ANHD Testimony for September 7 2021 City Council Small Business Hearing

Commercial tenants do not currently have any rent protections beyond what is included in their lease. This means that small businesses are often hit with rent increases they can’t afford, which effectively function as evictions to make way for higher-paying tenants or lead to commercial vacancies.

Storefront Registry Will Help Small Businesses Combat Speculation

Small businesses in New York City finally have data to help in the fight against gentrification and displacement. Thanks to years of advocacy by ANHD to win the passage of Local Law 157 in 2019, the NYC Department of Finance has collected and published the first round of annual data in the storefront registry from December 2019, with information on storefront rents, vacancies, and lease terms.

The existence of the storefront registry is a major victory for anti-displacement organizing, which would not have happened without the work of United for Small Business NYC (USBnyc), a coalition of community organizations across New York City fighting to protect New York’s small businesses and commercial tenants from the threat of displacement.

For many years, ANHD has supported tenant organizers in using housing data to craft data-driven direct services and campaigns through our trainings and the Displacement Alert Project. With timely data about what’s happening in their neighborhoods and throughout the city, residential tenants can fight back against predatory landlords and push for citywide policies that lead to more equitable outcomes. Now, small businesses will be able to do the same.

Until this point, small business organizers have had to rely on anecdotal evidence and local survey data to make the case that rising rents in gentrifying communities are leading to the displacement of small businesses, nonprofits, artists, and others who rent storefront spaces. Meanwhile, rents and vacancies have risen across the city, and the pandemic has made it more likely that rent increases will lead to shuttered storefronts. Businesses in low-income communities and communities of color are the most vulnerable to commercial displacement. But even in the wake of the pandemic, small businesses are being hit with rent increases they can’t afford, which effectively function as evictions to make way for higher-paying commercial tenants or lead to commercial vacancies.

The initial storefront registry data provides a snapshot of what was happening to storefront spaces before COVID-19 devastated New York City in 2020, including an aggregate analysis of storefront data and a searchable database of storefronts. Thanks to ANHD and USBnyc’s advocacy, New York City will have data on our storefronts that will enable all of us to examine and compare the state of our storefronts, pre- and post-pandemic.

ANHD’s analysis of this new data source found that in 2019, Brooklyn had the highest vacancy rate of any borough at 9.2%, followed closely by Manhattan (9.1%).* 

 

 

The city’s highest vacancy rates were in Central Brooklyn Council Districts 35 and 36, which include the gentrifying, majority-Black neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Prospect Heights, and Crown Heights. These neighborhoods had a vacancy rate of 15.6% (CD 35) and 14.2% (CD 36) as compared to 8.3% citywide.

 

Click here to see the map in a new window.

 

This data also shows huge differences in rents across the city. Median monthly rents in Manhattan were $9.00 per square foot in 2019, while every other borough had a median monthly rent less than $4.00 per square foot.

 

 

Median monthly rents in Council Districts 3 and 4 were $11.00 and $14.00 per square foot respectively. These districts include high-rent commercial corridors in Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and the Upper East Side, as well as Midtown and the new mega-development of Hudson Yards. But even in the outer boroughs, we can see higher median rents in gentrifying districts like the South Asian and Latinx immigrant enclave of Jackson Heights in CD 25 ($5.00/sf), as compared to the Queens-wide median of $3.67. This is an example of a neighborhood where we would expect to see higher rates of displacement as commercial leases expire and speculative landlords look to take advantage of the post-pandemic commercial real estate market.

 

Click here to see the map in a new window.

 

Over the next few months, ANHD will continue to analyze this data and share these critical findings. As we get new updates and compare pre-pandemic rents and vacancies against the changes wrought by COVID-19, we will assess the pandemic’s impact on our commercial corridors and propose policy solutions that address that impact.

We look forward to continued collaboration with Local Law 157’s lead sponsor Council Member Helen Rosenthal; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Carlina Rivera, who have also put forward legislation to increase publicly available data about commercial corridors; as well as the Department of Finance in making sure this data is collected and accessible to the public.

Regardless of what this and future storefront registry data tell us, we implore all New York City’s current and incoming elected officials to work with us to support our city’s small businesses. We cannot allow the unequal impact of COVID-19 to trigger a wave of commercial and cultural displacement that will resonate across the city.

 

*Note: We calculated the citywide vacancy rates for 2019 by adding Class 1 and Class 2 and 4 data and dividing the number of storefronts reported not leased or owner occupied (i.e. vacant) by the total number of storefronts.

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Testimony Before the New York State Senate Finance Committee and New York State Assembly Committee on Ways and Means

My name is Karen Narefsky, and I am the Senior Organizer for Equitable Economic Development at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD). I am testifying today on behalf of United for Small Business NYC, a coalition of which we are a member. I would like to thank Committee Chairs Krueger, Weinstein, Kaplan, and Bronson for holding today’s hearing on the economic development-related proposals in the Governor’s Fiscal Year 2021-2022 Executive Budget.

New York's Small Businesses Left Out of the Paycheck Protection Program

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated small businesses nationwide, particularly in hard-hit cities like New York City and especially so in the City’s low-income communities and communities of color. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was a response by the federal government to provide capital to businesses that had to shut down or reduce operations to slow the spread of COVID. It wasn’t until months after the program launched that the Small Business Administration released loan-level data, enabling the public to analyze the full extent of relief provided. The data has many limitations, particularly in the lack of demographic information for most loans, lack of census-tract level data, lack of application and denial information, inconsistent information between loans below and above $150,000, and data errors throughout. However, in the aggregate, the database provides some high-level insights into who benefited from this program and who didn’t as Congress debates future iterations of the program. 

The Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) analyzed the PPP data for zip codes in New York City and found that nearly 140,000 loans - 86% of all PPP loans in the City - were under $150,000, meaning the majority of loans went to small businesses. However, when we looked more closely, we found many people and communities did not receive the support they needed.

 

Key Findings

  1. More funding should be directed to struggling small businesses - 86% of loans were under $150,000 and totaled just $4.1 billion, whereas the remaining loans were over $150,000 and totaled two to five times more ($9.6 billion - $22.7 billion). Also, $134 billion of total PPP funding was never loaned out.
  2. PPP loans did not reach people or communities of color - The geographic distribution of loans largely matches pre-existing inequitable lending patterns, with lower concentrations of loans in low-income communities and communities of color where COVID hit hardest.
  3. Nonbank lenders are more prevalent in communities of color and with smaller businesses - The percentage of PPP loans by nonbanks are higher in communities of color - communities that have fewer traditional bank branches and higher rates of unbanked people. These nonbank and additional online-only lenders were also more likely to make loans under $150,000, meaning small businesses did not have the same access to traditional banks for PPP loans.
  4. Loans did not reach the industries that needed them the most - 30% of loans went to businesses that are more suited to working remotely, and 50% went to “face-to-face” industries that had to shut down or reduce operations.
  5. For-profit landlords received loans while tenants got little to no relief - Over 1,900 landlords and management companies in New York City received up to $305 million in PPP loans at a time when tenants are getting little to no relief. This includes some landlords with histories of alleged harassment and displacement.

 

More Funding Could Be Directed to Struggling Small Businesses

Nearly 140,000 loans - 86% of all PPP loans in the City - were under $150,000. This is an amount which has long been expressed as an unmet credit need. Among the loans under $150,000, the average amount was much lower at $31,000, with a median of $20,000, indicating the program served some very small businesses. As impressive as those initial figures seem, the PPP data also indicates that many businesses and communities were left out of the program. Loans under $150,000 totaled just $4.1 billion, whereas loans over $150,000 totaled two to five times more, between $9.6 billion and $22.7 billion[1]. Meanwhile, $134 billion of total PPP funding was never loaned out. This money could have been better directed towards struggling small businesses.

As the forgiveness process for the program begins, there are several factors that indicate whether an existing loan was successful. These include whether a business was able to have the loan forgiven or repaid in affordable terms, and whether the business was able to reopen and have sufficient capital and resources to continue operating over the long term. Unfortunately, many small businesses - particularly those operated by people of color - do not have access to these resources and may still not survive.

 

Loans Did Not Reach People or Communities of Color

The geographic distribution of loans largely matches typical inequitable lending patterns with lower concentrations of loans in low-income communities and communities of color where COVID hit hardest. Outside of lower Manhattan, the largest concentrations are in Flushing, Long Island City, Greenpoint, Park Slope, and Downtown Brooklyn. Corona (11368) and Elmhurst (11373), both low-income communities of color, had among the highest rates of COVID and received fewer than 1,000 loans each. In contrast, at least 6 zip codes in lower Manhattan - each a fraction of the size - received over 3,000 – 5,000 loans each.

 

To view the full map, click here.

 

Nonbank Lenders are More Prevalent in Communities of Color and With Smaller Businesses

Just 5% of all loans reported demographic data, and of those that did, 15% went to Hispanic-owned businesses and 5% to Black-owned businesses. Nonbank Financial Technology (FinTech) lenders are more prevalent in communities of color and end up reaching more of the smallest businesses than traditional banks. The percentage of loans by nonbanks are higher in communities of color - communities that have fewer traditional bank branches and higher rates of unbanked people. Of the top 10 lenders, over 98% of loans made by non-bank and online lenders Cross River Bank, Kabbage, Celtic Bank, and WebBank were loans under $150,000[2] compared to, for example, just 83% at Chase and 58% at Signature. This matches trends in 1-4 family lending, further demonstrating how the largest banks are failing to serve communities of color equitably.

 

To view the full map, click here.

 

Loans Did Not Reach the Industries that Needed Them the Most

While all types of businesses have struggled due to COVID, some of the hardest hit were in non-essential industries that were forced to shut down or severely curtail operations, had few or no options to work remotely, and have been slower to fully reopen. Examples include restaurants, hair and nail salons, barber shops, and retail stores. Face-to-face and essential businesses also incurred expenses to purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and update protocols to ensure staff and customers are safe during operations.

Using a similar methodology to Center for NYC Affairs, we find that about 30% of PPP loans went to businesses that are more suited to working remotely, and 50% went to “face-to-face” industries that had to shut down or reduce operations. The remainder of loans went to essential businesses, such as healthcare and grocery stores.

16% of loans went to professional, scientific, and technical firms which are much more likely to be able to work remotely and have more reserves. Only 7.2% went to food services establishments that have been among the hardest hit industries. Meanwhile, just 2.3% of loans went to manufacturing firms, many of which had to shut down completely for months. The manufacturing sector is vital to New York City as one of the few sectors where the majority of jobs pay good wages (over $50,000) typically without requiring a college degree, and employs large numbers of immigrants and people of color. Some of these jobs are also a critical part of recovery as the state is contracting with local manufacturers to produce PPE and medical equipment, and relying on warehouses and transportation facilities to keep the city’s supply and distribution chain in motion.

Only 98 loans went to street vendors, who lost significant revenue if they were able to operate at all. New York City has approximately 20,000 vendors, many of whom have been excluded from multiple relief programs due to their immigration status or the nature of their work. While some vendors were able to continue working, foot traffic declined dramatically. Many vendors were also excluded from other forms of federal relief due to their immigration status.

 

For-Profit Landlords Received Loans While Tenants Got Little to No Relief

Over 1,900 landlords and management companies in New York City received up to $305 million in PPP loans at a time when tenants are getting little to no relief. This doesn’t include additional loans to real estate agents, brokers, and companies that finance landlords. The burden on tenants is worse now that expanded unemployment insurance has ended, and the state’s eviction moratorium has expired. PPP money was designed to preserve jobs, and could not have been used for rent relief, but the fact remains that this money went to management staff who are tasked with collecting rent from people who cannot afford to do so.

In a time of severe housing instability, nonprofit affordable housing providers should be prioritized over for profit landlords, particularly those who have left tenants in unstable and unsafe housing situations. Tenants in buildings owned by some of these landlords have been struggling for years to get necessary services and combat tactics that fuel displacement, and little has changed in the pandemic. Zara Realty, for example, received a PPP loan despite having a documented history of alleged discrimination and poor treatment of tenants, including a lawsuit filed by the NY State attorney general. Two other examples include Chestnut Holdings, which is #9 on the Worst Evictor List; and Pinnacle, #7 on the list - both have a long history of alleged tenant harassment and eviction and yet, they received large PPP loans.

 

Small Businesses & Tenants Need Bold Action to Address Long-Standing Systemic Inequalities

While the PPP has been impactful for many businesses, it is also exacerbating long-standing systemic racial and economic inequities. The loans are distributed through banks, yet Black and Hispanic households are unbanked at 5 to 6 times the rate of white households and have significantly fewer bank branches in their neighborhoods. This means they are less likely to have the means to access financing programs like PPP. For some, the structure of the program may also have been a barrier, requiring that 75% of the loan go to salaries (later adjusted to 65%). In New York City, where inflated commercial rents were a top concern even before COVID, businesses are struggling to make up those costs. For businesses where the rent outpaced salaries, or those who didn’t have money to make up the difference, a PPP loan may not have been sufficient to meet their needs. Small businesses may also have been wary to take out a loan if they were unsure about how much would be forgiven or if they would be in business long enough to utilize it. Others may have gone out of business before they could access the loans. 

Now is the time for bold action to protect small businesses and tenants. Congress can support small businesses through the PPP with swift PPP forgiveness and new rounds of funding targeted to the most vulnerable businesses. They should focus on underserved and underrepresented Black, Indiginous, People of Color (BIPOC) and communities, while ensuring loans do not go to entities with a record of exploitation and harassment. They should also ensure full demographic reporting during the forgiveness process and for new loans moving forward.

Rather than address these issues, Congress has failed to provide any further relief. It is up to local legislators, financial institutions, and others to provide additional support through grants, low-cost loans, and rent relief. They should provide these directly to small businesses and tenants and through entities like Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and community organizations that serve these populations.

Small businesses, in particular those operated within and by communities of color, are the economic engine of New York City, and no housing is affordable without a good paying job. Yet, the pandemic is disproportionately harming low-income, BIPOC tenants, homeowners, and small business owners. An equitable recovery to benefit these populations requires targeted, systemic solutions. Our communities can’t wait anymore.

 

[1] The data for loans over $150,000 is only reported in buckets, making it impossible to know the exact amount loaned (NY State received $39 billion total).

[2] Cross River and Celtic are online bank lenders that partnered with companies such as Intuit (maker of Quickbooks) and Paypal to make PPP loans. Kabbage is a non-bank lender.

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Include the Excluded

New Yorkers across the five boroughs are reeling from both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Unemployment has reached record highs with one million New Yorkers losing work, lines for food pantries span blocks, and tenants across the city are concerned about if and how they’ll be able to pay their rent. Undocumented immigrants - who have been excluded from many federal and state economic resources, including the one-time stimulus payments provided by the CARES Act - have even fewer resources to cope with the economic ramifications of the pandemic. At a time when federal rent relief is far from assured, unemployment in New York City is expected to reach levels not seen in decades, and the federal government provides little in the way of economic relief, it is the responsibility of our city to provide basic social and economic resources to all residents.

While New York City has taken steps toward providing limited relief to immigrant workers and commercial tenants, it has fallen far short of what’s needed, in particular for undocumented New Yorkers. The Immigrant Emergency Relief Program, the City’s $20 million partnership with Open Society Foundations, only serves 3% of our city’s undocumented population. This leaves thousands of our frontline essential workers without aid. New analysis by ANHD based on data from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) finds that the full cost of matching the one-time payment amounts stipulated by the CARES Act for all undocumented New Yorkers, including children, would be $578,088,000[1]. If the City were to match the need for mixed-status families, the total cost would reach $1.2 billion.

ANHD and our member organizations fight every day for equity in our neighborhoods and across our city. Undocumented New Yorkers are part of our communities and require adequate resources and support from our city government when the federal government fails to meet their basic needs. Fifty-three percent of undocumented New Yorkers are rent-burdened, paying more than a third of their income in rent, and 24.7% of the undocumented population experiences extreme rent burden, spending more than half of their income on rent. Without stimulus support and with little to no city support in sight, an already financially vulnerable population is in an even more precarious situation.

Ensuring that all New Yorkers have adequate resources is central to the well-being and recovery of New York City’s businesses, workforce, and neighborhoods. Seventy-nine percent of undocumented New Yorkers are part of the city’s labor force, compared to 64.4% of the city’s general population. Forty-eight percent of New York’s small businesses, the heart of the city’s local economy, are owned by immigrants. Immigrant businesses are providing lifelines for New Yorkers throughout the pandemic and will be vital to any economic recovery. Despite this, undocumented business owners were excluded from the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Earlier small business emergency programs offered by New York City ran out of money quickly, and ANHD’s member organizations that serve businesses throughout the city have reported that English-only application forms are inaccessible to many immigrant business owners.

Immigrant New Yorkers have kept our city running throughout this pandemic. The Center for Migration Studies reports that 52.2% of the city’s essential workforce are immigrants. Seventy-one percent of the state’s undocumented labor force works in essential businesses.  Yet many immigrant New Yorkers and their families have been excluded from vital resources that are especially necessary at a time when businesses were forced to close and rent payments still loom. For many of those who are still employed, making ends meet means risking their safety and the safety of their communities in frontline occupations.

Other states and municipalities across the country are filling the gap created by the federal government by committing significant resources to undocumented residents. Austin, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles have all allocated money to a fund for those excluded from the CARES Act.  The state of California launched its $125 million fund this week. If New York City’s goal is to equitably provide resources to all New York residents - especially its essential workers - it must commit to more.

New York is proud to call itself a “sanctuary city,” yet the City has done little in this time of crisis to ensure that the basic needs of its undocumented workers and tenants are met. The City needs to allocate significant funding for undocumented New Yorkers and prioritize getting City and private dollars to those in need who are not and will not be able to acess federal resources. The City must commit to its immigrant residents who are keeping our city alive at great risk to themselves and their families.

 

[1] Based on population figures reported by State of Our Immigrant City, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Annual Report for Calendar Year 2019, March 2020. Estimated cost based on one time $1200 CARES payments for adults and one time $500 payments for children.

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Emergency Response to COVID-19: What Our Communities Need Now

The reverberations of the global human and economic loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt at the local level, from block to block. Historically marginalized neighborhoods and communities will be most acutely impacted and left particularly vulnerable. In New York, low-income communities of color and immigrant communities will face the brunt not only of the medical crisis that is upon us, but also the growing economic crisis in the form of evictions, mounting debt, job loss, and community disinvestment. The spread of COVID-19 has exposed the long-established gaps in our social infrastructure. These inequities are not new, but will be laid bare and felt more intensely than ever before. A crisis of this scale requires a commensurate and comprehensive response. It is the responsibility of federal, state, and local governments to act swiftly, strategically, and boldly to minimize the catastrophic economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. We call on our government - at all levels - to act decisively to give everyone the ability to do their part without the risk of losing their jobs, homes, and their very lives.

 

ANHD calls for the following policies to be undertaken immediately: 

Issue a Moratorium on Evictions and Pass Good Cause Eviction

We commend the state of New York for passing a moratorium on commercial and residential evictions, closing housing courts across the state indefinitely. This was the right thing to do and a major victory for New York’s strong tenant movement. A permanent moratorium on evictions without good cause must also go into effect - the legislature should pass good cause eviction immediately. 

Freeze Commercial and Residential Rents

Although New York State has put an indefinite moratorium on evictions, residential and commercial tenants should not have to worry about paying rent on reduced incomes while they attempt to provide for family and loved ones. One recent survey found that 39% of New Yorkers would be unable to pay even 1 month of rent if they were to lose their income. All rents should be frozen for the duration of the crisis. Government should provide immediate financial relief for impacted tenants who are facing hardship and unable to pay their rent. Nonpayment of rent due to hardship from loss of income or revenue due to COVID-19 should not be considered a breach of contract or lease. 

Extend Residential Rent-Regulated Leases 

New York State Homes & Community Renewal (DHCR) should implement a one-time, three-month extension for all residential rent regulated leases. This action ensures that tenants remain protected under their current leases and ensures rent regulated tenants who are eligible for lease renewal during this crisis do not suffer the added strain of rent increases.  

Temporarily Suspend Mortgages and Issue a Moratorium on Mortgage Actions 

Banks and creditors should not be able to profit off of struggling commercial and residential tenants, homeowners, and small businesses. All mortgage holders should temporarily be prevented from collecting payments - including interest - during this time. All mortgage actions, specifically foreclosures, should be halted. 

Provide Emergency Support for Affordable Housing Developers 

In addition to suspending mortgage obligations, city/state/federal government should provide emergency financial support in the form of grants, interest free loans, and tax abatements to non-profit affordable housing providers so that they can properly maintain their buildings in the absence of rental income for the duration of the crisis. 

Rehouse the Homeless in Hotels and Motels, and Address Overcrowding in Impacted Residences 

Homeless New Yorkers are by far the most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. In order to protect the lives of the 92,000 people living in crowded shelters or on the streets, the City and State must take immediate measures to rehouse people in empty hotels and motels. This is crucial to preventing the further spread of COVID-19. 

The City and State should also utilize hotels and motels to quarantine impacted individuals who live in overcrowded residences or in close proximity to vulnerable population or essential service providers. New York City experiences overcrowding at more than two and a half times the national crowding rate, with 8.8% of households living in overcrowded homes. These residents are very likely to spread COVID-19 to loved ones and neighbors living in close proximity. The City and State must give the option of voluntary quarantine in currently underutilized accommodations. 

All rehousing facilities must be dispersed equitably by need across all five boroughs in high-wealth and low-income neighborhoods. Low-wealth neighborhoods, especially with high densities of service workers and frontline healthcare staff, are already at high risk of contracting the virus; rehousing facilities should not be concentrated in these neighborhoods. 

Reduce Utility Payments 

As more people are being ordered to stay home, they are becoming increasingly dependent on water, electricity, gas, and the internet to survive and stay connected. New York State should order telecommunications companies to cease shutoffs while the outbreak is ongoing and schools and workplaces are shut down. The State should also urge all utility providers to cease payment collection for low-income households. 

Implement Financial Protections for Small Businesses 

The closure of restaurants, bars, and other small businesses will result in a devastating loss of income for owners and employees of small businesses, particularly immigrant-run small businesses, which comprise 48% of New York’s local economy. NYC Small Business Services (SBS) is already offering zero-interest loans to businesses with fewer than 100 employees and grants to businesses with fewer than 5 employees to cover a portion of payroll costs. The grant program should be expanded, as businesses will face difficulty in repaying loans after several months of reduced income. All relevant information should be provided in multiple languages and available to small businesses that would not traditionally be eligible for SBS and/or government aid. A portion of this aid should be available to street vendors. The state and federal government should also invest in grants to small businesses to help them provide paid and sick leave to their employees, and offset the loss in revenue that will come from the shutdown. 

New York City should mandate that delivery service operators cap their delivery fees and suspend NYPD fines and summonses on delivery personnel and street vendors. 

The State should waive all late penalties for late sales filings for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, due on March 20th, for all small businesses, including vendors. 

Issue a Moratorium on ULURP Processes 

We commend the de Blasio administration for suspending the entirety of the ULURP process for the duration of the crisis. The Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) is intended to allow public review of major land use actions, but this is dependent on an engaged public, with the ability to organize and testify. The ULURP process must be halted until this crisis has passed, and residents and stakeholders have the ability to be engaged.

Provide Emergency Fiscal Support for Non-Profits 

Non-profits and community-based organizations - including many of ANHD’s members - function as a social safety net in many communities, providing essential services like food, childcare, language access, and more. Many already struggle to cover operational costs and pay employees as they provide these services. Non-profit organizations providing essential services should receive emergency fiscal support. Non-profit organizations providing non-essential services should be eligible for grants based on the organization size.  

Fund Universal Paid Sick Leave, Childcare, and Unemployment Insurance 

Workers must be encouraged and compensated to take the full time needed for care and recovery, either for themselves or family members. Government must provide at least 3 weeks of paid emergency sick leave and at least 3 months of paid family or medical leave, with no exemptions for companies based on their size.  

Unemployment insurance must be expanded and enhanced to ensure financial support to laid-off and furloughed workers. Independent contractors and subcontracted workers - including domestic workers, gig economy workers, and home health workers - must be captured within these expanded provisions. Unemployment must be expanded in particular for tipped workers whose regular income is not adequately captured. 

Free childcare centers for the children of those still working should be established in schools, libraries, or other public facilities. Childcare workers at these centers must have access to the paid sick leave benefits described above. 

Suspend All Debt - Including Student Loans, Credit Card, and Medical Debt 

People should not have to choose between paying for vital necessities and paying their debt, or risk going into financial distress after a reduction in income due to closures and quarantines. All debt payments must be suspended - including student loans, credit cards and medical debt. This must apply to principal payments and not just interest payments alone. 

Issue a Moratorium on ICE - Ensure Immigrants Can Safely Access Healthcare and Services 

Immigrants cannot access healthcare if they are in fear for their safety and the safety of their family. If ICE continues to make arrests during this crisis, it will be harder to stop the spread of the virus and the health risks for everyone will increase. All ICE activities must cease, and detainees must be released to ensure equal opportunity for immigrants to receive the healthcare and support they need. 

Issue a Moratorium on Low-Level Arrests & Other Criminal Proceedings 

Putting people in cages increases our public health risk and the likelihood of major outbreaks occurring in prisons, jails, and courthouses. Now is the time to reduce our incarcerated populations by moving vulnerable individuals out of our jails. New York City must impose a moratorium on low-level arrests, and state legislators must resist efforts to roll back bail reform, ensuring our incarcerated population does not grow. 

End Medicaid Cuts and Provide Free COVID-19 Testing and Care 

Our public health insurance system is crucial during this public health crisis. New York State must eliminate the Medicaid “global cap” and ensure that everyone eligible for Medicaid continues to receive treatment. As many people as possible should be tested in order to ensure proper treatment and stem the spread of the virus. No one should have to pay for testing or be billed for any medical care they receive to treat COVID-19. 

 

How Will We Pay For This? 

Many of these policies are costly and will significantly shift the manner in which funding and resources have been allocated and prioritized. A crisis of this scale requires a proportionate response that prioritizes marginalized communities who are facing the brunt of this crisis. While the federal government has invested trillions of dollars in big business, government at all levels has an obligation to invest in the economic and physical well-being of those most impacted by structural inequities that have been exposed by COVID-19 - in particular immigrants, low-wealth communities, Black communities, and communities of color. An appropriate response to this crisis requires an equitable distribution of resources. 

Tax the Rich to Pay for Public Health Services 

Adequately addressing this crisis will require the expansion of health services and other parts of our social safety net. We can easily pay for many of these critical public health and safety supports by taxing the wealthiest Americans, on a state and federal level. New York State should enact the following taxes: 

  • Billionaire Wealth Tax - A yearly assessment on the speculative wealth of billionaires, including unrealized capital gains. This tax could raise $10 billion or more per year.  

  • Ultra-Millionaire Income Tax - The creation of higher income tax brackets for individuals making over $5 million, $10 million, and $100 million per year who are currently taxed at the same rate as those making $1 million per year. This tax could raise $2.2 billion per year.  

  • Pied-à-Terre Tax - Taxing vacant luxury apartments that are not used as a primary residence. There are more vacant luxury units than there are homeless people in New York City. This tax could raise over $500 million per year. 

  • Sales Tax on Stock Trades - New York’s stock transfer tax is currently rebated back to brokers. Ending this rebate could raise up to $13.8 billion per year. 

An unprecedented crisis requires unprecedented and immediate action. While all New Yorkers are impacted by COVID-19, we must recognize and swiftly address the needs of New York’s most vulnerable and at risk communities. Policies that ensure the health and safety of the most marginalized New Yorkers ensures the health and safety of all New Yorkers. 

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A Victory for Commercial Tenants

As a part of United for Small Business NYC (USBNYC), a citywide coalition of community organizations across New York City fighting to protect New York’s small businesses and non-residential tenants from the threat of displacement, the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) celebrates the passage of legislation that will bring much needed safeguards to New York City’s commercial tenants. Yesterday, City Council passed Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s “Storefront Tracker,” a public and searchable database that requires landlords to report the median rents, lease terms, and vacancies of all first and second floor commercial spaces. Also passed was Council Member Carlina Rivera’s “State of the Storefronts” that requires a comprehensive analysis of neighborhood commercial corridors every five years.

These wins come at a time when neighborhoods across the five boroughs have seen steep upticks in vacant commercial space. Landlords may be prompted to warehouse their storefronts in anticipation of rising rents or with the intent of holding out for the highest bidding tenant. New Yorkers in all five boroughs are all too familiar with vacancies dotting cultural corridors that were once home to neighborhood institutions that provided culturally relevant goods, essential services, and places that simply provided a welcoming place to congregate. The loss of these neighborhood institutions has led to what many have called a loss of the city’s soul. While vacancy is an issue citywide, immigrant communities and communities of color experiencing the impacts of gentrification and displacement feel the loss of neighborhood small businesses acutely. When the only neighborhood grocery store shutters and nothing replaces it, the entire community feels its absence.

While most New Yorkers recognize commercial vacancy as an issue that reverberates across the city, little data exists to track the issue. Reports remain either anecdotal or are conducted piecemeal by neighborhood. This legislation will allow policymakers, advocates, and community members to track vacancy trends in their own neighborhoods and communities while holding landlords accountable for failing to register. In a moment when small businesses are experiencing more pressures than ever to survive — exorbitant rents, landlord harassment, warehoused commercial space — there is more to be done to protect our City’s cultural corridors. This legislation gives policymakers and advocates the necessary information to create meaningful protections for New York’s commercial tenants.

The passage of this legislation is a step toward truly equitable economic development. New York City’s economic development policies must center around equity for all New Yorkers for our City to thrive. We applaud the Council for taking a necessary step forward in addressing commercial and cultural displacement and look forward to continuing to work together to address the ongoing issues of commercial tenant harassment, the need for stable rents, access to affordable commercial spaces in low-wealth communities, and more. Commercial displacement is cultural displacement, and it’s clear that it’s time to put an end to it.

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United for Small Business NYC Statement on New York City Council Small Business Package

United for Small Business NYC (USBNYC) applauds the New York City Council's newly released package of small business bills. USBNYC has been urging transformative changes to the small business landscape in neighborhoods across New York City for years, and this package is an exciting response to that advocacy. While both residential and commercial tenants in New York City are at risk of landlord harassment and subsequent displacement, commercial tenants lack meaningful rights and protections. It is past time that the City acknowledge this reality by clearly defining the rights of commercial tenants and taking necessary action to protect those rights. The small business package represents a significant step forward in reaching those goals.

Since the passage of the Commercial Tenant Harassment Law in 2016 and the launch of the Commercial Lease Assistance program in 2018, USBNYC has urged city government to expand the rights and protections available to commercial tenants in all five boroughs. Expanding the definition of Commercial Tenant Harassment and ensuring a small business's right to counsel is necessary to shifting the power imbalance that currently exists between tenants and landlords. Piloting an even more rigorous program like the Commercial Certificate of No Harassment in rezoning neighborhoods follows this same vision and draws from lessons learned from the Coalition Against Tenant Harassment's formative work on the affordable housing front. Both residential and commercial tenants need tools to fight back.

Where these battles have already been lost, communities are left with empty storefronts. In spite of the widespread recognition of commercial vacancies across the city, there is still no citywide count of commercial vacancies. A vacant storefront registry, with strong penalties, is a necessary first step to determine where vacancies are occurring, how long these spaces are kept off the market, and who is responsible for these vacancies. Ongoing data collection on a citywide scale is similarly necessary to direct future policy interventions. The Council's small business package begins the overdue policy discussion to address these issues.

We look forward to engaging with all council sponsors on their respective bills and advancing a multi-pronged strategy that empowers tenants, holds unscrupulous landlords accountable, and furthers the cause of New York's small businesses.

 

 

 

 

Join Us Monday As We Rally for the Passage of Crucial City Council Legislation

 

 

Who: Small business owners and workers, merchant associations, neighborhood non-profits, street vendors, commercial tenants, and community allies

Where: City Hall, Lower Manhattan

When: 9:00 am - 10:00 am, March 18, 2019

Questions: Armando Moritz-Chapelliquen, Armando.C@anhd.org

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The Forgotten Tenants: New York City’s Immigrant Small Business Owners

Over the past year, ANHD engaged nearly 100 immigrant small business owners from the Lower East Side, Jackson Heights, and Kingsbridge with the help of our non-profit partners Cooper Square Committee, Chhaya CDC, and Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition. Through interviews, focus groups, and surveys, we empowered participants to share the challenges they face as commercial tenants in rapidly changing neighborhoods. We are now excited to release a report of the key findings and policy recommendations garnered from this program.

ANHD Statement on Amazon HQ2

The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development opposes the development of Amazon’s newest headquarters (HQ2) in Long Island City. Public tax dollars intended for the public good are much more effective when they are directly applied toward truly affordable housing, good jobs, schools, and infrastructure than when they are given as an incentive to the private market. It is grossly misguided to use public tax dollars to subsidize the world’s wealthiest corporation while New Yorkers face growing inequity and a crisis of displacement.

While Amazon is set to receive over 1.75 billion dollars in subsidy, it has promised very little to New Yorkers. The creation of a $15 million workforce development center without guaranteed jobs for local residents renders that investment as effective as the City’s pre-existing HireNYC program. The new job creation touted by both the State and by Amazon does not guarantee that those jobs will go to the communities that need them most. As ANHD has demonstrated in our Tale of Two Techs analysis, the tech sector remains deeply inequitable by race and income; even when people of color are employed in the tech sector, wages remain much lower than their white counterparts. And the “concession” to NYCHA residents in the form of job fairs for a mere 3 years is insufficient to say the least. 

The City and State have done little to ensure to limit speculation and displacement. The reverberations of HQ2 will be felt not only in surrounding neighborhoods, but will extend citywide throughout low wealth immigrant communities and communities of color. As we’ve seen in Seattle, the Bay Area, and in other cities where unfettered tech development has been allowed to spread, without good jobs specifically set aside for local residents and without strong protections for both tenants and middle income homeowners, displacement is guaranteed. Such protections are not defined in this deal because they do not exist.

The concessions provided by Amazon, specifically the donation of space for “use by artists and industrial businesses”, “a site for a primary or intermediary public school” and “new green spaces”; were all part of an existing development plan. Even if these “concessions” were new, they do not make up for the long-felt impact that a project of this scale and size will have on affordable housing, infrastructure, and income parity not just in Long Island City, or in Queens, but in all of New York City.

The promised job growth and supposed positive impact of Amazon’s expansion to New York don’t outweigh the major infrastructural, housing, and equity challenges it is sure to bring. A deal created to fund one of the largest mega-projects in New York City’s history without any public process, input, or deliberation not only disempowers the very communities that will be most impacted, but entirely erases their agency and their voices.  As we have argued in the context of the neighborhood rezonings, New Yorkers should not be put in a position where they have to make concessions to private development in order to meet their community needs. Queens residents, like all New Yorkers, deserve access to good paying jobs, good transit, and truly affordable housing through real, transparent community-led development- without having to trade in their communities and neighborhoods to the world’s largest corporation. 

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