Pol, biz groups: Suspend rent tax, extend outdoor dining

City Council member Keith Powers pitches plan to help businesses survive Covid

City Council member Keith Powers (Getty)
City Council member Keith Powers (Getty)

New York City’s reopening and federal aid will not be enough to save many small businesses, so a City Council member and two business groups have proposed a plan to do more.

Continued outdoor restaurant seating, rent relief for small businesses, and suspension of commercial rent tax are among the ideas Keith Powers is advancing for Manhattan in a report released today. It has the support of the NYC Hospitality Alliance and the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, the Daily News reported.

“While we figure out the big questions on the economy,” Powers said, “let’s provide immediate answers to help small business owners plan for the months ahead.”

About 80 percent of restaurants and bars did not pay full rent in June, and 73 percent of their landlords did not waive rent, according to a Hospitality Alliance survey.

Powers’s plan calls for an extension of outdoor dining permits beyond the Covid emergency as well as city grants to help businesses pay rent. It cites the federal Paycheck Protection Program as a potential model.

However, the city lacks the infinite borrowing capacity of the U.S. Treasury, and unlike the federal government, the City Council must approve a balanced budget each year. With city tax revenues plunging, city aid and tax breaks for businesses has been extremely limited during the pandemic.

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Commercial rent poses an especially tough burden in New York City, according to the Powers plan, so it calls on additional federal stimulus to aid struggling small businesses.

The City Council did pass a bill forbidding landlords from going after the private assets of some non-paying tenants. Small landlords are suing to have the law declared unconstitutional.

For businesses that pay under $1 million in annual rent, the report also advocates for the suspension of commercial rent tax, which only applies to Manhattan leases below 96th Street.

Of the many task forces Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed to deal with the Covid fallout, only one focuses on small businesses, according to the Daily News.

Powers, a Manhattan Democrat, has also called on de Blasio to extend the temporary limitation on fines that can be assessed to small businesses. [Daily News] — Orion Jones