City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez Says 'Small Business Job Survival Act' Will Force Owners, Landlords To Play Nice Together

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Many small businesses are battling for survival in the city — especially in the face of high rents.

One city councilman says he has the answer to this crisis.

But will it work?

Jim Napolitano will tell you the truth about running a small business in New York City.

“When you start with a rent that is over $10,000, the gas and electric is over $10,000, it’s very very tough,” Napolitano told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes on Thursday.

Tuesday marked 20 years since he opened Ben’s Market on Knolls Crescent in Riverdale, but he used to run two locations.

“We were there 30 years and he doubled the rent,” Napolitano said.

The store owner is battling against online sites like Amazon Fresh, but it’s also the high rent and neighboring stores going under due to it that is hurting his bottom line.

“Small businesses like this, is hard to survive,” Napolitano said.

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Two empty storefronts are only feet away and in the same shopping center there are three more vacant spots, making it hard for all the stores to stay profitable.

“We get no foot traffic. We used to get a ton,” said Elana Selsey, manager of Touch of Sun Hair Salon.

“I have seen a lot closing and it’s very depressing,” added Riverdale resident Sheila Lesser.

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A Douglas Elliman survey shows almost a fifth of retail space in Manhattan is vacant — that’s more than double since 2016 — but City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez said the issue is impacting the entire city.

“Small businesses have been closing every day,” Rodriguez said.

Which is why Rodriguez has created the Small Business Job Survival Act. If it passes, it would be a law making property and small business owners act both fairly and honestly when negotiating and renewing a lease. Security deposit and landlord retaliation regulations would be set and it would also establish conditions if legal actions come into play.

“Small businesses are the one that’s built and create most of the jobs in the city,” Rodriguez said.

New employee hires are what store owners want to see increase, not the rent.

The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce opposes the legislation, saying it would impose a form of rent control on commercial space and would discourage landlords from leasing space to small businesses.