Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Freeze all Commercial Evictions

The following is a press release from the Small Business Congress

Candidates rally behind call to Freeze all Commercial Evictions

Last Chance to Save Mom & Pop businesses on the road to extinction.

Last Wednesday, on the steps of City Hall, independent-minded candidates running for office called for an Emergency Freeze of Evictions of All Commercial tenants. Lead by Mayoral candidate Sal Albanese, Public Advocate candidate David Eisenbach, and six council candidates, they claimed City Hall was not doing enough to pass legislation to protect small businesses from the sky-high rent increases forcing them to close in record numbers. Small Business Congress spokesperson Steven Barrison went further and accused the city’s leadership--Mayor de Blasio, Public Advocate James and Speaker Mark-Viverito--of joining big real estate in “rigging the system” to stop any legislation which gave rights to commercial owners to negotiate fair lease terms.

Barrison stated: “the crisis facing our small businesses has grown worse under these self proclaimed progressive liberals whose policy of 'doing nothing' has not saved a single business or job. In the long debate on passing legislation to regulate the lease renewal process, only once in 30 years has a public hearing been denied, under the de Blasio and Mark-Viverito administration."

To substantiate his claim the crisis is worsening, he gave NYC Court Warrants to Evict Commercial Tenants during Mayor de Blasio’s first three years compared to the last years of Mayor Bloomberg. Every day in NYC since the election of self-proclaimed Progressives, 16 businesses are issued court warrants to vacate, with an estimated 40 businesses closed each day.

Under former Mayor Bloomberg the average court evictions of commercial tenants, his last two years:

Avg. 492 warrants to vacate per month

Est. 1,000-1,2000 businesses closing each month in NYC

Est. 8,000-9,000 jobs lost each month

Under Mayor de Blasio, average court evictions of commercial tenants the past three years:

Avg. 491 warrant to vacate per month

Est. 1,200-1,400 businesses closing each month in NYC

Est. 9,600 – 11,200 jobs lost each month

Bronx Council candidate John Doyle explained how the crisis was no longer a high-rent neighborhood in Manhattan but has spread to even low-income neighborhoods in every borough. He proved his point with the court evictions for Bronx businesses’ increase in 2015 by 30%, leading all the boroughs.

The advocates for small business wanted the public to know the crisis was not just the exorbitant rent increases that are driving businesses to close or destroying their futures. Manhattan Council candidate Christopher Marte, whose father once ran a Bodega in the East Village, stated the growing trend of extorting cash from mostly immigrant owners whose lease expired and they had no rights to protect themselves. Bronx council candidate Michael Beltzer spoke about the shameful short term leases, sometimes month to month given to mostly immigrant owners, as landlords waited for deep pocket renters or speculators to buy their property. Brooklyn candidate Deidre Olivera highlighted the loss of jobs and lower wages that business owners were forced to pay as a result of paying both sky high rents and the landlord’s growing property taxes.

The crisis to survive was not just limited to small businesses. Manhattan candidate Mel Mymore spoke of the many professional businesses who faced this crisis but were being discriminated against in all of the City Hall proposals being discussed to address high rents. None of these proposals: zoning, lease extensions to give time to move, and tax incentives to landlords gave any protection to professional small business owners. Only the Small Business Jobs Survival Act gave rights to all commercial tenants. Rights to renewal leases for 10 years and rights to negotiate fair lease terms.

As this crisis grows worse and spreads to each borough, why would once proud sponsors of the Jobs Survival Act like Mayor de Blasio, Public Advocate James, and Speaker Mark-Viverito now allow their offices to remain silent and deny a hearing on the Jobs Survival bill or any legislation giving rights to the business owners?

The answer came from mayoral candidate Sal Albanese, who supports the Freeze of Evictions because “Mayor de Blasio would never support legislation which regulated his primary campaign donators-- big real estate.” Public Advocate candidate David Eisenbach agreed with Albanese's assessment and said, “the same was true for other leadership at City Hall who were being heavily funded in the election by REBNY and the real estate PACs. Several top leaders, like Public Advocate James had completely 'flipped' their support for the Jobs Survival Act and joined big real estate in denying democracy at City Hall.”

The Small Business Congress endorsed all these independent minded candidates as the ONLY HOPE to stand up to big real estate and the corrupt political machine to end this crisis and save our businesses.

For more on high-rent blight, read:
Bleak City
Save New York
Unchain the City
Vacant New York

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mini Lower East Side

Over the years, I've profiled the work of a few miniaturists on this blog (Alan Wolfson, Randy Hage, Nicholas Buffon), artists who render the city smaller -- and thus preserve some facsimile of what was.

This week, Sensitive Skin magazine shares the work of Dennis Gordon, who created a whole Lower East Side in miniature -- or, at least, a dreamlike representation of what the Lower East Side once was.

Here's Gordon:

"I felt extremely comfortable in the midst of neglect and decay. The abandonment, loneliness, and isolation inside the structures grounded me despite the risk (though the buildings were abandoned by society, I was hardly alone). I discovered an escape from the boredom of inhabited space, and grew lost within the wealth of bygone architecture and design. I felt like I was participating in some grand installation of living art. The decay was dynamic, the interiors different if I revisit them in a year. New levels of rust and mold. Brick disintegrating and nature slowly prevailing, ailanthus trees growing through floors, replacing man-made elements. Where some people saw eyesores, I saw the labor of architects, craftsmen, and assemblymen using complex machinery built as durably as the products they made. To me, each abandoned building tells a story from our past, and all these buildings tell a collective story of our present, of an era of greed when everything–from architecture to wares to art–is disposable, replaceable."

Read more and see more at Sensitive Skin.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Second Ave San Loco

The Second Avenue San Loco taco joint supplied my first meal in the East Village, 23 years ago. I ate those crunchy tacos on my fire escape after a long day of moving in. Back then, it was across Second Avenue, a hole in the wall bedecked in yellow and red.

The place was always full of customers. On its last night, it was packed. And now it's gone. The rent was too damn high.

In the plastic-covered windows, the owners have posted an "I Love NY" sign. The neon lights are dark.

I talked to co-owner Jill Hing last year about San Loco's struggles. She told me:

"There are many factors that contribute to our struggle to survive--and the noose definitely keeps tightening. Our customer base has been mostly squeezed out of this neighborhood as a consequence of hyper-gentrification. Rent is a constant source of stress. In our case, as with many long-standing businesses, we are at the mercy of the landlord and live in fear of our next rent renewal."

That fear has come true. As it does every day for many long-lived small businesses in New York City.

The last--as good as the first

For other San Loco locations, click here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

SP’s Nuts & Candy

Tribeca Citizen reports:

"SP’s Nuts & Candy, the store at 166 Church that you probably know as We Are Nuts About Nuts, is closing at the end of July."

Why is it closing? Is it because people don't buy enough nuts? Is it because tastes have changed? No, it's because "the landlord didn’t seem to want him to renew."

As the Times wrote in 2010:

"There are plenty of places to buy nuts in Manhattan, from Whole Foods to CVS to the occasional subway platform. But if you want them fresh, perhaps even still warm, from the roaster, SP’s Nuts and Candy may well be your only option.

Once upon a time, shops like this were a staple of city life, quick stops for a cheap, salty snack and a whiff of nuttiness. Today, SP’s owner, Michael Yeo, is keeping alive a New York tradition that has all but vanished over the past several decades, one he simply happened into."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Vanishing New York Book Party

Come celebrate the publication of Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
126 Crosby St, NYC

Thursday, July 27, 7:00pm

Books will be on sale. I'll be reading and signing. There will be refreshments. And--bonus!--downtown legend, the great Penny Arcade, will be performing. Looking forward to seeing you there!

View the invite and RSVP on Facebook

Monday, June 19, 2017

Talk of the Town

For the past 10 years, since July 2007, I've written this blog openly under a pen name. Now, as my book is about to publish on July 25, I figured it's time to come out of the blog closet. A decade is long enough.

I tell my story to Michael Schulman in this week's New Yorker magazine, on the pages of the "Talk of the Town."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Croman + Rikers

On E. 6th Street, someone has spray-painted a big yellow heart encircling the words "Croman + Rikers":

The graffiti refers to the local "Bernie Madoff of Landlords," as the attorney general called him. He is serving a year in jail at Rikers Island after being charged with 20 felonies.

(Thanks Michael Hirsch for the tip.)