Home » News and Events » Events » “Save Our Storefronts, Save Our State” (Press Conference, 7/29/2020)

“Save Our Storefronts, Save Our State” (Press Conference, 7/29/2020)

This press conference was held on Zoom on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. Watch above or by clicking this link.

Visit www.saveourstorefronts.nyc & tell your NYS reps to support the Epstein/Hoylman commercial rent relief bill #SaveOurStorefronts

For Immediate Release
Contact: Abigail Ellman / abigaile@coopersquare.org / ‪(347) 830-7014‬

“Save Our Storefronts, Save Our State”

NYC Small Businesses Call Out “SOS” as Pandemic Rent Crisis Threatens To Sink Many

State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein Join Businesses in Calling for Legislation to Share the Burden

When: Wednesday, July 29, 2020, 9 to 9:45 AM
Where: via Zoom, view the recording above

New York, NY — Save Our Storefronts (SOS), a campaign of small businesses, urgently calls on NYS to enact commercial rent relief. 

According to a Hospitality Alliance survey, only 19% of New York City businesses paid

June rent and only 26% of landlords waived any rent. 

Currently, thousands of businesses forced to close or that lose income during the NY on PAUSE order will be solely responsible for paying months of owed rent. If NYS does nothing about commercial rent, the City and State face the possibility of losing beloved neighborhood restaurants and stores, millions of jobs, billions of dollars in revenue, and the vitality and culture that make NYS an attractive place to live and work. 

Watch this short video to hear from just a few of the thousands of businesses who are doing their best to adapt but are facing a rent arrears crisis.

Visit www.saveourstorefronts.nyc for more information on the campaign.

NYS Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and NYS Senator Brad Hoylman describe the goals and principles of commercial rent relief legislation, which would approach the issue of rent as a shared burden. The bill they are drafting and plan to introduce immediately would create a path to small business and nonprofit recovery based on sharing the burden of the crisis. 

***

State Senator Brad Hoylman said: “Small businesses and not-for-profits are the lifeblood of New York. Over 3,000 New York City small businesses have closed for good since the start of the pandemic, and unless we take action to address the looming threat of small business evictions, we’ll lose many more. This is the crisis of our lifetimes, and just as New Yorkers came together to flatten the curve of COVID-19 transmission, it’s going to take cooperation and shared sacrifice among the business community, landlords, and the government to avoid a future where our neighborhoods are littered with empty storefronts and For Rent signs. Thank you to Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and the Save Our Storefronts coalition for leading the way on this issue.”

Assemblymember Harvey Epstein said: “In New York City alone we’ve lost almost 3,000 small businesses over the past 4 months. Federal funds have been slow to reach struggling small businesses and in some cases owners have missed out entirely, especially business owners of color and specifically black owned businesses in my district. We have heard overwhelmingly that the inability to pay rent is small business owners’ greatest existential threat. We need a state solution to save these businesses, and one that shares the burden between all stakeholders: tenants, landlords, and government.”

“Our local independent businesses, who rebuilt our neighborhood when it suffered from longterm urban blight, a recession and then Hurricane Sandy, deserve to be rewarded for their investment in our community, not pushed out by predatory equity seeking to capitalize on a downturn. These businesses shuttered for the greater good, rightly, at the order of our governor. They saved lives. It’s high time we prioritize saving their livelihoods. In case you missed it: that means working outside everyone’s comfort zone to forgive or greatly reduce rent.” Laura Sewell, Executive Director, East Village Community Coalition

“Nonprofit New York knows our communities and nonprofit institutions are in crisis. Without intervention, crucial organizations deeply embedded in communities for decades may close. Nonprofits in New York State account for 18% of the private workforce, and contribute $800 billion in wages. Without commercial rent relief, critically important services will be stopped, community-building efforts will cease, and employees will lose jobs, all further exacerbating the economic challenges facing New York communities.” Meg Barnette, President & CEO, Nonprofit New York

“Small businesses and non-profits in our neighborhoods and across the city are closing up shop permanently at an alarming rate, many because they are dutifully obeying public health directives.  This will have a devastating long-term effect upon the economic and social health of our communities, and we must do more to reverse this trend. Clearly rent relief is one way, and ensuring that the burden is shared by the small business/non-profits and the property owner, with robust government aid making up the shortfall, is a fair and reasonable way to do so. We need to act soon; many of these losses are irreversible, and steps must be taken before the wave gets even bigger.” Andrew Berman, Executive Director, Village Preservation 

“The small businesses that rent storefronts in our buildings support over 27% of our annual budget — they are a critical part of keeping our housing affordable to low-income households” said Dave Powell, Executive Director of the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. ”As a community-based housing organization with commercial space, we know that small business rent relief provides a triple public good: retaining jobs, preserving neighborhood cohesion and subsidizing low-income housing. Our small businesses must receive this support from the State of NY — we need them to succeed now more than ever.”

###

ABOUT SAVE OUR STOREFRONTS

Save Our Storefronts (SOS) is a coalition of small businesses and residents working together to ensure small businesses survive through the COVID-19 pandemic and thrive beyond.

ABOUT THE COOPER SQUARE COMMITTEE

The Cooper Square Committee (CSC) works with area residents to contribute to the preservation and development of affordable, environmentally healthy housing and community/cultural spaces so that the Cooper Square area remains racially, economically, and culturally diverse. The Cooper Square Committee has spearheaded significant neighborhood victories in our history, comprising over 60 years of tenant organizing, community-based planning, advocacy, and development.

Summary of Epstein/Hoylman commercial rent relief proposal

Why is commercial rent relief needed?

  • Small businesses and nonprofits are a crucial part of New York State’s economy and culture
    • According to an analysis by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, 26% of all jobs in New York City alone are at firms with 20 or fewer employees. And according to analysis by the Hispanic Federation, New York nonprofits employ over 1.4 million New Yorkers and comprise almost 18 percent of private employment in the State
    • New York’s nonprofit sector generates more than $86 billion in annual revenues and small businesses generate billions in annual sales tax revenue for the state. 
    • Small independent businesses and cultural institutions contribute to the state’s cultural appeal, which attracts residents and tourists alike
  • The COVID-19 pandemic and NYS-mandated closures and restrictions have wrought havoc on this essential sector of our economy, threatening millions of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue
  • The inability to pay rent is the greatest existential threat for small businesses and nonprofits

What would this bill do to relieve commercial rent?

  • A small business or small nonprofit (“covered tenants”) with 25 or fewer employees that has suffered a demonstrable loss in income resulting from state mandated closures or state imposed restrictions would affirm its losses to the state Department of Financial Services (DFS). 
  • Upon verification by DFS, the covered tenants would qualify for rent relief: they would have the option to pay their landlords the lesser of 20 percent of their actual revenue -OR- one third of the contractual rent per month.
  • The bill would create a “covered period, ” beginning March 7, 2020 and ending when the NYS PAUSE executive orders curtailing businesses’ activities are lifted. Covered tenants would get the rent relief during the covered period, plus an additional 180 days past the end of the PAUSE orders.
  • During the covered period plus 180 days, the landlord would waive 20 percent of the contractual rent. An impacted landlord would be eligible to apply to DFS for lost income beyond the 20 percent. $500,000,000 of expected federal aid would be dedicated to the establishment of a DFS program providing relief to tenants and landlords. 

This bill would create a path to small business and nonprofit recovery based on sharing the burden of the crisis. For the period from March 7, 2020 until 180 days after the end of the NYS PAUSE orders restricting commercial tenant operations, businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 25 FTE would qualify for rent relief. The relief would be distributed as follows:

Sign the petition at www.saveourstorefronts.nyc