March 19, 2020
Dear UWS SOS friends,
In this time of coronavirus, we want to express the hope that you, your friends, family, neighbors are well. We also extend great thanks to all those who are keeping our public services and essential businesses working, with special appreciation and prayers going to our nurses, doctors, and other medical staffers working selflessly to keep us safe.
The COVID-19 pandemic has radically rearranged everyone’s priorities. Still, many of us at UWS SOS are continuing to monitor the ways the city and state are addressing the problems of small businesses and our access to essential services, which are now in crisis. Some of the new actions being proposed align with initiatives we were already pursuing, albeit on a much more expansive scale. Others will have to wait to be addressed while our legislators deal with the enormous challenges at hand. We thank our community leaders and electeds for their tireless efforts.
STAY HOME, Stay Well, Stay Safe.
How You Can Support Your Favorite Retailers/Restaurants
Support your favorite local shop or restaurant by going directly to their websites to order for delivery or to order a gift card. With restaurants & bars, try to avoid ordering through Grubhub, Seamless, etc., unless recommended by the establishment.
Saving Our Supermarkets:
Covad-19 Demonstrates that Online Shopping Isn’t a Panacea
Here we were, already down four supermarkets in four years on the Upper West Side, and now we find ourselves DESPERATE to shop for food and household goods in the few overcrowded stores that remain. For many residents, getting to stores eight to ten blocks away, only to find shelves empty, is difficult at best. Ironically, even shopping online is inadequate: deliveries are delayed by a week or more, with many shelf-stable packaged and frozen products unavailable. Finding toilet paper is hit or miss. Hoarding is rampant.
This new reality only points out what Upper West Side residents have been saying all along–we can’t afford to lose any more supermarkets; In fact, we need MORE! To that end, UWS SOS announced at its January general meeting that we were supporting the Commercial Rent Tax (CRT) exemption for Grocery Stores, sponsored by council member Margaret Chin with the support of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. UWS SOS has since drafted a letter urging the NYC City Council to hear and pass this legislation (Intro. 1779-2019), to remove this extra 3.9% rent surcharge on certain supermarkets and grocers. We are working with Gale Brewer’s office to determine the best timing to move forward, at which point we will engage with other community organizations and individuals to bring about this much-needed tax relief.
City Announces Emergency Loans & Grants
for Small Businesses
The NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) announced that businesses with fewer than 100 employees, that have seen sales decreases of 25% or more because of COVID-19, are eligible for zero-interest loans of up to $75,000 to help mitigate losses in profit. The City is also offering small businesses with fewer than five employees a grant to cover 40% of payroll costs for two months to help retain employees. Eligible owners who would like to learn more about these programs should fill out an interest form using the SBS’s COVID-19 Business Assistance Survey.
UWS SOS Supports Controller’s and City Council Speaker’s Relief Plans
UWS SOS supports proposals by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer to expand the NYC Department of Small Business Service’s loan and grant programs for small businesses, suspend collection of the Commercial Vacancy Tax business and sales taxes, delay permit renewal fees, and cover fixed costs for small businesses. Many of these ideas complement and overlap each other in thoughtful ways. While some of these proposals rely on the City’s powers, others will depend on help from New York State and the federal government. For details on the Comptroller’s proposals, read his open letter. Read the Council Speaker’s proposals here.
We urge our city and state legislators to adopt Stringer’s 6-part plan for helping our local businesses:
1. Suspend all collections of outstanding small business fines for six months
2. Automatically renew all licenses and permits (liquor licenses, sidewalk care license, health department permits, etc.) without payment of fees, for the next three mos.
3. Suspend payment of the Commercial Rent for two months for ground floor retail businesses with demonstrated business losses
4. Expand the NYC Dept of Small Business Service’s (SBS) no-interest loan program to include any business of up to 100 employees that has experienced a significant quarterly decline in revenue, and increase the max loan amount to $150,000
5. Enact immediate legislation capping delivery platform fees at 10 percent. Deferring fees, as GrubHub and others are doing, is simply not good enough, and is taking advantage of businesses that are already struggling to survive
6. NY State should consider a limited sales taxes holiday for all restaurants, hotels and street-level retail stores.
Main Takeaways Since UWS SOS General Meeting, Jan 2020
1. Sheds and Scaffolding: The City implemented new, stricter guidelines following the tragic death of a pedestrian. However, members of UWS SOS hope to pursue additional guidelines related to safety and protections for retail tenants.
2. Merchants Association and SBS Fair: Testimony from two retailers highlighted the need for more access to and support from NYC’s Department of Small Business Services regarding lease negotiations, loans, legal assistance and marketing advice. Ideas included the possibility of an SBS Fair for local retailers, with help from local Business Improvement District (BIDs) in our area, and the formation of a Merchants’ Association. (Note: There is NO Business Improvement District (BID) for most of the 10023 and 10024 area and some of 10025, which greatly impedes retailers’ access to marketing, expertise and other services in this area.)
3. Commercial Vacancy Tax: This legislation, sponsored by NY State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal and State Senator Robert Jackson, would impose a tax on property owners who failed to lease commercial spaces in a timely matter. Our support for this bill may have to be put on hold indefinitely. Once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, we’ll find ourselves with many more empty storefronts and fewer renters for brick-and-mortar businesses. The emphasis will be on recovery rather than penalty.
UWS SOS is Now INCORPORATED as 501(c)4
Our group, one year old this past January, is now an officially incorporated non-profit, called Upper West Side Save Our Stores, Incorporated. This designation gives us the ability to raise money for lobbying initiatives and administrative expenses–which include space rental for general meetings, costs associated with our website, printing, etc.
For now, we are raising money f through MEMBERSHIP fees, set at $25 (not tax-deductible). We have opened a non-profit bank account at TD Bank, which will enable us to pay bills and accept membership dues via check–and shortly–-via PayPal. For details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Members are entitled to participate on committees, run for open Board positions, vote for Board candidates at the yearly January meeting, vote on key issues presented to the membership-at-large, attend Board meetings as non-voting guests, and receive member emails.
UWS SOS continues to welcome guests at general meetings. Guests are also invited to sign up for UWS SOS emails.
Follow Us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,
where we will continue to post relevant news on our social media.
FB: @UWSSaveOur Stores