Columbia offers small businesses free rent for April and May

University hopes move will help tenants through coronavirus pandemic

Columbia University
Columbia University (Credit: Columbia University)

Columbia University is giving its Upper Manhattan business tenants two months of free rent.

Small businesses in the school’s retail portfolio will not have to pay rent for April and May to help them endure the coronavirus pandemic, the school announced Friday. The move applies to qualifying small businesses in Columbia’s 600,000 square feet of retail space across Morningside Heights, Harlem and Washington Heights.

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“This is the hardest of times for everyone, and noticeably for our retail partners,” Columbia’s executive vice president for facilities and operations David Greenberg said in a statement, “and we will do everything we can to help them get through this crisis.”

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The university highlighted that many of its food and beverage tenants are still open for takeout and delivery services, including the cafe Wu + Nussbaum and Tom’s Restaurant of “Seinfeld” fame.

Mayor Bill de Blasio cheered the idea of a rent moratorium Friday during his weekly appearance on WNYC with Brian Lehrer, although he acknowledged that he needed to figure out if the city has authority to enact one or if the state would have to do it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not mention a rent moratorium in a press conference he held Friday, although he did announce a 90-day moratorium on residential and commercial evictions. A state administrative judge had halted evictions earlier in the week.

A decade ago, Columbia received criticism for its efforts to use eminent domain to expand its campus. But Friday, the university’s tweet of its rent break drew 59 likes and was retweeted 16 times in its first hour.