A bill signed into law today creates small business advocates to serve local entrepreneurs within the Department of Business Services. Sounds like something that might help stem the disappearance of beloved mom-and-pops, right? But members of the group Take Back NYC say that the bill is “phony” and a ploy to distract from the larger issues, like sky-high rent hikes and unfair lease agreements, that are putting local stores out of business.
The legislation by Council Member Margaret Chin, Council Member Robert Cornegy and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito was passed by the Council earlier this month and would take effect 90 days after being signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Today at the bill signing at City Hall, Chin explained that the advocates would work closely with small business owners to help them better understand city rules and regulations and to help facilitate their interactions with government agencies. “Far too often, small business owners – especially those with limited English skills – encounter difficulties navigating essential government services, and are often unaware of the great programs already in place at the Department of Small Business Services,” she said.
But Take Back NYC, an activist group devoted to passing the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, believes the legislation will do little to actually help small businesses in danger of going out of business. “To create an advocate for small businesses within the agency for small businesses, which is already supposed to be advocated for them, is laughable,” said Kirsten Theodos, spokesperson for Take Back NYC. “They’re really good at creating workshops and setting up phony things to help small businesses, but none of it addresses real crisis.”
Take Back NYC has been holding forums over the past few months to try to drum up support for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which is designed to, among other things, give small business owners the right to negotiate their rent with their landlord. Theodos said she was disappointed to see Chin, a co-sponsor for the SBJSA, backing the new legislation. “All of this focus on phony lifelines to help small businesses is going to take away from the real solution for small business owners, which is the SBJSA,” she said.
Still, supporters of the bill are hopeful it will help small business owners cut through the red tape so that they can get the resources they need to survive. “New York City’s small business owners are independent and resourceful. They don’t reach out to the city unless they really need help,” said Cornegy, Chair of the Committee on Small Business. “The small business advocates law will ensure that in times of need, business owners have a clear path to meaningful help, rather than getting frustrated or lost in the shuffle.”