Landlords, Activists Clash as City Council Mulls Small Business Jobs Survival Act - Bedford + Bowery

Corey Johnson began yesterday’s hearing with an elegy:

Tortilla Flats. 30+ years. Closing this weekend.
Clayworks Pottery. Kicked out after 44 years.
Lenox Lounge in Harlem. Billie Holiday played there. Being demolished to make way for a Sephora.
North Shore Hardware. 70 years. Given one month to vacate.
Cup and Saucer. Chinatown. Another diner lost.
The Associated Supermarket. Closed after having its rent tripled. Its storefront remains vacant.

It was a little after 1pm at City Hall. Johnson, the City Council Speaker, was offering opening remarks before a standing-room-only crowd at the hearing of the Committee on Small Business regarding the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBSJA).

The SBJSA could be described as an attempt to stop Johnson’s list from growing. If passed, it will provide protection for small business owners looking to renew their leases. Assuming business owners are in good standing, their landlords will be required to offer them a 10-year lease renewal. If the two parties cannot agree on the rent, the tenant will have the right to take the landlord to binding arbitration.

It’s a simple idea. But the bill has been kicking around City Council for more than 30 years and last had a hearing about a decade ago. It was back in the spotlight yesterday thanks to Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, its lead sponsor, and to Johnson, who was following through on his commitment to give it a new hearing. The testimony would last until 9pm, long after most of the council members and onlookers had departed.

As Johnson shared his obituary, the Founding Fathers looked on. George Washington peered out from an enormous gilt-edged canvas. Thomas Jefferson stood tall in the form of a life-sized statue nearly two centuries old. One of Washington’s lesser-known quotations was painted on the ceiling: “Our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand.” …