Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Zoning Out Small Business

Whatever one thinks about the merits of the city's rezoning plan for 125th Street, one fact is incontrovertible: it's another officially sponsored death blow for small business from an administration that has made this policy approach its specialty. As the NY Post highlights, discussing yesterday's 14-2 vote at the CPC in favor of the plan: "On 125th Street, Shihulu Shange, 66, owner of the Record Shack, a Harlem institution for 46 years, echoed Bailey's words. "The black community is devastated," he said. "The plan doesn't count black people. Soon it will all be millionaires and the native people won't be able to live in their homes. This city is run by a billionaire who is insensitive to people's suffering. Soon there won't be any black-owned businesses."

Or any other small business at all; and if this keeps up there will be few small entrepreneurs left to take advantage of Speaker Quinn's magnanimous health insurance initiative for small business. What officials forget is that health benefits don't make up for the zoning, tax and regulatory policies that make it difficult for small firms to adequately provide for their employees.

But at least the speaker is doing something positive; which is more than we can say for the mayor and his team of wealthy dilettantes-from Doctoroff to Lieber and Burden, all from the rarefied air of finance and society-with zero rachmones for the struggling shop keeper or small distributor. They belong to Leona Helmsley school of contempt for the "little people."

And the litany of policy choices from this administration underscores the callous and indifferent mindset: Bronx Terminal Market, Yankee Stadium, Columbia expansion, 1800% cigarette (bodega) tax with no enforcement of the black market, whopping commercial real estate tax increase that raised the rents for all small stores by over 25%, regulatory proposal to deny stores due process for DCA fines, non-enforcement of the peddling laws with a law to increase peddling for produce vendors, menu labeling that will cost franchise operators millions in compliance costs, and finally the removal of hundreds of small and minority businesses from Willets Point (and thousands of workers) to make way for development.

All of the zoning changes are midwifed by New York's Burden, so the excoriation she received at yesterday's hearing is well-deserved: "When the vote was over, opponents booed and Michael Henry Adams, an architectural historian and author of "Harlem Lost & Found," began a diatribe against the commission's chairwoman, Amanda Burden. "You're a rich, rich, rich horrible person. You're destroying our communities. You're a rich, rich socialite. You're a rich, rich socialite. How dare you! You're destroying Harlem. You're getting rid of all the black people," he screamed.
He was ejected."

NYC is slowly being transformed and destroyed by folks with hedge fund mentalities and no feel for the uniqueness and diversity of the city's neighborhoods. As the NY Daily News reports about the Harlem plan: "Critics charge the plan would price longtime residents out of the neighborhood by allowing market-rate housing to be developed and would replace an iconic African-American locale with chain stores, hotels, luxury housing and high-rises."

So once again we are left to gape at the hubris of the mayor and his minions who, besotted by great wealth, actually believe they are insulated from the taint of special interests-all the while as they transform the city through deeding it to the very same interests they excoriate with blatant hypocrisy. As we've said before, the mayor isn't above these special interests, he's their apotheosis.