Small Business

Small Business

Top left: Helen and volunteers eat at Fred's for her first Small Business Saturday event (July 22, 2017) Bottom left: Helen shares cooking secrets with residents at the Columbus Avenue Green Market (July 23, 2017) Right: Helen honors the Zingone family, celebrating 90 years in business on the Upper West Side (July 26, 2017).

Local businesses strengthen our community and support our collective culture. Helen advocates for the success and stability of Upper West Side businesses - confident that they are the backbone of our district. Her office hosts clinics and is committed to advocating for small business success. And, there’s always more we can do. Helen is already building on her successes from her first term. She plans to raise the Commercial Rent Tax threshold to $500,00 in annual rent and reduce keep storefronts occupied by placing a fee on prolonged vacancies. Read more below!

Helen is taking the lead, here are some highlights (details below):

  • As Chair of the Committee on Contracts, Helen is holding the city's feet to the fire to increase the number of minority and women-owned business bids for City contracts.
  • Helen spearheaded the City's worker cooperative efforts, passing legislation and funding initiative.
  • Helen is working to raise the rent threshold for the Commercial Rent Tax.
  • Helen and her office host informational and legal clinics for small businesses.
  • Helen is a co-sponsor of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.

Helen’s goals for the next four years:

  • Identify a mechanism to require landlords of commercial properties to keep their space occupied - placing a fee plus fines on prolonged vacancies.
  • Raise the Commercial Rent Tax threshold to $500,000 in annual rent to spare small businesses from tax burden.
  • Continue to host informational and legal clinics for small businesses - with a focus on negotiating lease renewals.

Helen Supports Women and Minority-Owned Businesses

Helen is leading efforts to increase the number of MWBEs that contract with NYC through the New York City Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) Certification Program, the goal of which is to promote economic equity in City procurement processes. These businesses, all of which are at least 51% owned, controlled, and operated by women or minorities, receive technical assistance to better compete for contracts. Classes, networking events, and targeted solicitations help certified business gain access to contracting opportunities - supporting Upper West Side small businesses and the NYC economy.

Helen Spearheaded Worker Cooperative Efforts

We live in a world where the CEO of a company can earn more than 1,000 times the median pay of his or her employees. But there is another way to run a business: worker cooperatives give every employee an equal share of the business and an equal role in the business' decision-making. Helen has championed worker co-ops, which provide higher wages, better hours, and more job security to workers. City Council passed her legislation, Local Law 22 of 2015, which requires the City to report on the number of city contracts awarded to worker cooperatives and the number of worker cooperatives that received assistance from the Department of Small Business Services (SBS). Helen also advocated in support of the Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative, which allocated one million dollars to the development of worker cooperatives across the city in the FY16 budget; two million dollars in FY17; and three million in the FY18 budget. This initiative led to the creation of new businesses and jobs in New York City.

Helen is Working to Raise the Commercial Rent Tax Rent Threshold

Businesses in Manhattan between 96th Street and Chambers Street with an annual rent of $250,000 or more currently pay an additional 3.9% tax called the Commercial Rent Tax. This is a serious burden on small businesses. Helen introduced legislation with Councilman Dan GarodnickInt. 799-2015, to raise this threshold to $500,000 in annual rent so that nearly 5,000 retail shops can find relief from this discriminatory tax.

Helen's Office Hosts Small Business Support Clinics

Helen knows that small businesses face lots of challenges. Helen and her office hold quarterly informational and legal clinics for Upper West Side small businesses and retail shops to support their success. These clinics discuss how to renegotiate a lease and to avoid city violations, as well as other topics. Any Upper West Side retail shop can sign up to participate in these clinics.Helen also sponsored Local Law 70 of 2017 to alert store owners over email if a complaint against their store is recorded in 311.

Helen is a Sponsor of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA)

Helen is a co-sponsor of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, Int. 0402-2014, which establishes an environment for business owners to fairly negotiate commercial lease renewals. It creates a 10 year minimum lease with equal negotiating power for business owners and landlords, ends the passing on of property taxes to business owners, and ends rent-gouging as well as exorbitant rent increases.

SBJSA was first introduced by Tony Avella in 2008. Helen has fought for its implementation but this has been no small feat. It has not moved forward for two fundamental reasons: first, it seeks to regulate the amount of rent a building owner could charge small business tenants, and second, many believe that commercial rent regulation is under state jurisdiction. City Council legal staff believe that commercial rent regulation would likely not stand up in court so Helen is working to adjust and improve the bill.

Solving the problem of small business vacancies requires creative, technical solutions. Helen's proposals include raising rent thresholds for the Commercial Rent Tax, placing a fee and cumulative fines on prolonged vacancies, and continuing to host small business clinics. Helen is intensely devoted to supporting small businesses in our neighborhood, confident that they contribute to the atmosphere of the Upper West Side.

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