Uptown Councilman Aims to Keep Rents Low for Small Businesses

By Nigel Chiwaya on April 22, 2013 6:52pm 

 Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez's proposed Community Business Stability Act would give tax breaks to landlords who keep rent low for small businesses.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez's proposed Community Business Stability Act would give tax breaks to landlords who keep rent low for small businesses.
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Dnainfo/Nigel Chiwaya

NORTHERN MANHATTAN — An uptown politician announced a new plan to tackle high commercial rents that are hurting small businesses.

During his State of Northern Manhattan address Sunday afternoon at Yeshiva University, City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez declared intentions to introduce a new bill to the City Council that would reward commercial landlords for keeping rents down. The bill, which Rodriguez called the Community Business Stability Act, would give tax breaks to landlords that offered tenants what Rodriguez called "favorable rent increases."

"This bill will ensure our mom and pop shops are not forced out of the neighborhood by high rents," Rodriguez said.

Sky-high commercial rents have wreaked havoc on small businesses uptown, forcing out stores like Washington Heights' popular Word Up Community Book Shop and Inwood's La Sala 78 and preventing Bread and Yoga from finding a new space.

High rents almost sent Washington Heights grocery store owner Ricardo Abindader out of his West 170th Street store in early April, until pressure from residents made his landlord relent and lower his rent, Abindader said.

The bill is still being drafted, Rodriguez spokesman Russell Murphy told DNAinfo.com New York, and the councilman will meet with storeowners to learn about their experiences with rent increases before finalizing the language.

The bill is a good first step for resident Sara Kotzin, whose petition asking Mayor Michael Bloomberg to address the commercial rent issue has more than 900 signatures.

"I think it's a start, but still doesn't empower small businesses," Kotzin said via email before adding that she would like to see more authority given to community boards to block big-box chains. Kotzin added that the small businesses themselves would likely need benefits to offset the fluctuating real estate taxes that many landlords pass on.

"Where are their tax breaks?" Kotzin asked of small businesses.

The rent bill is one of several initiatives Rodriguez outlined as part of 20-year vision for Northern Manhattan. Other goals include building a new CUNY campus in Washington Heights dedicated to science, technology, engineering and math; creating 10,000 new units of affordable housing; and expanding access to full-day early childhood education for children in the district.

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