C.B. 2 focuses on filling in the empty storefronts

BY GABE HERMAN | Community Board 2 has formed a new committee specifically to grapple with a shocking new reality impacting the Village / Lower West Side district: the blight of empty storefronts.

The initiative was the idea of Terri Cude, the board’s chairperson.

At the inaugural meeting of the C.B. 2 Economic and Business Development Committee, on Thurs., July 26, at the Little Red School House, representatives of local business improvement districts, or BIDs, outlined the retail health of the geographic areas they cover and discussed, with community board members and locals, the problems and potential solutions to retail struggles.

As vacancy rates were discussed, BID representatives stressed that each area has its own challenges and unique retail features. The Soho Broadway Initiative described having a 20 percent vacancy, while there is 15 percent vacancy in the Noho BID, and 10 percent in the Hudson Square Connection BID, whose representative noted that was sharply down from 30 percent in 2008. William Kelley of the Village Alliance, which is centered on Eighth St., Sixth Ave., Astor Place and St. Mark’s Place, noted that vacancy in their district was generally around 3 to 5 percent. However, he said, it was now up to 7 percent, the highest since the 2008 crash, which saw 40 percent of the district’s retail spaces empty.

BIDs are created when a strong majority of local property owners vote to form them; the property owners are then assessed a special tax by the city, which is then funneled back to the BID for it to provide supplemental city services, such as sanitation, security and marketing for the area.

Questions from locals in the audience centered around how all of the empty storefronts could be filled.

“Every situation is unique,” responded Mark Dicus, executive director of the Soho Broadway Initiative. He described longtime property owners, for example, that simply weren’t getting offers for their spaces because of limited demand in the market. “They’re not getting legitimate proposals at any price,” he explained. “They’re getting short-term but nothing long-term.”

More flexible leases were discussed. Corey Kunz of the Hudson Square Connection BID noted a recent success, the Color Factory, an upcoming pop-up exhibit at Spring and Varick Sts. The exhibit will have just a one- or two-year lease while providing an experience to customers that will draw more foot traffic to the area.

“I think that flexibility is really important,” noted Kunz.

Another flexible-lease idea was offering lower rents to start out, followed by revenue sharing and gradually increasing rents, to give new businesses a chance to gain momentum. A member of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce noted that some businesses in Brooklyn were already experimenting with this model.

Cordelia Persen, executive director of the Noho BID, noted, “What you’ll see in probably almost all our neighborhoods is this rise in experiential shopping, and so we have these big spaces and they attract fun activities.”

Persen pointed to the recent addition of the new Casper flagship store, on Mercer St. between W. Houston and Bleecker Sts., which doesn’t just sell mattresses but also offers customers a place to nap for a fee. Persen said a few other experiential retail stores were on the way.

“That is really the future of retail, at least in our districts,” she stated.

The panel was asked whether a vacancy tax might be effective, but Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership, said she was against it.

“Anytime a beloved business in Union Square closes, more often than not, there’s a very distinct drama going on behind the scenes, with the ownership or with the business,” Falk said. “There’s just so many issues going on. I think an across-the-board tax for vacancy would just hurt.”

Audience members expressed skepticism over whether Brookfield, which recently bought several buildings on Bleecker St., would be a beneficial retail presence.

Maria Diaz, executive director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, said that Brookfield had told her of planning to bring in small businesses, and staying away from chains. When concerns were still expressed about Brookfield, Diaz said, “I can only give you what they have said. They are not going to try to put in any chain stores… . They’re curating art into some of their spaces.”

Diaz said that Brookfield had been reaching out to local groups, including G.V.C.C.C. and the community board, and had wanted to come to that evening’s meeting.

Topics raised for the new committee’s next meeting in September were to invite Brookfield, along with local big property owners, to hear about their perspectives and experiences with local retail.


Eliminating the Tip Credit Will Burden Small Businesses

BY MARIA DIAZ | Successfully running a small business is not an easy task. It requires skills in the areas of community engagement, marketing, operational and financial management, human resources, and networking — just for starters. However, the possession of this knowledge is not enough. Entrepreneurs, business owners, and those they employ need a favorable business environment for their companies to start, grow, and thrive.

New York City is one of the most challenging environments in the country for small businesses, particularly restaurants. With high taxes, expensive rent, an increasing minimum wage, and new competition around every corner, it is easy to see why.

However, with increased talk from the US Department of Labor (DOL) about eliminating what is known as “tip credit,”the business environment could become all the more challenging for local restaurants and tip-based services.

The tip credit provides businesses a much-needed reprieve. It allows restaurants to pay their tipped workers $8.65 hourly instead of the full $13 minimum wage for employers with 11 or more employees, and $12 minimum wage for employers with 10 or fewer employees. The $4.35 tip credit allows restaurants to staff more workers and provide them with more hours, due to the lower cost of hiring employees. This system has largely worked for tipped employees, as demonstrated by a survey of 486 New York City restaurants by the New York City Hospitality Alliance that found the 14,000 servers employed by these establishments earned an average of $25per hour.

Since the DOL began to discuss tip credit elimination, we at the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce (GVCCC) have had the opportunity to speak directly with many of our business owners, managers, and tipped workers. Overwhelmingly, they support the tip credit and worry about the consequences of its removal.

For instance, Taso Hatz, the owner of the restaurant Bus Stop Cafe (597 Hudson St.), told us, “When we raise prices, we’ll lose customers. Everyday customers become weekly or monthly customers.”

Peter Migliorini shared Hatz’s concerns. Migliorini, whose family has owned and operated Piccolo Angolo (621 Hudson St.) for 25 years, told us, “Being a family restaurant, our servers have all been here for a long time, and they know the customers. The regulars know our servers well and they tip them well.” Migliorini said that with increasing menu prices, regulars might be forced to come into their restaurant less frequently, and tip less generously when they do visit. “Lots of mom-and-pops are already going out of business because of increased expenses,” he said, “and this is just adding another hurdle. The city is going to lose a lot of character.”

Beyond management, many tipped workers conveyed to us their support of the tip credit, but did so off-record out of concern for taking a public stance. However, hundreds of tip earners across New York have testified before the DOL to voice support for the continuation of the tip credit. As stated in one tip earner’s petition, which included over 500 signatures by restaurant professionals to protect the tip credit in response to celebrity activism, “We’re servers and bartenders by choice… The industry gives us flexibility, and the current tipping system gives us the opportunity to earn great money with less than full-time hours.”

These small business owners and employees are right to worry about the on sequences of tip credit elimination. Because of this policy, labor costs would increase by roughly 50 percent. This money would likely come out of restaurant profits, threatening the survival of our small business community.This fear is rooted in recent history. In 2015, the Cuomo Administration significantly increased the tipped workers minimum wage. As highlighted by US Census Data for 2016, New York State’s full-service restaurant employment growth dropped from 4 percent to 1.3 percent. This drop was fueled by the high number of restaurants that had to close due to the cost increase, and loss of staff due to curtailed earning potential because of employers’ cost-cutting activities done in response to this cost increase.

Many of the managers we spoke with confirmed that removal of the tip credit would force them to lay off workers and cut hours to stay afloat. This is highlighted by a 2017 study published by the National Bureau o fEconomic Research on the impacts of Seattle’s minimum wage law, which indicated that a $4 increase in the minimum wage has resulted in a 9 percent reduction of low-wage jobs. This translates to a 6 percent decrease in what employers collectively pay workers, amounting to a loss of $125 per worker a month.

This is not to say that the tip credit is perfect. Proponents of removing the tip credit say that tipping results in an increased prevalence of sexual harassment and/or discrimination. Because workers depend on customers for a large portion of their earnings, there is an incentive to keep quiet about negative behaviors and the impacts of that behavior on tipped workers.

However, the elimination of the tip credit will not solve the structural and cultural issue of workplace harassment, discrimination, and sexism. In fact, an analysis of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data by the Employment Policies Institute showed that there is no significant difference between the rate of sexual harassment charges in states with the tip credit and states without the tip credit.

More importantly, at a time when the #MeToo movement is exposing sexual harassment as ingrained in the culture of various corporations and industries, it’s important to note that many of these industries do not pay based on a tipping model. And yet, sexual harassment is, unfortunately, prevalent in these fields. We need to focus on policies that address this structural and cultural issues, which give rise to harassment, discrimination, and sexism. This is because our goal should be to eliminate them from the workplace altogether, as opposed to making no significant difference towards this goal.

In addition, the New York City Council just set aside $2.5 million for the legal defense of low-income workers who are the victims of wage theft by their employers. This action is not the only step that New York must take to protect its low-wage workers, but it is an important first step to affording low-income workers the ability to earn a fair, living wage while working in service jobs.

Eliminating the tip credit would negatively impact restaurant patrons, workers, and ownership due to increased prices, reduced hours, and lost profits. Maine illustrates that this type of proposal is not supported by the workers whom it would affect, and is not a part of the long-term solution.

Typically, restaurant owners and their servers are not on the same side when it comes to policy issues. When they are, we should all take notice. The consensus against eliminating the tip credit is just such a noteworthy moment. The collective objection to this proposal is not due to disagreement with its underlying goals. On the contrary, this proposal’s goals are well-intentioned. However, its execution is flawed — and thus, the proposal will only hurt those workers whom it purports to help. That is why the GVCCC stands with our local restaurant workers and owners to oppose the elimination of the tip credit in New York.

Maria Diaz is Executive Director of The Greenwich Village-ChelseaChamber of Commerce. For info, call 646-470-1773 or visitvillagechelsea.com. Twitter: @GVCCHAMBER. OnFacebook: facebook.com/GVCCHAMBER.


Small Business Rally

A Call to Action 

On June 28th, 2018, Bronx Councilmember Mark Gjonaj, alongside small-business owners and various local politicians, organized a rally outside City Hall to advocate for the protection of small businesses across New York City.   

According to Gjonaj, 80% of all jobs in the city are created by businesses with fewer than 10 workers, stating that, “the Big Apple’s well-being is dependent on the health of its small-business sector”.

Among the wave of advocates supporting Gjonaj’s vision to empower small business, many held up signs that reflect the multitude of concerns small business owners face. Issues such as high taxes, unnecessary fines, harsh regulations, and rising water and sewage rates were addressed by Councilmembers and Chamber of Commerce representatives across Manhattan and the Bronx who spoke on behalf of the small business owners.

Flyers were distributed illustrating the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA), a bill Gjonaj has proposed that will provide an “opportunity to restore economic equality to our business owners,” and ultimately, to “re-establish NYC as the Gateway for the American Dream.”

Subsequently, Gjonaj introduced the Micro-Business Transparency Act, a bill that would set the guidelines for what a micro-business entails and ensure that micro-businesses across NYC are being fairly represented. In addition to this bill, councilmembers also suggested creating a commission for mom-and-pop shops to better and more frequently have their voices and concerns heard.

Ultimately, small business owners seek to build stronger relationships between local businesses and the government. As said by Gjonaj, “Fighting for small businesses will save jobs and protect our local communities”.

Tip Credit Elimination


Eliminating the Tip Credit

Will Harm Small Business

In January of 2018, Governor Cuomo announced that a series of hearings would be held regarding the potential elimination of the Tip Credit in New York. After speaking with various restaurant owners and wait staff in the Greenwich Village/Chelsea area, the repercussions of eliminating the tip credit became clear. New York City is one of the most challenging environments in the country for restaurants due to high taxes,expensive rent across the city, an increasing minimum wage, and new competition around every corner. The elimination of the tip credit would force businesses to cut down wait staff, raise menu prices and could lead to their permanent closing. The tip credit provides businesses a much needed reprieve.  It allows restaurants to pay their tipped workers $8.65 hourly instead of the full $13.00 minimum wage. The $4.35 tip credit allows restaurants to staff more workers and provide them with more hours due to decreased labor costs.

Safe City Safe Streets


Communicating with Our Officers


Without a doubt, New York City police officers are an integral part of our everyday life: They commit their time, dedicate their lives, and do their best to assure the safety of our communities.

Safe City Safe Streets (SCSS) is a program that the Chamber sponsors to give back to these heroes that do so much for us everyday. Every year the Chamber holds a luncheon to honor, recognize, and build positive relationships between local precincts and NYC police officers. We are able to accomplish our goal of creating connections and fostering relationships by providing business owners and the community the opportunity to gain inside perspectives, look at programs and strategies these officers are employing, and by facilitating dialogue and discussions. Each month we will host a tour in the 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th, and 13th precincts, which will include meeting commanding officers and engaging in discussions. At this annual award luncheon, we will be honoring police officers from the precincts listed above.

Here is the schedule for our upcoming tours for 2018:

6th Precinct Tour: October 3rd (Tentative Date) at 5:30PM

9th Precinct Tour: October 17th at 5:30PM

10th Precinct Tour: November 7th at 5:30PM

13th Precinct Tour: November 14th at 5:30PM

Midtown South Precinct Tour: December 5th at 5:30PM 


RSVP at Maria@VillageChelsea.com

A State of the Village

Addressing the Issues

Facing our Neighborhood

In New York City, something is constantly happening. This dynamism and intensity can be both harrowing and exciting at the same time. Sometimes, it can be good stop and reflect on some of the issues that may have fallen between the cracks. The Villager reached out to us to see if we would participate in a spring progress report, along with other organizations and politicians, that would help give an overall insight to how the village is doing. We gladly accepted, recognizing this as an opportunity to speak out on some key issues that we felt should be heard.

You can all of the articles in the villager's progress report written here.

​Our article in the villager can be found here.

Why Small Businesses are Important


Small Business, Big Impact


"The Manhattan Borough President’s Office (MBPO) produced this report to help more small businesses thrive and grow, because small businesses have historically provided the majority of jobs for New Yorkers and a gateway to the middle class, especially for immigrants and ethnic communities." - Gale A. Brewer

Our mission at the Chamber is to enhance the business vibrancy of our catchment area by encouraging the opening new small businesses, while supporting the ongoing success of those established. This report thoroughly reviews how different agencies can become more efficient, how the city can become more efficient, and how small business are the fundamental backbone to Manhattans local economy. 

You can find the entire study here.

​You can find all of the MBPO studies here.

We have also written a summary of the study.

We Want Change


Commercial Rent Tax


GVCCC is a signatory to a citywide initiative that aims to provide small businesses targeted relief from the Commercial Rent Tax (CRT). We wanted to be part of a voice directed at Mayor de Blasio and Speak Mark-Viverito to highlight the negative impact this outdated tax has upon small businesses, often threatening their survival. Action needs to be taken before more small businesses go under due to the excess burden of the CRT.

The GVCCC is part of a coalition of nonprofits attempting to raise the exemption of the CRT from 250,000 to 500,000 a year. This tax punishes successful business owners for growing and investing and thus helping to improve their neighborhoods.

You can find information on the CRT here.

You can read the letter sent to the Mayor and City Hall here. 

Importance of Helping Small Businesses

Better Assisting our Small Businesses

"Survey finds 30% of small businesses forced to wait six months or more to get necessary approvals from City. 58% say agencies fail to communicate expectations adequately. 60 recommendations include replacing private expediters with professional staffers, establishing clear timelines for permit approvals." - Comptroller Stringer

Helping our small businesses is essential to creating the type of vibrancy that Manhattan is famous for. Businesses with less than 20 employees account for over 90% of employment opportunities in the city. This makes them an invaluable asset in neighborhoods experiencing high population growth rates.

Throughout all neighborhoods in Manhattan there has been a population influx. As populations rise, so does rent, and with the increase in rent, more and more small businesses are being pressed out of our communities. This is not helped by the the meticulous amount of inspections and harsh fines that are associated with the failure to comply with a myriad of agencies and inspections.  Comptroller Scott Stringer has published a report that shows how the city could become more lenient and efficient in dealing with its small business community.


You can find the full study here.



The Effects of CitiBike

Distinctively blue and branded, Citi Bikes have quickly become part of Manhattan’s built-environment. The Bike Share program first rolled out 6,000 bicycles and 330 docking stations last May*. As of today, there are about 37,250 rides made each day and the numbers are growing*. As biking gains popularity and support from the city, much data has been collected and continues to be collected to ascertain the current reach and future potential for biking in NYC. However, little has been done to asses Citi Bikes’ impact on the very foundation of biking culture - the local bike shops. To fill this gap, the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce (GVCCC) has conducted a survey to find out how sales have changed since the bike-share program. 

Download the full article here >>

Map of the Village



Exploring the views of small business owners in the Village.

Paid Sick Leave


GVCCC on Paid Sick Leave

"If the [Paid Sick Leave] bill becomes law, we would have to find ways to offset the significant cost of the mandate. We would likely pass the cost on to our customers, cut staff — or eliminate the health insurance benefit. The paid sick leave bill means well, but it is ill-advised. It will harm my small business — and many like it around New York."

- Tony Juliano, GVCCC President

Read full article here.

Rezoning Plan


Hudson Square Rezoning


Manhattan's Hudson Square moved closer to getting a glossy makeover Wednesday with approval of a rezoning plan that would allow 30-story buildings and more residential property.

The rezoning, passed by the City Planning Commission, was initiated by Trinity Real Estate, the property arm of Trinity Church. It owns 40% of the area between Canal and Houston Sts. and from Sixth Ave. to Washington St.