Services for Merchants
Resources for Commercial Tenants
Can we encourage merchants to share the challenges they face as commercial tenants in a rapidly changing neighborhood? Small businesses experience similar matters like lease negotiation, rent increases, relationship to their landlord, relationship to other commercial tenants in the Nostrand Avenue commercial corridor and in some cases landlord harassment. I strongly believe in the Nostrand Avenue Improvement Associations vision for a strong network of merchant relationships. I admire the hard work of commercial tenants conducting business on Nostrand Avenue as they are the anchors of the Crown Heights community.
Residential, not commercial, tenant protections were highlighted in the news cycle over the summer thanks to New York State's approval of a package of rent laws designed to give strong new protections to NYC renters. Brooklyn residential tenants facing housing discrimination have several resources and services provided through the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President and Public Advocate of the City of New York. What about commercial tenants though? I was discouraged by the lack of resources provided by city agencies for commercial business tenants and had trouble finding access to additional information. After several phone calls to city agencies, organizations and nonprofits, I am going to highlight resources currently available to commercial tenants and small businesses.
It is important to first understand the different issues commercial tenants face. Only one law currently exists that explicitly provides commercial tenants legal protection from harassment (The Non-Residential Tenant Harassment Law of 2016) and no rent caps currently exist for commercial tenants. Harassment experiences can vary, but commercial tenants may experience actions taken by their landlord to deny services consistent to a lease agreement. Actions may include limiting access to utilities, heat or storage. Fear of losing a lease, or being denied the opportunity to renew a lease may also be a concern for commercial tenants. The term or duration of a lease provides safety and security, especially for a small business operating in a neighborhood experiencing rising real estate speculation.
It is vital to support organizations that are working to provide government resources for small businesses in the city. Brooklyn A Legal and the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development is working to increase small business resources that provide legal and lease assistance. These organizations share the goal of clearly defining forms of harassment faced by small businesses, expand regulations of the commercial rental market, coordinate across city and state agencies to reduce red tape and offer relevant services across agencies. Brooklyn A’s flagship venture, the Commercial Lease Assistance Program provides high-quality, free, dedicated legal counsel to small business owners on matters related to commercial leasing. Eligible businesses should stay informed at Brooklyn A (bka.org) and the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (anhd.org). To be continued....
Sam Wood, Jr.
Picking up Organic Waste by Electric Bikes
Claire Sprouse, proprietor of Hunky Dory restaurant, hosted a neighborhood micro-hauling happy hour on July 22. Micro-haulers offer an alternative way for smaller businesses and private homeowners to dispose of organic waste. They pick up organic waste on electric bicycles, which reduces congestion on local streets.
The happy hour was an opportunity to chat with each micro-hauler and understand the service they provide. I became increasingly enthusiastic throughout the evening when learning that several of the services are offered in the Crown Heights community. Vandra Thorburn from Vokashi provides in-house compost solutions for residential properties and small businesses. Greg Todd (facilitator of the Imani Community Garden) and Frederick Phillips offer carting and composting services to local retailers and restaurants. Their compost will be made available either by sale, or donation to local gardeners or landscapers.
New York City only provides organic waste collection if you live in Manhattan, South Bronx or a large apartment building (10+ units) in any other borough. The services provided by micro-haulers should be utilized by Crown Heights residents instead of waiting for the Department of Sanitation to roll out a curbside pick-up program. The Brooklyn Solid Waste Advisory Board and CB8 community stress the importance of separating your organic waste, not only to limit waste in landfills, but as a proactive measure to control the rat population. Separating your organic waste will limit rat food sources and decrease populations over time. Sounds simple enough.
Residents of Crown Heights will have to match the enthusiasm of business owners to ensure micro-hauling is widely adaptable in the community. Here is an opportunity for Crown Heights to be the leader among Brooklyn neighborhoods to combat NYC’s waste crisis, support local and larger composting goals, and reduce our individual impact on Mother Earth.
– Sam Wood, Jr.