NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Small property owners and landlords in New York City are begging for relief, saying they, like many tenants, cannot pay their bills.
A walk in the rain outside Jan Lee’s Chinatown building seemed fitting as he described the storm engulfing New York City landlords like himself.
“We were able to acquire the American dream, and it’s becoming very difficult, if not almost impossible, to maintain that,” he told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes.
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Lee’s family has owned 21 Mott Street for 96 years. His grandfather immigrated from China and acquired the building in the 1920s.
Today, it’s a mix of rent-regulated apartments, where Lee also lives, and market-rate storefronts that help subsidize those low-rent apartments.
Lee says because of the pandemic, those businesses, understandably, are only able to pay a fraction of their rent, like the restaurant Shanghi 21.
“Commercial tenants are the ones who bear the brunt of this and they’re hurting tremendously,” Lee said.
That means many small mom-and-pop property owners are barely scraping by, if at all, with enough money to make building repairs or pay property taxes, which help fund the city.
“Forty percent of the city budget is from property taxes, OK? That means cops, firefighters, teachers,” landlord Joanna Wong said.
“All of these things that you hear about ‘well, just cancel the rent and the landlord will find a way to make it happen,’ that is not true for the most part for a lot of immigrant landlords and particularly those landlords who are people of color, and there’s a lot of us,” Lee said.
Hundreds of landlords like Lee rallied near City Hall on Friday.
They’re asking for rental vouchers to help tenants and property tax relief to help them. The city did reduce some late payment interest rates, but landlords say it wasn’t nearly enough.
“They’re forcing us to pay a lot of taxes when many of our tenants can’t afford to pay their rent,” landlord Alan Wang said.
These landlords are hoping for help from the mayor and a stimulus from Washington. Lee believes if something doesn’t change quickly, the city housing market will collapse in a matter of weeks.
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