March 31, 2016 By Michael Florio
City Comptroller Scott Stringer visited several stores within the Jackson Heights Business Improvement District Thursday, following the release of his plan to help small businesses citywide.
The plan, developed by Stringer’s Red Tape Commission, includes 60 ways to cut down rules and unnecessary paper work as a means to help small businesses thrive. Since its release earlier this week, Stringer has been visiting small businesses located in BIDs across the City.
His plan includes ideas such as requiring City agencies to improving their record-keeping, calling on the DOB to upgrade its permitting process, making material available in more languages and allowing business owners the right to grade City agencies on their performance.
On Thursday afternoon, the Comptroller paid a visit to businesses located in the 82nd Street Partnership BID to speak with owners about the issues important to them.
He started at Brands & Co., a clothing store located at 37-57 82nd St.
Shop owner Ali Hussein, 50, told Stringer that his rent is too high and it continues to increase. He said he currently pays $14,500 for his 1,700-square-foot shop.
“We need help to control the rent,” Hussein told Stringer. “When leases run out the landlords want to increase it by up to fifty percent. Small businesses are slowly dying.”
Stringer agreed with the local shop owner, stating that the administration and City Council have different proposals on how to alleviate rent costs for small businesses and will continue to have discussions.
“In the meantime, we want to help businesses pay their rent by knocking down fines and fees, as well as the wait time of getting permits and licenses,” he said. “Many small businesses are in the hole before they open up because they [pay] rent for months and are prohibited from opening because they don’t have the proper paperwork.”
Hussein has operated in the neighborhood for the past 24 years. His first shop was located on Roosevelt Avenue, but he had to close when his lease ended and the landlord wanted to charge a thirty percent increase. He has operated on 82nd Street for the past three years.
He added that business continues to decrease – at a rate of nearly 30 percent each year – because he is now competing with the large chains. Furthermore, smaller businesses like his are finding it tough to find rental space since the big companies have come in with deep pockets.
“It is affecting small businesses big time,” Hussein said.
Leslie Ramos, Executive Director of the 82nd Street Partnership, noted that businesses such as Hussein’s depend on foot traffic. They discussed a subway exit on Hussein’s side of 82nd Street that was closed without prior notice to the BID or shop owners.
“We cannot continue to think that our small businesses will always find a way to do well,” Stringer said.
Stringer also visited Variadades Colombia (82-02 Roosevelt Ave.), La Brasa del Pollo (82-02 Roosevelt Ave.) and M to N Cafeteria (40-12 82nd St.).
Ramos was impressed with Stringer’s plan, calling it “very innovative.”
One suggestion that stood out to her was the idea of creating mobile Business Solutions Centers.
“Many small business owners work long days and have families. They do not have the time to go to different agencies,” she said. “If the City came to them it would go a long way to help the businesses survive.”
She feels that this service would be especially important in a BID such as hers, which has a lot of immigrant business owners.