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Sunnyside Group Joins Battle to Save Mom & Pop Stores

Sunnyside-Center-Cinemas-005-800x600

June 16, 2015 By Christian Murray

Iconic mom and pops stores throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn have been disappearing at a rapid pace and the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce is backing a city council bill that it believes will stop the hemorrhaging before development and rent hikes set in here.

The bill called the Small Business Jobs Survival Act aims to provide commercial tenants with more clout at the bargaining table when their lease comes up for renewal. Furthermore, it also requires landlords to provide greater notification if they don’t intend to renew a lease due to development.

The Sunnyside Chamber board unanimously decided last month to advocate for the passage of the bill.

The bill has recently been pushed by a group called #SaveNYC that claims that New York’s small businesses continue to close at unprecedented levels and are being replaced by big-box stores such as banks and retail chains.

Jeremiah Moss,  who leads the SaveNYC campaign, told the Sunnysidepost: “I’m sick of New York turning into a suburban shopping mall.”

Moss, who goes by a pseudonym, claims that many family-run businesses that have been in operation for decades are being forced to close when their lease comes to an end.

chamberflagday“They’re not closing because business is bad,” Moss said. “They’re closing because the landlords are doubling, tripling, even octupling the rents — or simply denying lease renewals,” he added, citing Manhattan examples.

“With no penalties to stop them, landlords leave the spaces vacant for months or years, waiting for a national chain, a bank or a high-end business to pay the asking price of $40,000, $60,000, $80,000 a month,” Moss said.

Moss told the Sunnysidepost that the Queens business community should watch out. “If the New York Times says Queens is the new Brooklyn then you are in real trouble because in five years time the chains will come in and mom and pops will be out.”

The Chamber is getting behind the movement for these reasons fearing that what has happened in Manhattan and in parts of Brooklyn is likely to come to Sunnyside.

Chamber members such as the Sugar Room, UPS, Pronto and Stray Vintage recently put up “SaveNYC” signs in their window in solidarity of the cause.  At Saturday’s Flag Day parade, the chamber marched behind a banner that included the #SaveNYC insignia.

Rigo Cardoso, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, claims that had the bill been in place 12 months ago Sunnyside Cinemas might still be operating—or at least have received better notification prior to its departure.

Rudy Prashad, the former owner of Center Cinemas, said that while he was aware that the movie theater’s future looked bleak, he said that he was only notified five weeks before the lease ended that it would not be renewed. He said he would have liked to have known in advance so he could have planned better for his departure.

The bill, which has 20 council sponsors, is a form of commercial rent control. The bill only applies to commercial tenants in good standing, such as those that have paid the rent on time and have met the terms of their lease.

The significant provisions include (click here for bill):

1) The tenant has the right to renew the lease
2) The bill requires new leases to be a minimum of 10 years
3) If the landlord and tenant are unable to negotiate terms (such as the rent) a “mediator” will be brought in to render a “non-binding” opinion
4) If the parties are still unable to agree, the matter goes to arbitration
5) The arbitrator’s decision is final and is “binding”
6) If the tenant fails to pay the amount required by the arbitrator, he or she is able to stay until a landlord finds another tenant
7) The landlord must provide the existing tenant with the opportunity to match the terms of the prospect tenant
8) If the landlord wants to demolish a building or rebuild the premises when a lease ends, the landlord must notify a tenant one year prior to the termination of the lease so the business owner can make preparations to leave
9) If the landlord wants to operate his own business out of the location after a lease ends, he must notify a tenant 180 days before termination of the lease that it won’t be renewed.

The argument put forward by advocates of the bill is that it will help protect the owners of mom and pop stores, many of whom have put their life savings into their business.

Sugar Room

Sugar Room

The bill’s detractors

The real estate industry and a handful of public officials oppose the bill.

Some landlords argue that many commercial property owners struggle too. Many landlords—particularly the smaller ones– have put their life savings on the line to buy a building and they argue that it is not fair to block their ability to maximize the value of their property.

Furthermore, the real estate industry argues that a distorted rental market would also damage commercial property values that would hurt the city’s tax base.

The bill could also put many landlords in a jam if a tenant fails to abide by an arbitrator’s binding decision and does not leave the premises.

They claim that it would be hard to lure prospective tenants to a space currently occupied by an existing tenant—since they would know that they would miss out on getting the space if the existing tenant matches the terms of the lease.

Furthermore, some—such as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer– question whether the bill is even constitutional since it deals with property rights.

The supporters of the bill claim that it is constitutional based on the legal opinions they have sought.

Rezoning and development

Moss said the rezoning of many neighborhoods during the Bloomberg years has played a significant role in the closure of many mom and pop stores.

He said that property owners were suddenly able to build bigger buildings that made it much more feasible to knock down existing structures—often occupied by small businesses– and put up new developments.

The retail space that came with the new buildings, he claimed, was then priced at a level that only the chain stores could pay.

“Rezoning stacked the deck in favor of real estate owners,” said Patricia Dorfman, the director of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, referring to this neighborhood’s 2011 rezoning. “The small businesses along Queens Blvd and Greenpoint are in danger to construction and higher rents.”

2011 zoning map

2011 zoning map (click here)

In the past year, a number of small businesses in Sunnyside have closed as a result of development.

King Boulevard, SSS Video and Azteca Restaurant all closed last year to make way for a development on the corner of 48th Street and Greenpoint Avenue.

Meanwhile, Center Cinemas and dentist Dr. Arthur Kubikian were notified that their leases would not be renewed in order for the 43rd Street/Queens Blvd development. Additionally, P.J. Horgan’s landlord has publicly said that he would not be renewing the bar’s lease come June 2018.

Other Queens Blvd property owners are in talks to develop—or sell to developers– their buildings.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has not yet sponsored the bill although he said that he agrees with most of its provisions.

“I have to look at it more closely but I agree with giving business owners better notification and working out fair renewals for people who have paid their rent on time for years and years.”

“We know that there are a lot of successful businesses that have improved properties,” Van Bramer said. “You can’t just throw people out who have been paying the rent on time.”

“You get to know these men and woman who own these cafes, pubs and wine bars and they can be your friends and neighbors…places where good memories are made.”

However, he said that property owners too need to make a return on their investment and that there has to be a solution where everyone can win.

Danny Dromm, a sponsor of the bill who represents Jackson Heights, said that he supports it because he has seen small businesses in his district squeezed out by rising rents.

“I have seen [commercial] rents skyrocket in the neighborhood,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dorfman claims that it is the small stores that create a neighborhood.

“The big chains are not members of the Chamber of Commerce. They do not contribute to local charities and efforts,” she said.

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49 Comments

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Suunyside Local

The Sunnyside Chamber should have gotten involved when a small group of greedy Landlords got the neighborhood named a Business Improvement District. The B.I.D. couched it as “we’re bringing holiday lights to Queens Boulevard” and the Chamber fell for it hook, line and sinker. Anyone who ever took Econ 101 or picked up a newspaper knew what was coming. Why didn’t our civic leaders? Incompetence.

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Bridget Riley

I never took econ 101, so I had no idea what was coming. I thought they were going to put up Christmas lights and clean the streets better. Stupid me. The Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have a bit of control over the BID. If you notice, the BID pretty much wishes the Chamber was dead. They are not for businesses, they are for landlords, and never the twain shall meet.

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David

If you have no understanding of economics, I fail to see why anyone should take you comments seriously. Please leave business to the adults.

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Old Pal

Take your academic elitism and put it far, far away from the rest of the world. You clearly have a poor understanding of the world in general even if you have a grasp of basic principals of economics. That discipline is–like many that seek to explain the world we live in–a science best used in the hands of visionaries and practitioners with subtle judgement. We know that we know less than we would like to know about it, and that the world is coming up with variations on patterns. Putting way, way, way too much power and money in the hands of a few has often led to devastating consequences in the past. And if it were up to people like you we would speed along that well worn path with every greedy impulse there is. Thank God you are not in charge of anything. You can’t even make a decent comment on a web post without inflating your ego at the cost of your integrity.

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David

Well, Old Pal, that was an incoherent rant. All I am saying is that, if Bridget wants to comment on how an economy should be run, some rudimentary understanding of economics is in order. That seems pretty reasonable to me, but maybe I don’t have the right chips on my shoulder. Now, please put away the keyboard before you embarrass yourself further.

V. Ictory

Up with the heroes at the Chamber of Commerce! A takeover attempt by an overwhelming force needs to be fought by any and all means, even when the takeover is being done by people in nice suits with glossy brochures rather than sweating barbarians swinging pikes and maces. Keep your economic theories, people know when they are being lied to. Go elsewhere to find your suckers.

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Jackie Junior

If my memory is still good the previous president of the sunnyside chamber is a slimy real estate broker that does not live in the area and would (and has) sold out the sunnyside community in the past / president.

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Dana

None of this is going to mean much when the US is fighting World War I all over again in a few short months.

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Mac

@dana The classic con. The pay outs always coming..the end is always coming..what are you going to do in a year even 2 years when you’re silly prophecy doesn’t materialize. I’ll tell you what, you’ll just go on to the next baseless doomsday forecast. I’d have more respect for you if you held up a sign and screamed repent on a busy street corner.

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A.Bundy

Tearing down dilapidated mom & pop shops is a good sign that your area is becoming gentrified. The bodegas gotta go! As a home owner, I am thrilled that Sunnyside is being renovated with new condos and luxury buildings since it will increase the value of my home and will give me a chance to rent for more money when its time to leave this polluted hellhole of a city.

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Mac

@ABundy if you want to increase your property value remove the prison bars from your house.

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Anonymous Visitor

Hey MaryKate How about giving some support in the form detail in your comment, you know a post with some content to shut Mac, Bridget, Johnny and Joe up! You think rent control is bad? Share a reason or two as to why you think rent control is bad. Get a spine and show you have at least some knowledge on the topic of conversation. Who are you Mac or Johnny’s spiteful girlfriend trying to get back at one of those illogical non thinkers? I don’t need a mindless cheering section. Use another guy to get back at your useless boyfriend.

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MaryKate

These comments are hilarious! Anonymous visitor must have really struck a nerve with south side Johnny, Mac, Joe and the rest of the gang. I happen to think rent control and government intervention is a very bad thing. Good for you AV in getting them so rilled up. When they start insulting you and resort to name calling you can clearly see they have been beat. Keep it up AV. I could use a good laugh

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Fr.Ted

mom and pop stores also have mom and pop accounting practices , thats why mom and pop own a mansion in west palm beach 99% of the time .!!!!!

” careful now “

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Sunnysider

What a joke! Locking a landlord into a ten year lease? That the tenant has the right to renew? Or walk away from at any time? At these terms why would anyone want to own property?

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Joe at the Berkley

Anonymous visitor is one gullible guest. Bridget is far from an alarmist. Bridget is good at seeing the trend. All economic surveys and analysis suggest Bridget is correct more and more money is flowing to the top 2 percentile of our population due to gullible voters, like AV, who vote for politicians and laws that have facilitated this money grab and history has taught us this is exactly how Oligarchies and aristocracies are created. I bet anonymous thinks it’s in his best interest to let energy companies write our energy policies, let banking industry write our banking policies, let real estate lobbyist write our rental laws and policies. Like I said anonymous you’re one gullible person.

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Anonymous Visitor

Hey Joe, thanks for your concern. I would hardly call myself gullible. I think of myself as more realistic than most who like to post on this site. just to enlighten you Energy companies are a MONOPOLY. So yes they should have regulations. When One(1) individual becomes the ONLY provider of housing of any type (sale and rental) in all of queens and brooklyn, then yes I will agree that regulation would be needed. But I would think that you and your girlfriend Bridget can see that is not the case nor will it every be. Unfortunately you and Bridget are a bit naive in your thinking and logic.

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SouthSideJohnny

No, we’re calling you gullible. You haven’t made one decent article or convinced a single person here that you have a clue as to what you’re talking about. I would say, “Nice try,” but it was really a lame effort. Go troll for comments elsewhere; maybe you’ll find a community of simpletons and you can finally move up in the world.

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Matt

Why don’t these activists band together, buy some buildings and offer them at low rents to small businesses?

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change we can believe in

not exactly low rents just reasonable. you know there are no millionaires/billionaires in Sunnyside. In fact, the city has designated it a low income area so what’s up with the stratospheric commercial rent increases. we will never see a decent commercial strip on QB similar to Forest Hills. Sunnyside Shines where are the clothing/shoe stores? many of us still shop elsewhere for basic provisions aside from food/water.

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David

Because then they would learn the hard way about business. The reality is that anyone who is endorsing rent control, price controls, or other excessive government intrusions into the economy has no clue about how money works and really isn’t into the idea of meritocracy. They only know how things “should” work where there is a magical money tree that supplies everyone.

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Bridget Riley

I know if a society values money more than people it is on its way to moral death. If you want to make money off throwing people out in the street you are evil, plain and simple.

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David

Your are trying to view a nuanced world through an extreme lens. Technically your logic would declare me “evil” if I went to a different supermarket to buy milk on sale instead of the store I usually go to. Or if bought anything thinking about price.

So, if I were the landlord, I should operate at a loss, financially endangering my employees, myself, and my family, because someone has a business that is out of sync with financial reality? Wouldn’t that make the tenant evil, if they force me to lay off someone because I cannot pay his wage? It sounds like you are no different from the Soviets and their 5-year plans. Who needs reality when you have theory?

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Bridget Riley

Sorry, big real estate and big business distort the environment and make the American Dream impossible for people with fewer resources. This is only a small effort to keep everyone viable so billionaires can’t drive us all into the complete oligarchy we are currently headed for.

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Anonymous visitor

I doubt there are many BILLIONAIRES landlords in Sunnyside. Most landlords here started from humble means. Don’t try and distort the issue. If you owned property Bridget Riley, you want not want the government telling you what to charge for it. Supply and demand works better than government intervention EVERY time. What an alarmist to say we are headed for an Oligarchy!! There are many many different landlords in Sunnyside. There is not a few Evil families controlling everyone’e access to shelter or a retail space.

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Mac

@anonymous visitor Go find out who owns the lot next to Starbucks. All you do is chest pound. You don’t know who owns most of the commercial real estate in Sunnyside. Shut or put up blowhard.

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Anonymous Visitor

Why should I MAC. I couldn’t care less who owns that lot. You seem to care so much so why don’t you look it up. When you can’t argue with logic you call everyone a chest pounding blowhard. Its actually comical. Any entry level business course will explain the theory of Supply and Demand to you. In a free market system with equal products being offered, everyone has to up their game to get the business. That means the landlords have to be more responsive to tenants needs and concerns, they have to have better maintained apartments and building than the landlord next door and they can only rent the apartment for what the market will bear. Equal product all around will result in lower prices across the board for a more quality product.
But you don’t want to see that. You want to see ever landlord as a scumb*g and every tenant as a poor victim. who looks like the chest pounder now!! Maybe you should shut up

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mac

@Anonymous visitor Like I said put up or shut up. You add absolutely no value to a discussion. Just repeating what you hear on Fox and Rush is no value. Post a fact or two in your silly Fox fueled rants. You’re an ignorant punk.

Mac

@anonymous I am a landlord and find more tenants to be in the scumb*g column than landlords. But nice try.

O'Malley

It is very clear that your understanding of economics goes no further than an entry level business course. I’m not saying I agree with everyone else, I’m just saying that you aren’t as smart as you think you are.

Anonymous Visitor

Hey Mac you seem quite obsessed with fox news. Maybe you should see someone about that .

and by the way, please explain to me how calling everyone a chest pounding blowhard and mentioning fox new in every one of your posts contributes anything to any conversation 🙂

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Anonymous Visitor

They only way to guarantee your destiny to to own where you live and own the place where you run your business. If you can’t or don’t do that, you cannot expect a landlord to take care of you and give you special deals just because you have been there for a long time. Not all landlords are greedy and heartless like this site likes to portray them and most work with their tenants to come to a common ground. The last thing we need is another law (like rent stabilization) to distort the market for all!!!!!!!

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SouthSideJohnny

You couldn’t be more wrong if you tried.If you are really visiting, maybe you should hold off and stay for a while, then tell us what you think.

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Mac

@anonymous visitor Maybe We should be little more like some Socialized countries. what’s wrong with being more like Australia, Canada, Germany or Norway? They’re countries that outperform us in Healthcare, education, crime statistics, longevity, wages and even have higher standards of living than the US. A distorted market is when corporations try to social the expenses and risk associated with their corporation and privatize the profits. Just because you own property doesn’t mean you can do what ever you want with it. That statement is absurd. Thanks for the ignorant Fox News rant you chest pounding blowhard.

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Anonymous Visitor

Hey Mac Your the chest pounding blowhard! You think socialized countries are better lol!! How come Canadians come to the US when they need a knee or hip replacement surgery? Why, because they don’t wan to be on a list for 7 years or more. You are showing your ignorance! If you think these countries are so much better than why don’t you move there

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Mac

@anonymous Visitor keep listening to the lies on Fox News. The percentage of Canadians leaving Canada for any medical reasons isn’t even 1% of Canadian patients. That myth was debunked. Joe is right about you you’re an idiot. I’ll stay in the country I served and fought for. I’ll never turn it over to an ignorant imbecile like you.

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David

Having lived for over a decade in some of the countries you cite, the difference there is that these essentially regress to the mean. What I mean there is the extremes are less prevalent, but also the mean is lower. So, while wages might be higher, disposable income is lower because of higher taxes. While healthcare might be better for a sore throat, it becomes budget-driven rationing for advanced cancer or serious medical conditions (hence the Canadians who come to the US for knee-replacaments). It is a valid question to ask which is a better approach. Personally, I would rather a country where the rewards for talent, risk-taking, and, yes, luck are higher but the costs for failure, laziness, or apathy are as well. It may not be a perfect system, but it allows people to maximize their potential vs be dragged down by others.

In any case, the whole “socialize risk privatize profit” slogan is kind of BS in this situation, especially since you are advocating that unsustainable small businesses be propped up (socialized risk) with price controls/regulation so they can continue to make money (privatized profit).

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change we can believe in

the only one artificially distorting the market are you guys (for the worse) what you fail to realize while this may result in short term gain in the long run you too will be priced out due to higher property, water, utility taxes which will make it no longer feasable to sustain – all your doing. karma is a b*tch

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Anonymous Visitor

Unfortunately “change we can believe in” It is not the landlords who control the cost of property taxes, water, utilities and taxes. That is your lovely government officials that do that. The same morons you feel are better suited to control the rental market. If you want change you can believe in at least you should make sense

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Joe at the Berkley

@Anonymous Visitor Keep showing that gullibility. Have you no shame? All Utilities water, phone, electrical, major airports, highways and cable companies were built by tax payer money because there is no profit in building these things. Are you a cheer leader? All you do is chest pound and wave a banner. Rah rah rah. You truly are an imbecile.

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Anonymous Visitor

Hey Joe, are you saying no one should profit from renting out their apartment or store?? rah rah rah. It seems like “Joe at the Berekly” and “Mac are one in the same. rah rah rah They both use the same stupid chest pound analogy. rah rah rah.

Anonymous Visitor

Are you kidding me!!!!!!! The manhattan borough president is right. This goes again the constitution and everything America stands for. How dare they tell a private property owner what to do with their property that they paid for! We are becoming a socialist country. Open your eyes people, this is not the path for America to prosper!!!!

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Ben

Excuse me but when a property owner does nothing to enhance a community for which it’s bought into. perfect example is that awful eyesore next to Starbuck’s on 46th Street been growing weeds and rodent infestation for over 10-15 years and counting. come on is this right? this poses a health hazard for all residents. Moreover, property owners who do not live in the community (or in the USA for that matter) honestly should be required to either sell or develop in other words “use it or take a hike”

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Craic Dealer

If America stood for anything they would get rid of the Federal Reserve Central Bank. It coerces the people’s money and controls all industry. Just like a central politician.

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Suunyside Local

Ben. Con Ed is responsible for that eyesore property. There is an electrical line that runs directly under that property. It costs a significant amount of money to move it before construction begins and Con Ed has been trying to stick the property owner with the bill for years. They’re responsible for the infrastructure and should be forced to pay for its upkeep.

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ZinSu

Thanks for getting JVB to comment. I have emailed him twice and tweeted at him twice to ask for his support for the SBJSA — no reply. Glad he is at least thinking about it.

Reply

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