened just before the pandemic, my rent has gone up almost 40%!! My rent used to be affordable. I paid $6,500 when I opened, and it’s now almost $9,000. I don’t know what the landlord is going to charge me with my next lease. I am worried that I’ll have to close my business. We need a commercial rent stabilization system, or businesses like mine will have to close.”

“As a business owner, I should have predictable rent increases. I shouldn’t have to invest in my business to stay compliant with laws and have a safe space for my staff and not know if I’ll even be open next year,” said Tsering Sherpa, owner of Pema Nails in Astoria for 23 years. “I have a very small space, and I pay $4,050 in rent each month, plus $3,500 per year in property taxes for a space that I don’t even own. My lease expires next year. My landlord has already been increasing my rent. I’m very anxious about what can happen. My landlord owns the space next door, and just 2 months ago, the grocery store there had to close because they couldn’t afford the rent they charged. I am afraid my landlord can increase the rent for my nail salon, knowing that a Starbucks or a pharmacy will move in and pay the rent if I can’t. Our City Council needs to act now. Pass Intro 93 to build a commercial rent stabilization model.”

“Keeping our local commercial corridors vibrant with small businesses is good for public safety, and it’s good for the economy. It’s not just working families who are feeling the pressure of rising rent; small business owners are feeling it too. The best way to support entrepreneurial New Yorkers is to lift the burden of one of their most significant expenses with commercial rent stabilization. That money can go back into growing their business and paying livable wages to their employees,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos (D, Senate District 13, Queens).

“Immigrant small businesses are central to our City’s economy and the foundation of the thriving neighborhoods that define New York City. Yet, these businesses are threatened by landlords increasing rents beyond what’s reasonable,” said Annetta Seecharran, Executive Director of Chhaya CDC. “It’s time that our City Council stands up for small business owners by passing Intro 93 and ensures that businesses pay fair rent and can continue to thrive and fuel our local economies.

“The high cost of commercial rent makes it hard for longtime neighborhood institutions to stay open and prevents low-income residents from starting new businesses,” said Abigail Ellman, Director of Planning and Development at Cooper Square Committee. “Intro 93 would establish a fair and predictable framework between commercial tenants and landlords, where rent goes up in a stable and expected way. It would also prevent predatory landlords from speculating on commercial spaces, which contributes to unstable churn in our community and a soaring commercial vacancy rate.

“If we continue to allow commercial spaces to auction spaces to the highest bidder, our main streets will become antiseptic, full of nothing but chains and empty storefronts,” said Guy Yedwab, President of the Board for the League of Independent Theater. “Small nonprofit and for-profit businesses will be pushed out in favor of the same identical bank and coffee chains.

Instead, Commercial Rent Stabilization will give the small businesses that form the culture of our neighborhoods time to grow strong roots. Instead of displacement, our communities will have stability. The time is long overdue to pass #FairRentNYC.”

“For too long we have allowed a senseless displacement of the heart and soul of New York culture: scrappy cultural spaces, corner delis, beloved restaurants, neighborhood meeting places,” said Olympia Kazi, NYC Artist Coalition. “We see thriving community spaces shuttered overnight due to doubling and tripling rents. A cap on commercial rent increases will allow our treasured small businesses to thrive and will get us closer to achieving an equitable, diverse, and just New York City.”

“The NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives strongly urges City Council members to protect our communities from small business displacement by supporting Intro 93 for commercial rent stabilization,” said Catherine Murcek, a member of NYCNoWC’s member-elected Advocacy Council. “Small businesses help support the cultural fabric of our city, and their erasure due to unreasonable rent hikes has been an issue long before the pandemic and has only worsened since then. This especially affects communities of color in the outer boroughs and makes it more difficult for new ventures to bring their goods and services to communities that need them, creating a blight of vacant storefronts, food deserts, and lack of access to banks and other services.

“Since long before the pandemic, our city’s beloved small businesses have struggled to maintain their existence due to unregulated fees and exorbitant rent hikes. It’s time for our City to ensure our commercial tenants can keep contributing to the culture and economy. As part of the small business ecosystem, street vendors stand alongside brick-and-mortar businesses in the call for commercial rent stabilization,” said Mohamed Attia, Managing Director of the Street Vendor Project.

“Small businesses and community organizations are the cultural fabric that holds New York City’s communities together,” said Paula Sega, Senior Staff Attorney in the Equitable Neighborhoods unit at TakeRoot Justice. “We need predictability in leasing spaces that allow these institutions to exist, a predictability that can only be gained if rents are regulated. #FairRentNYC bill Intro 93 provides a straightforward framework for regulating commercial rents that should be extended to all commercial tenancies and implemented as soon as possible.”

“The Yemeni American Merchants Associations urges city council members to put their support behind commercial rent stabilization and help ensure a fair and stable business environment for all,” said Joel Feliciano, Chief Operating Officer of the Yemeni American Merchants Association. “The call to the city council is not only backed by community organizations but also by a broad coalition of business advocates who understand the importance of rent stabilization in sustaining our local economies. #FairRentNYC bill Intro 93 is a critical and overdue measure that needs to be implemented in 2023. For far too long, our city’s small businesses have been forced to operate under extreme financial pressure, leading to their eventual closure. It’s time to take action to support our small business community and protect our neighborhoods from continued displacement.”

“Unconscionably high commercial rents are contributing to gentrification and displacement in Queens,” said Jenny Dubnau, Western Queens CLT. “We are losing our beloved restaurants, bookstores, and hardware stores in favor of chain shops and empty storefronts. And how many local jobs are lost when local businesses are forced to close? Locally-owned stores provide local jobs, and so do manufacturers and cultural working spaces, which are often located in industrial zones. It’s only common sense to pass Commercial Rent Stabilization now!”