B.P. Brewer says no to current Inwood rezoning plan and outlines protections for businesses, tenants needed to gain her support
April 27, 2018
NEW YORK – Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer issued her formal recommendation on the Inwood rezoning proposal working its way through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), rejecting the plan in its current form and outlining the protections for local businesses and area tenants that would be needed for the plan to win her support.
“Inwood is a vibrant, multicultural neighborhood with a huge amount of rent-stabilized housing and locally owned and operated businesses that provide an economic anchor for the community. Displacement is a threat that’s already facing Inwood, with or without a rezoning. One test a rezoning plan must withstand is how much it does to counteract displacement,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “A rezoning could add sorely-needed new housing with guaranteed, permanently affordable units, but it cannot work unless it includes stronger protections and support for existing local businesses and tenants.”
B.P. Brewer invites New Yorkers to pick up free reusable grocery bags for Earth Day this weekend
NEW YORK – Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer announced that for Earth Day, which falls on Sunday, April 22, her office will be distributing reusable grocery bags for free at greenmarkets and grocery stores around Manhattan. In addition, Brewer's office will distribute reusable bags on Saturday, April 21 at the Car-Free New York Day event in Washington Heights on St. Nicholas Avenue near West 183rd Street.
New Yorkers throw away an average of 10 single-use bags per person every week, and the city as a whole throws away more than 9 million single-use plastic bags a year, generating 90,000 tons of plastic bags in our waste stream at an annual cost of more than $12 million. Moreover, petroleum-based plastic bags never biodegrade and litter New Yorkers' streets, trees, public parks, and waterways, creating a public nuisance, polluting the environment, and posing a hazard for wildlife.
"New York City has a problem with plastic bags -- a 90,000-ton, $12 million problem. But by bringing reusable bags when we go shopping, we can all be part of the solution," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "Please stop by and pick up a bag from one of our giveaway sites this weekend!"
Free bags will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the locations listed below on Sunday. They will also be distributed on Saturday at the Washington Heights Car-Free New York Day event.
Earth Day (Sunday) Reusable Bag Giveaway Locations:
Tompkins Square Greenmarket, East 7th Street & Avenue A, 9 am - 6 pm Morton Williams Supermarket, 311 East 23rd Street, 7 am - 1 am Columbia Greenmarket, Broadway and West 114th Street, 8 am - 5 pm Key Food Supermarket, 421 W 125th Street, 8 am - 9 pm City Fresh Supermarket, 2212 Third Ave, 24 Hours Cherry Valley Supermarket, 1968 Second Ave, 24 hours Associated Supermarket, 592 Fort Washington Ave, Starting 8:30 am Foodtown Supermarket, 600 W 160th St, Starting 8:30 am Starting 8:30 am
Brewer statement on Regents' approval of new computer science teacher certification
March 28, 2018
NEW YORK – Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer issued the following statement on the Board of Regents' approval of a new K-12 computer science teaching certificate:
"Technology is changing our world, and there are barriers we need to bring down if our schools are going to change with it. We can't make make computer science education truly available to all without a pipeline to train and certify dedicated computer science teachers. With this milestone, we're finally making progress.
"Congratulations to Manhattan's own Hunter College for blazing the trail, and thank you to the Board of Regents for approving this new certification."
As Crain's New York Business reported Tuesday evening, the Board of Regents approved the new certificate earlier this month and the new regulations are set to become official today.
Brewer, who served as the first chair of the City Council's Technology Committee, is an outspoken advocate for New York's technology community and K-12 computer science education. In April of 2016, Brewer wrote to New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia urging the creation of a state computer science teaching certification.
Brewer Appointed Chair of National League of Cities’ Large Cities Council
March 9, 2018
"Large cities are the engines that propel our country forward. Our markets, our workforces, our transit hubs, and our scientific, educational, medical, and cultural institutions serve the whole country, and the country can only move forward if we all succeed together.
That’s why I was proud to be named Chair of the Large Cities Council, part of the National League of Cities (NLC), and will be attending the NLC’s “Congressional Cities Conference” in Washington, D.C. next week to discuss technology and urban resiliency and urge greater federal support for large cities.
As a member council of NLC, the Large Cities Council is composed of elected officials from cities with a population larger than 200,000. By sharing best practices with peers from around the country, and generating policy ideas and creative solutions to the unique challenges facing large cities, we’ll contribute to progress within the NLC and to the nation at large.
Also named to the Large Cities Council (as Vice Chairs) were Supervisor Jane Kim from San Francisco and Councilmember Brandon Scott of Baltimore. I look forward to working with Supervisor Kim and Councilman Scott to advance the NLC’s urban agenda."
Brewer salutes new leaders for Black History Month at Harlem’s World Famous Apollo Theater
It's no secret that we’re living through a storm. The progress we’ve made toward correcting injustices in our society is looking more fragile than we hoped, and we are being challenged as racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia once again rear their ugly heads. But a new wave of activists is rising to meet those challenges and fight injustice on a variety of fronts, and they are lighting a path forward for all of us.
For our Black History Month celebration this year, my office honored five inspiring young black leaders who, each in their own way, are on the vanguard of this new wave of activism, and invited them to share their stories at a reception on the soundstage at Harlem’s world famous Apollo Theater.
The honorees included:
Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York and a leader in the new civil rights movement, organizing to end police violence and mass incarceration.
Kemah George, Community Engagement Manager with the New York Immigration Coalition, who is on the forefront of work to educate immigrants on their rights and advocate for immigrants in our city and state.
Nkechi Ogbodo, founder of Kechie’s Project and a leader of the “Bring Our Daughters Back” campaign, who advocates and organizes for women’s education, empowerment, and entrepreneurship both in the United States and in Africa, and serves on my office’s African Immigrant Task Force.
Samuel Sinyangwe, co-founder of Campaign Zero and a planning team member with OurStates, who uses data science and cutting-edge digital tools to help communities end police violence and other forms of systemic racism.
Leslie LaRue, TransJustice Fellow at the Audre Lorde Project, who helps organize and advocate for Trans and Gender Non-Conforming people of color in New York City.
The event also opened with performances by the Addicts Rehabilitation Center Gospel Choir, a storied and inspirational group integral to one of New York's largest drug rehabilitation and recovery programs. Photo album.
Brewer and Rodriguez react to postponement of Health Careers High School closure vote
NEW YORK – Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez issued the following statement reacting to the Panel for Educational Policy's postponement of a planned vote on the closure of the High School for Health Careers in Washington Heights:
"The uptown community spoke out with one voice to save this high school, and buy-in from parents and the community is a priceless asset in public education. With it, you can work miracles, and without it, even small changes can be hard.
"What's more, this school closure did not make policy sense. On a number of measures, this school is actually ahead of most or all the other Renewal Schools. Meanwhile, the enrollment decrease administrators cited as a reason for closure is partially attributable to an enrollment decrease across all of District 6, and partially attributable to the fact that the Renewal Schools label has stigmatized this and other schools in the program.
"We thank the Panel for Educational Policy for doing its job, listening to the many community members who testified, and deciding to review this matter further instead of forging ahead with an ill-advised closure plan. We look forward to working with the mayor and the Department of Education in the coming weeks on strategies to strengthen this high school and others across Manhattan that need help.
"Congratulations to our elected colleagues, Community Board 12, Community Education Council 6, the parents, and especially the students, who showed up, spoke out, and made this victory possible."
Borough President Brewer and Public Advocate Tish James call for charter revision
It’s been nearly 30 years since the last real overhaul of the City Charter, the governing document that functions as New York City’s constitution. With some minor changes made along the way, the 1989 charter has served us pretty well.
But this city confronts new challenges — including widening income inequality, a new breed of complex development projects, and a hostile federal government threatening crucial funding streams — and it’s time to take another look at the ground rules of how our city government works and make improvements.
That’s why this week we introduced a City Council bill to convene a charter revision commission to consider and propose changes to the charter, to be put before voters for approval.
Borough President Gale A. Brewer delivers remarks at Senator Brian Kavanagh's Swearing-in Ceremony
Photo by Susan Soo
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer delivered remarks at the Swearing-in Ceremony of State Senator Brian Kavanagh on February 11 at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.
Remarks of Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer at José Martí statue dedication in Havana
(Photo: Jon Alpert)
January 27, 2018
Good morning, honored guests.
Let us make this the beginning of renewed and strengthened friendship between two great cities and their people.
At home in the United States we say, “we shall overcome.” Here you say, “venceremos.” I say, welcome home, José Martí!
I am Gale Brewer, President of the Borough of Manhattan, where the original of this dramatic statue of José Martí has been inspiring New Yorkers for most of a century. I see it at least once every day, and the building where José Martí worked for 15 years is just a couple of blocks from my office. I can see it from my window.
The inscription on the Manhattan, New York statue recognizes José Martí as “the apostle of Cuban independence…leader of the peoples of America…and defender of human dignity,” values that speak to his heroism and also to the restored ties between our countries.
The 1.6 million residents of Manhattan and the 2.1 million residents of Havana now have the presence of José Martí. And we share this magnificent and symbolic work of art created by another resident of Manhattan – Anna Hyatt Huntington – one of the pioneering woman artists of the United States.
Brewer, Chin officially file zoning text amendment to clarify Two Bridges rules, end abuse of "minor modification" loophole allowing out-of-scale luxury development
January 18, 2018
NEW YORK – Wednesday afternoon, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Council Member Margaret S. Chin officially filed paperwork at the Department of City Planning's 120 Broadway intake office to amend the zoning text governing the Two Bridges neighborhood and protect the area from out-of-scale luxury developments made possible by the abuse of a zoning loophole. The application is the first submitted solely by elected officials in roughly 15 years.
“This is the real estate business in New York: there's intense pressure to find and exploit loopholes to build huge ultraluxury buildings," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “That's what's happening in Two Bridges, where massive out-of-scale towers could move forward because of a staff-level determination that they are only a ‘minor modification’ to the neighborhood's plan. Sometimes you need to clarify rules to make sure they're enforced, and that's what we're doing here.”
“Today, I join Manhattan Borough President Brewer to renew our demand that our city provide the Two Bridges community a real opportunity to shape the future of their neighborhood,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “In order to turn the tide against out-of-control overdevelopment across our city, we need to act decisively and close loopholes that would allow for the construction of out-of-scale luxury towers without a robust and transparent public review. This text amendment marks the latest chapter in our fight to strengthen the community's voice in the land use process, and preserve the legacy of affordable housing that Two Bridges residents are fighting to protect."
The Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Permit, first issued in 1972, governs two blocks within the former Two Bridges Urban Renewal Area, which was created in 1967. These blocks’ zoning, in effect, was adopted as a single, highly specific special permit. Today, developers are attempting to carve pieces out of this comprehensively-planned area and proceed with out-of-scale luxury developments soaring to heights as high as 950 feet, departing dramatically from the special permit.
While Borough President Brewer, Council Member Chin, and the area’s other city, state, and federal elected officials argued in a joint letter to the Department of City Planning that these development proposals constituted major departures from the special permit and therefore required a full public review through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), staff at the Department of City Planning decided to treat these as “minor modifications” exempt from ULURP, requiring only a joint environmental impact review. Brewer, Chin, and attorneys from the Urban Justice Center all argued this interpretation was incorrect and created a massive loophole in the zoning rules.
The draft zoning text amendment submitted by Brewer and Chin would require a new special permit for certain developments in the Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Area, to clarify that large, out-of-scale development proposals are not “minor modifications” to this area’s plan and would require full public review under ULURP.
Brewer and Chin provided the Dept. of City Planning with a proposed draft of their planned zoning amendment on Oct. 12, along with a letter explaining why the Department should waive a number of its pre-application steps, as it often does for applications from government agencies. Since then, the Council enacted Local Law 234, legislation sponsored by Council Member Chin that allows borough presidents and the Land Use Committee of the City Council to exempt their applications from the Department's time-consuming pre-application filing and meeting requirements.
Today's filing was made under the new law, so Brewer and Chin's application will proceed directly to technical review and then will be referred out by the Department of City Planning for the public review process.
Gale A. Brewer is sworn in for a second term as 27th Manhattan Borough President
On Wednesday, December 27 at 1:00 pm, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer hosted a swearing-in for her second term in office at a short ceremony, with family, friends, and community members from across Manhattan. Read her remarks here.
B.P. Brewer, Rep. Espaillat, uptown elected officials and Washington Heights community celebrate agreement to keep Coogan’s open
For Immediate Release: Sunday, January 14, 2018
NEW YORK – Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat gathered Sunday afternoon with a broad coalition of uptown Manhattan elected officials, Community Board members, and neighbors to celebrate the agreement between Coogan’s and New York-Presbyterian Hospital that will keep the beloved Washington Heights pub open for years to come.
The locally-owned, 33-year-old pub was slated to close after lease renewal negotiations broke down. The restaurant was faced with an unsustainable rent increase of roughly $40,000 per month, but after a massive community outcry, its landlord, New York-Presbyterian Hospital came back to the negotiating table and the two sides arrived at an agreement.
“The entire community spoke out, and New York-Presbyterian listened,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I want to thank New York-Presbyterian for setting a great example, recognizing that killing a local treasure like Coogan's is bad business, and coming back to the table to do the right thing. I'm pleased that Rep. Espaillat and I could help, but this victory belongs to the entire neighborhood which spoke with one voice.”
“Coogan’s Restaurant has been instrumental in efforts to revitalize our community and they invested in Washington Heights when no one else would,” said U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “Coogan's has been a stalwart in the Heights for more than 30 years, and I am proud to have had a small role in the community’s efforts to keep Coogan’s around for 30 years more. I commend New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Coogan’s on the recent handshake agreement reached, and I look forward to the significant contributions the restaurant will continue to have throughout our community for many more years to come.”
Coogan’s opened in 1985, when crime in Washington Heights was dramatically higher and the neighborhood was noted as a center for the city’s drug trade. Over the years the pub became an unofficial neighborhood headquarters, frequented by everyone from area running clubs to hospital employees, activists, power brokers, and rising artistic talents like Lin-Manuel Miranda. “Our tribe is everybody,” Coogan’s ownership partner Peter Walsh told WNYC in an interview, and posters of both President John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández Reyna can be found on the walls.
“I’m thrilled by this news. Coogan’s is more than an iconic establishment for our city — it’s part of the fabric of the neighborhood. As someone who grew up in Washington Heights, this is a heartwarming relief," said City Comptroller Scott Stringer. “This is a victory for all the local residents who spoke out because they cared about their city and their community. And it’s another reminder that we need to stay focused on mitigating our affordability crisis — it’s affecting the character of our neighborhoods and the people within them. That’s why this is such an important win in the fight for a fairer City.”
“I am very pleased that an agreement has been reached to keep Coogan’s open, keeping this Uptown institution in operation for the long term,” said State Senator Marisol Alcantara. “This is an example of how political pressure can be successfully applied to help one’s community. I want to thank Ydanis Rodríguez, Gale Brewer, Adriano Espaillat, Carmen De La Rosa, and New York-Presbyterian hospital, who listened to the opinions of the community.”
“We are glad that Coogan's and New York Presbyterian Hospital reached a lease renewal agreement in an amicable manner. Coogan's, a historically community friendly restaurant has managed to thrive through the bad, the good, and the better times of Washington Heights for over thirty years. They have been and still are a culturally rich and welcoming establishment to all demographics that embody this vibrant community. It is very gratifying to see how the community rapidly came together to voice and show their support for Coogan's to remain open. Their regular operation is far beyond food service; usually hosting community oriented events like comedy clubs, health and sports related activities, birthdays, and social group gatherings,” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa. “We look forward to having Coogan's for years to come.”
“Coogan's is our Cheers in Washington Heights. Dave and Peter know everyone, and everyone knows Dave and Peter,” said Assemblymember Al Taylor. “Coogan's put their stake in the ground when it was not fashionable to invest in this neighborhood, and I wish to see them here for decades to come.”
“As we know all too well, our small businesses uptown are under threat. Far too often we see locally owned stores that we have known for years, be replaced by corporate chains and banks. That is why this victory is a moment not only to celebrate, but to show our strength as a community”, said Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez. “Thank you to the entire Northern Manhattan community, Coogan's loyal customers, the Miranda family, and colleagues. Due to your advocacy and support Coogan’s has been saved. They will continue to be a community staple in Washington Heights, where it belongs, to our future generations.”
“I'm thrilled Coogan’s will be staying open, and wish more small businesses could see victories like this one,” said Community Board 12 Chair Shahabuddeen Ally. “Particularly in Upper Manhattan, we are finding many mom-and-pop stores as well as minority-owned stores closing because of exorbitant rent increases. We must continue to push for commercial rent protection to help save our businesses.”
WATCH: Emergency "Tax-Reform" Teach-In
On Wednesday, December 20, at 6:00 pm, I hosted an emergency teach-in on the impacts of the federal tax "reform" bill under consideration in Congress. NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James and I delivered introductory remarks. Speakers included Preston Niblack, NYC Deputy Comptroller for Budget, Kathy Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, Martha Stark, Professor at NYU-Wagner School of Public Affairs and former NYC Commissioner of Finance, and Mark Willis, Senior Policy Fellow at NYU Furman Center. The panel was moderated by Greg David, Director of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism's Business Reporting Program and Crain's New York Business columnist. The so-called "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" under consideration in Congress would have dramatic effects on all Americans, but could have particularly extreme consequences for New York residents.
A Town Hall for the Downtown Community: The WTC Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund
For those who were unable to attend this week’s information session in the Manhattan Borough President’s office, here is a video of the complete 90 minute webcast. Cosponsored with 9/11 Environmental Action, the audience viewed presentations from Rupa Bhattacharyya, Special Master of the Victim Compensation Fund, and Dr. Joan Reibman, Medical Director of the World Trade Center Health Program’s Survivor Program, and both answered audience questions. The evening was moderated by the director of 9/11 Environmental Action, Kimberly Flynn.
Capital funding available; find out how to apply
I want the broadest possible pool of applications for the next fiscal year’s capital funding projects. Capital grants are long-term investments in property or equipment, as opposed to expenses such as salaries, utilities, or consumables.
My office capital grants available to community based non-profits and public schools. But not every school or non-profit is aware of our grant program.
That’s the purpose of information sessions my staff conducts to educate applicants as to the capital process timeline and requirements. Grant applications open in December, 2017 for the FY 2019 budget year beginning in July, 2018—but our grant process begins with these workshops.
Public schools can apply for these grants, and we’re running two events for schools and for nonprofits both downtown and uptown:
A different kind of holiday donation drive: diapers!
Low-income working parents—especially homeless parents—face a problem when using child care: the services often require supplying their child’s own disposable diapers. Without diapers, they can’t use child care and they can’t go to work. That’s why my office, together with Food Bank for New York City and the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York are hosting our second annual NYC holiday “Diaper Drive” to collect diapers for low-income New Yorkers. Here’s how you can help:
• Bring new, sealed boxes of diapers—sizes 3, 4, 5 or 6, but especially 4 & 5—to one of my two offices: 1 Centre St. (19th Fl. South) or 431 W. 125th St. (storefront).
• If you’re an Amazon customer, order from the Food Bank’s Amazon Wishlist for delivery straight to their warehouse at http://amzn.to/2mq2P1V
Womens' Suffrage Events in New York
Through July 22, 2018: Beyond Suffrage: A Century of New York, Women in Politics Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St., 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM The exhibition examines how women navigated New York politics in the 1920s through 1940s, often working behind the scenes for causes like health, labor, and good government; the central role of New York in the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and its redefining of women’s roles in politics and government; and continued campaigns for women’s political power and grassroots mobilizations that demand equal gender rights today.
Monday, November 6: Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, NYC Parks, and the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund hosts Official Launch of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Woman Suffrage Movement Monument The Mall in Central Park, between 67th and 68th Street, 11:30 AM On the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in New York State, the jury for the Woman Suffrage Movement Monument will be announced and the design competition will begin. Organized in Parkership with New York Life and the Central Park Conservancy.
Monday, November 6: Women's Suffrage Turns 100! Part 2: Reshaping Politics $5 - Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, 6:30 – 8 PM In 2017 women make up less than 20% of Congress, even though they constitute over 50% of the American population. As more women take seats in elected offices, are priorities shifting? Are conversations evolving? BHS Director of Public History Julie Golia leads this discussion with Christine Quinn, the first female Speaker of the NYC Council and former mayoral candidate, and A'Shanti F. Gholar, Political Director for Emerge America, the only organization dedicated to recruiting, training, and empowering Democratic women to run for public office. Tickets.
Monday: November 6: 100 Years! Stay Tuned … A Centennial Anniversary Celebration of Women’s Suffrage in New York State BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers St, 6:30 – 8 PM WomensActivism.nyc at the NYC Department of Records and Information Services, Borough of Manhattan Community College Women’s Resource Center and BMCC Tribeca PAC honor the women who won the right to vote in NYS in 1917 and people fighting for justice today. More info.
Tuesday, November 7: When Modern Men Became Feminists NYU Center for the Humanities, 20 Cooper Square, 7th Floor, 6 – 7:30 PM A panel discussion of the development of men’s engagement with women’s rights from the early 20th century on, with New York Times columnist Gail Collins and biographers Christoph Irmscher and NYU Journalism Professor Brooke Kroeger. Register.
Wednesday, November 8: Women's Suffrage Turns 100! Part 3: The "Nasty Woman" Stigma $5 - Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, 6:30 – 8 PM Women in positions of power just can’t seem to win. If they’re not labeled too bossy, they’re labeled too meek. Cast as the dangerous intruder during suffrage, the vilification of political women and their signature issues continues today. In this spirited discussion, panelists Joan Malin, former President of Planned Parenthood of New York City, Inc.; Allison K. Lange, historian of women and gender; and Jamia Wilson, Feminist Press, Executive Director and Publisher, dig into a history of the mischaracterization of women. Moderated by BHS Director of Public History Julie Golia. Tickets.
Friday, November 10: How New York's Women Got the Vote, And the Difference it Made CUNY Graduate Center, Skylight Room, 365 Fifth Avenue between 34th and 35th Street, 6:30 – 8 PM One hundred years ago — nearly to the day — New York granted women the right to vote. Two years later, after decades of struggle, it became national law. Why did earlier campaigns fail? What role did NYC play in realizing this old dream? And what happened after? Lauren Santangelo (History PhD, 2014), author of a forthcoming book on the movement in Gotham, discusses how activists built a successful coalition between 1870 and 1917. Susan Goodier, author with Karen Pastorella of the new book, Women Will Vote, highlights the involvement of neglected groups, such as black women, in gaining the vote, and the importance of New York to securing national legislation. Brooke Kroeger talks about the men who helped make suffrage possible, drawing on her new work The Suffragents. The conversation concludes with a preview of the award-winning filmmaker Dawn Scibilia’s documentary in progress, on the decades between feminism’s first and second “wave,” in which New York again played a special role.
Monday, November 13: The Power of Women in Politics: Celebrating 100 Years of Suffrage Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 30 West 68th Street, 7 – 8:30 pm Join our Domestic Civil Liberties Task Force as we partner with Lilith Magazine to commemorate 100 years of women's suffrage in New York and hear from accomplished women in politics. Tickets.
B.P. Brewer, Council Member Corey Johnson, and National Supermarket Association rally to end supermarket rent tax, save Manhattan supermarkets
NEW YORK – Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Council Member Corey Johnson, and members of the National Supermarket Association rallied today to end the unfair, regressive Commercial Rent Tax (CRT) burdening supermarkets in much of Manhattan. Brewer and Johnson sponsor Intro 1472, City Council legislation that would offer supermarkets a full exemption from the CRT.
“I've been to too many rallies and heard too many alarmed pleas from neighborhoods to keep local supermarkets open,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Every neighborhood needs a supermarket and access to affordable food, but even the most successful supermarkets operate with slim profit margins. Ending this tax can and will make a big difference for these essential businesses.”
“Affordable supermarkets are lifelines for our communities,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “As the cost of living continues to rise, these stores help ensure that our city can continue to accommodate the seniors and working class families that built our city into what it is today. The proposal that Borough President Gale Brewer and I have put forward would give our neighborhood supermarkets a fighting chance for survival. It’s good for business, it’s good for our communities, and I’m proud to have joined with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to tackle this issue head-on.”
“We want to thank Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Corey Johnson for taking a meaningful look at the business climate for grocery stores in Manhattan. It’s no secret that the industry is in crisis, with neighborhood grocery stores closing their doors regularly and leaving communities devoid of healthy food options. The elimination of the Commercial Rent Tax is a commonsense solution that would save local grocery stores tens of thousands of dollars -- savings that will be reinvested in store upgrades, jobs and the community -- and free store owners from what is essentially a double tax on sky-high rent in Manhattan,” said Rudy Fuertes, President of the National Supermarket Association.
“The Food Industry Alliance supports this important legislation. The bill will provide much needed relief to Manhattan’s grocery stores, who are struggling to keep up with soaring rents,” said Jay Peltz, General Counsel and Senior Vice President of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State. “If this bill is not enacted, Manhattan grocery stores will continue to close.”
The Commercial Rent Tax applies to most commercial tenants in Manhattan south of 96th Street and north of Murray Street paying $250,000 or more in rent per year. A survey conducted by the Borough President’s office in 2016 found 132 supermarkets in the Commercial Rent Tax zone.
Businesses in this zone that pay $300,000 or more in rent annually are charged an effective marginal rate of 3.9 percent of their rent in extra taxes, while businesses that pay between $250,000 and $300,000 receive an increased exemption and pay a lower effective rate.
Because the tax only applies in Manhattan between 96th Street and Murray Street, it puts an unfair, regressive burden on businesses in some of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods, where there is immense upward pressure on commercial storefront rents. Because even a small supermarket requires a large footprint relative to other retail and commercial storefront tenants, and because even successful supermarkets operate with slim profit margins, this tax hits supermarkets especially hard.
Independent supermarket owner Paul Fernandez’s Met Foods-branded store in NoLita was one such market. Its roughly $90,000 per month in rent ($1.08 million per year) resulted in more than $30,000 of Commercial Rent Tax liability. Negotiations for the market’s lease renewal broke down in part because the market could not afford to make upgrades and changes requested by the landlord to appear more ‘high-end’ while remaining affordable. Mr. Fernandez, who operates multiple supermarkets in other neighborhoods, argued in testimony before the City Council that a full Commercial Rent Tax exemption could have kept this market open.
Exempting supermarkets from the Commercial Rent Tax was one of a number of initiatives to save supermarkets that Borough President Brewer proposed in a report published earlier this year.