Majority of City Council speaker candidates back commercial rent control

6 out of 8 lawmakers vying for spot back idea to limit retail rents
November 02, 2017 08:30AM

City Council members Corey Johnson and Ritchie Torres

There’s a good chance the next City Council speaker could be a strong advocate for retail rent control.

Six out of the eight candidates vying to replace term-limited Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said they support commercial rent control in order to give mom-and-pop retailers a fighting chance, the New York Post reported.

“We’ve seen enough Duane Reades,” Manhattan Councilman Corey Johnson said during a Crain’s forum Wednesday.

“No offense to Duane Reade or Bank of America or ATM branches, but we need mom-and-pop small businesses,” he added. “Right now, if you operate in New York City and your lease comes up for renewal, [landlords] can jack up your rent three, four, five times what is was, and [then] the property sits vacant for a long time.”

Out of the eight candidates in the running for the powerful position, only Council Members Robert Cornegy Jr. of Brooklyn and Ritchie Torres from the Bronx expressed apprehensions.

“There could be legal and operational concerns,” Torres said.

There is no bill in the Council on commercial rent control. In fact, there hasn’t been a hearing on one in the three decades since former Council member Ruth Messinger called for the policy back in 1984.

But with the run up in rents in recent years and an increase in vacancies, some neighborhoods are pushing back. Manhattan’s Community Board 3 earlier this year was kicking around the idea of a special zoning district for the East Village that would limit the size of stores.

Real Estate Board of New York President John Banks said commercial rent controls would be “an unconstitutional violation of property rights.”

The council’s 51 members will elect a new speaker later this year to take office in January. [NYP] – Rich Bockmann