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Op-Ed / 11/25/2023

Small Business Saturday and Beyond: Addressing the Commercial Rent Challenge

Today is Small Business Saturday! Over the years, this day and initiative has gained momentum and consumers are encouraged to shop local, shop small. At Chhaya, we understand the urgency of that call. We hear it daily from the 500 merchants, largely from Jackson Heights and Richmond Hill, that we work with through our Small Business Program, helping them navigate bureaucracies, access capital, build skills and capacity, and bring their concerns to public officials. Chief among their concerns is the need for commercial rent stabilization, and the passage of Intro 93, the FairRentNYC bill, before year’s end.

Skyrocketing commercial rents that landlords can impose on a whim are killing small businesses. A nationwide survey in 2022 shows New York leading the nation in the number of small businesses unable to cover their monthly rent. And in a local survey by the Citywide Merchant Organizing Project, two-thirds of small businesses saw their rent increase by at least 10% over the past year; more than a quarter feared they would have to close up shop in the coming year because of the high cost of rent; and over a third are behind on their rent. Indeed, while storefront rents in Manhattan neighborhoods with corporate offices are dropping, rental costs are soaring for small businesses in communities of color in the other boroughs.

Consider, then, that in a neighborhood like Jackson Heights, where 92% of merchants rent their property, and rent is already an onerous burden, 92% of small businesses in the area have no idea how much their rent will increase when their lease expires. It’s no wonder, then, that even while Jackson Heights sees a record number of new business licenses, it also sees a significant number of licenses expire.

When businesses can’t survive past a ten-year lease—or have to shut their doors before the lease is up—neighborhoods lose vital neighborhood services and the culture and sense of community that comes with stable community institutions; it also limits the flow of capital within the community.

Let’s all shop local, shop small, this Small Business Saturday, and every day of the week, every week of the year. But let’s also make sure that the city does its part by enacting commercial rent stabilization as the critical first step that would allow the local businesses we love and patronize to survive, and thrive.

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Sources:
https://chhayacdc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/avenyc-cdna-jackson-heights.pdf
https://anhd.org/report/taking-care-business-understanding-commercial-displacement-new-york-city

https://www.independent.ie/life/travel/world/queens-new-york-a-short-subway-ride-from-manhattan-brings-the-world-in-a-borough/42323501.html
https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20230321-jackson-heights-the-neighbourhood-that-epitomises-new-york
CMOP Survey flyer
Small Business Advocates' Call to City Council/ PASS Commercial Rent Stabilization in 2023.pdf

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Main Office:
37-43 77th St, 2nd Floor, Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Contact: 718.478.3848; info@chhayacdc.org

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121-18 Liberty Avenue, 2nd Floor, Richmond Hill, NY 11419
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