Saving Local Businesses from Rising Rents and Upscaling Neighborhoods

New York City is looking at ways to keep beloved local stores from being forced out by high-end shops and restaurants in up-and-coming neighborhoods such as lower Ninth Avenue near the Meatpacking District.

"From tailored zoning regulations to special tax arrangements to bringing back an idea from the 1980s of 'commercial rent control,' land use analysts are examining the options. State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who represents the area, is one who's interested in the potential of commercial rent control. 'Just as residential rents can drive people out of the community if they're not protected by rent stabilization, the same can happen with commercial tenants,' says Gottfried. 'A neighborhood can have whole blocks or avenues of stores wiped out in a very short period of time as these come due, because landlords can refuse to renew a lease or insist on any rent they can get without limitation. Without some kind of rent law in place, a landlord needs no excuse for throwing residential or commercial tenants out on the street.'

Sung Soo Kim, founder and president of the Small Business Congress of New York City, a federation of 70 trade organizations, agrees that when it comes to disappearing businesses – whether Coliseum Books or CBGB's – "Rent is the major issue." Kim says the city averaged 6,000 commercial evictions per year under Mayor David Dinkins; this number jumped to 7,500 per year while Rudy Giuliani was in office, and has soared to more than 10,000 per year under Bloomberg. In 2006, Kim cites data that there were more than 14,000 commercial evictions in the city. While these figures are for commercial evictions, a broader category than small businesses, he's convinced that the vast majority of the casualties are small businesses."



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