New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




Service Union Joins Opposition to Commercial Rent Control

New York City

Commercial Rent Control
Oct. 22, 2018

Most co-op and condo advocates oppose proposed legislation to establish commercial rent control in New York City. They’re joined by the Real Estate Board of New York, numerous brokerages, business-improvement districts, and a trade group representing affordable-housing developers. 

Now, Crain’s reports, the bill’s opponents have a powerful new ally: the 32BJ local of the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 30,000 city doormen, porters, superintendents, and other building employees. While the measure is intended to help small-business owners, the union believes it would help corporate tenants and lead to dwindling income for building owners, who then might be dissuaded from hiring union workers.

"It would be a terrible unintended consequence of this bill if restrictions on commercial rents were to stand in the way of workers unionizing," Denis Johnson, vice president of 32BJ, said in a statement.

The measure will be the focus of a city council hearing today, which is expected to produce major fireworks. The legislation would give commercial tenants the right to a lease renewal, and, if a tenant and landlord can't agree on a price, arbitration would be used to set the rent.

It comes at a time of widespread commercial vacancies in the city, which has many co-op and condo boards scrambling to lease their commercial space and generate coveted income. Some boards have opted for the radical solution of leasing their commercial space for periods up to 99 years to secure a steady source of revenue.

The legislation, formally known as the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, is strongly supported by business owners and community groups, which formed the coalition TakeBackNYC. The group, which objects to the term "commercial rent control,” has said the bill will help mom-and-pop stores stay in business and cut down on vacancies along many of the city's retail corridors. The bill also has 20 co-sponsors in the city council, and Speaker Corey Johnson has said that he supports the legislation.

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