Category district issues

NY County Politics: Gottfried Takes Part in Pride Month’s Climactic Finale

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried hardly said a word as he and his friends and colleagues proceeded down the street during New York City’s Annual Pride March. Instead, he had Jeffrey LeFrancois, a fellow activist and longtime friend of his, take on the role of his hype man. LeFrancois strode from one end of the street to the other with a microphone in hand to spread the word about Gottfried’s accomplishments.

“He introduced the first marriage equality bill back in 2003!” LeFrancois announced to the crowd. “He’s been leading the way on LGBT rights in New York State for decades – because LGBT rights are human rights!”

CBS News: N.Y. Lawmakers Move To Outlaw Floating Billboards

After a bitter battle on the waterways, New York state lawmakers have voted to officially outlaw floating billboards.

A bill passed in the state legislature prohibits companies from operating boats with digital billboards or other billboards that use flashing, intermittent or moving lights.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Those ‘eyesore’ ad barges could soon be banned

The State Senate passed a bill on Thursday seeking a statewide ban on the massive floating billboards — “ugly” and “obnoxious” billboards, according to residents — that appeared along New York City’s waterways earlier this year…

The Villager: Small Biz Survival Bill Finally Gets its Hearing

By Lincoln Anderson, October 26

Before the hearing, David Eisenbach, of Friends of S.B.J.S.A., led a rally outside City Hall in support of passing the bill. Photos by Tequila Minsky

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated Oct. 26, 4:45 p.m.: More than 200 people packed a hotly anticipated hearing on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act at City Hall Monday. Scores of people signed up to testify on the issue, and the hearing turned into a marathon, lasting more than eight hours.

Among some of the main takeaways were that it became clear the de Blasio administration does not support the S.B.J.S.A., and that, according to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and others, the bill should not be O.K.’d as is, and needs some modifications.

The hearing also saw a testy exchange between Johnson and John Banks, president of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York, which has long been accused of working behind the scenes to keep the bill  from ever coming up for a vote.

Banks said the bill would “stifle” economic activity and deprive property owners of their rights. REBNY, among others, is expected to sue if the Council passes the bill and it is not vetoed by de Blasio.

Former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger was on hand to testify in support of the legislation — currently known as Intro. 737A — which she originally introduced when she was an Upper West Side city councilmember.

Advocates for the act in the audience frequently would silently flutter their hands over their heads — a permitted form of displaying support — at statements backing the bill or small merchants. Council security staff quickly greeted any applause or cheering with rebukes not to interrupt the hearing.

Meanwhile, about 50 representatives of business improvement districts a.k.a. BIDs and others against the bill sat in the audience wearing blue baseball caps sporting the slogan “Vote No on Commercial Rent Control” on their fronts. The group also included commercial real estate brokers and representatives of residential co-ops and condos.

The S.B.J.S.A. has languished in the City Council for three decades. The measure would address what advocates say is the biggest hurdle facing mom-and-pop shops — the lease-renewal process. When leases expire, landlords, especially in gentrified Manhattan, typically jack up the rents to levels that current tenants can no longer afford.

Seventy-five business improvement districts, or BIDs, across the city oppose the bill. Their members were among a group of about 50 people wearing blue “No Commercial Rent Control” caps at the hearing.

However, for a merchant with an expiring lease, the S.B.J.S.A. would mandate mediation with the landlord and then, if needed, binding arbitration to reach agreement on a 10-year lease renewal.

Shortly after being elected the Council’s speaker earlier this year, Johnson pledged that he would hold a hearing on the long-snubbed bill. Yet, at the same time, he warned that the S.B.J.S.A. was “not a silver bullet,” in his opinion, and that an array of other strategies would also be needed to help small businesses survive.

Despite suffering from a bad chest cold — that sometimes saw him loudly coughing on the dais — Johnson sat through about four-and-a-half hours of Monday’s hearing, which was chaired by Mark Gjonaj, head of the Council’s Small Business Committee.

Johnson said small merchants provide essential services and products, mentioning “bodegas, laundromats, shoe-repair shops… .”

“When a longtime business is shuttered, we lose a piece of New York,” Johnson said.

Small businesses help make New York more livable in many ways, he noted, from providing essential services, like shoe repairs, to holding packages and mail for residential neighbors.

“I don’t have a doorman,” Johnson said. “I don’t need one. I have a deli right at my corner at 15th St. and Seventh Ave.”

At the same time, he said, “Advocates aren’t going to like this — I don’t think this bill is a perfect bill. … This is a complicated issue.”

He and other councilmembers also warned of potential “unintended consequences” of the S.B.J.S.A.

Former Borough President Ruth Messinger introduced the first version of the S.B.J.S.A. around 30 years ago when she was a city councilmember.

Gregg Bishop, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Small Business Services, made it clear that the de Blasio administration has issues with the S.B.J.S.A. Bishop said that because landlords often have more resources than their tenants, the arbitration process would not be fair. He also wondered if New York would have “enough arbitrators” to handle all the lease-renewal cases.

But Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, in his testimony later on, said the situation already is unfair toward the tenants and could not possibly be worsened by the S.B.J.S.A.

State Senator Brad Hoylman held out his report, “Bleaker on Bleecker,” which detailed the crisis of empty storefronts on the famed Village strip.

Johnson and others took issue with the fact that the bill would cover all commercial tenants in New York City — including not just ground-floor storefronts, but upper floors occupied by financial firms and white-shoe law firms.

As one speaker put it, “shopping malls” would even be covered by the S.B.J.S.A.

At the same time, Johnson repeatedly grilled Bishop on what the city plans to do about the problem of merchants’ rents “doubling, tripling, quadrupling and quintupling.”

Johnson repeatedly brought up the example of Tortilla Flats, the long-running and beloved far West Village bar and restaurant, that sadly is closing on Sat., Oct. 27, due to high rent.

“It just came out in the last two days that they are closing,” Johnson said. “Clayworks pottery was forced out of its spot in the East Village after 44 years,” he said, referring to another store that closed a year ago due to an unaffordable rent.

John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, said that the S.B.J.S.A. would “stifle” economic activity.

“The Associated Supermarket on 14th St. and Eighth Ave., one of the last affordable supermarkets in the Village — they tripled their rent, and that store is still empty,” Johnson said.

It was also noted that McNally Jackson, the independent bookstore on Prince St. in the Little Italy area, is being forced to leave its space.

The city’s retail landscape is at risk of being homogenized, Johnson said, stressing, “We can’t let that happen. We chose not to live in a city of corporate cookie-cutter businesses.”

Bishop didn’t have any ready answers on dealing with escalating rents. The S.B.S. commissioner did say that the department is open to the idea of a tax on storefronts that are left vacant too long — an idea endorsed by the mayor — and also of creating a “storefront registry,” to quantify how many empty stores there are around the city.

Jessica Lappin, a former Upper East Side councilmember, now president of the Downtown Alliance, said the retail landscape of her Lower Manhattan BID’s district has benefitted from flexibility, but that the S.B.J.S.A. would potentially lock commercial tenants in place for decades.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, right, spoke extensively during the hearing, which was chaired by Councilmember Mark Gjonaj, next to Johnson.

Jessica Walker, president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, noted that online retail is really hurting bricks-and-mortar stores — currently gobbling up about 10 percent of all purchases — and will only grab more of the market in the years to come. She predicted some landlords would respond to the S.B.J.S.A. by simply not renting to small merchants. Similarly, Bishop, of S.B.S., said landlords could just choose not to rent their spaces to anyone if they felt they were being forced to lowball potential rents. Walker said pressing problems that the city should address instead are high commercial rent taxes and property taxes.

David Eisenbach, head of Friends of S.B.J.S.A., told the councilmembers he would be O.K. with cutting white-shoe law firms and such out of the bill’s protections, but that other tenants “on the second floor” — like yoga studios and dentists offices — need the bill’s protections. A Columbia professor, Eisenbach is running for public advocate, with the S.B.J.S.A. being one of his main campaign planks.

But others who have been advocating for the bill longer — in some cases, for decades — boycotted the hearing, slamming it as “a sham.” Eisenbach led a rally at noon before the hearing, touting the bill.

The group Community Control of Land Use New York held its own rally at 10 a.m. organized by Chelsea activist Marni Halasa. CCLUNY, as she explained it, is a group she founded after she ran for City Council “to educate small businesses and the public on the S.B.J.S.A. and organize activists, businesses and tenants to have a greater voice in land use decisions.” Joining that rally was Steve Barrison, of the Small Business Congress, whose members have angrily been predicting that Johnson and the Small Business Committee would “water down” the bill.

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation supports the S.B.J.S.A., as its executive director, Andrew Berman, made clear at the City Council hearing.

Meanwhile, members of Barrison’s S.B.C. don’t trust Eisenbach and his group. But Eisenbach says he is “playing the inside game” while the others have relegated themselves to being on “the outside” by publicly predicting Johnson will neuter the bill.

At one point, Johnson slammed the boycotters, the annoyance evident in his voice and body language as he huffily scoffed, “Advocates say, ‘No changes to the bill — none.’”

The Council speaker asserted that he is sincere in pushing the legislation.

“Today’s hearing is about moving this bill,” Johnson said. “It wouldn’t happen if we weren’t serious about it.”

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, who is “carrying” the bill as its main sponsor, said, “We are here to get that bill across the finish line,” adding, “This is not about commercial rent control.”

There was a flurry of hand-waving in the audience.

Advocates say the strategy of REBNY and others is to confuse the S.B.J.S.A. with commercial rent control, which would standardize commercial rent increases across the city.

Some advocates had pushed in vain for the Council’s Legal Department to issue an opinion prior to the hearing that the bill is fully legal. But that is not usually done in the Council, and it didn’t happen this time either.

As Jaime McShane, REBNY’s senior vice president for communications, noted as he watched the proceedings, the Council leadership wouldn’t introduce a bill if they didn’t feel it was legal.

During the hearing, Gjonaj, the committee’s chairperson, said, “I don’t intend to deal with the legal issues of the bill [today]. I will leave that to the judges and the attorneys.”

As for what happens next, Johnson explained, the bill will now undergo modifications by the Council’s Legal Department.

The Villager asked for a time line of what will happen next — such as when the Council might vote on a modified bill — but a City Council spokesperson only responded in general terms.

“The Committee on Small Business heard testimony for about eight hours on this complex legislation, with over 120 members of the public signed up to testify,” the statement said. “A wide array of stakeholders gave helpful feedback on many aspects of the legislation, as well as proposing additional approaches to the small business crisis that need to be assessed. Now, the committee will immediately review the testimony and begin its work with advocates and the administration toward legislation that is properly targeted and effective.”

Bushwick Daily: City Food Carts Will Start Having Letter Grades This December

By Jarrett Lyons, November 13

How often do you let the giant letter displayed in New York City restaurant windows dictate whether you’ll eat there? Soon, you’ll be able to take letter grades into account when you want a quick bite from a food cart or truck on the street.

“New Yorkers are known around the world for always being on the go – and New York is known around the world for the amazing diversity of its street food, ranging from halal hot dogs to curry in a hurry,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health in a recent press release.

The Assembly Member also outlined that though they should be celebrated, food carts should also meet uniform health standards, just like brick and mortar restaurants have to. 

The Health Department published their rules in the city record for the implementation of a letter grading program for mobile food vendors. Like the regulations used in restaurants since 2010, vendors will receive points for health code violations which will dictate whether there’s an “A,” “B” or “C” hanging on their cart or truck.

“Letter grades on food carts and trucks will help New Yorkers see how these businesses fared on their latest inspection, right when they want to place an order,” said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Just as diners appreciate letter grading in restaurants, we expect this program to be popular among customers.” 

All of New York City’s whopping 5,500 authorized food carts and trucks will be required to post their grade. The Health Department plans to attach location-sharing devices on each unit in order to keep track of when a vendor is due for inspection.

The project is estimated to take about two years to roll out, similar to the 2010 restaurant grade roll out. The department says this information will be protected and only accessible to their staff or a court order.

“I cannot imagine someone not looking for a restaurant’s letter grade from our city’s Health Department before deciding whether or not to patronize a restaurant. The letter grade has become absolutely essential as it relates to restaurants.” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz,a prime sponsor of the new law.

To prep for the roll-out, the Health Department will be hosting food safety education workshops for mobile food vendors. The classes will acclimate vendors to the grading program, a refresher of food handling and common food safety violations that are easily avoided. According to the department’s website, the schedule of Spring classes will be posted in early 2019.

“Yet, every day, countless numbers of people in New York purchase food from a street vendor without knowing to a general degree the cart’s compliance with the NYC Health Code,” said Council Member Koslowitz. “I believe that the customers who buy food from a street vendor deserve to have the same ability to make an informed decision as do patrons of restaurants.”

Bushwick Daily will continue to report on how this will potentially affect Bushwick’s many food vendors. 

Testimony on the New York Health Act before the New York City Council

Testifying before the NYC Council in support of its resolution endorsing the New York Health Act, December 6, 2018

Testimony of Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried

in Support of the New York Health Act

Public Hearing: City Council Committee on Health

New York City Hall

December 6, 2018

I am Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried.  I chair the Assembly Health Committee and I am the introducer, along with Senator Gustavo Rivera, of the New York Health Act, to create single-payer health coverage for every New Yorker.  I appreciate the Council Health Committee holding this hearing on Speaker Corey Johnson’s resolution endorsing the bill.  I support the resolution.

In both houses of the State Legislature, we now have solid majorities who have co-sponsored, voted for, or campaigned supporting the NY Health Act.  And Governor Cuomo supports single-payer health coverage, although he says he has questions about whether it can be done at the state level.

Every New Yorker should have access to the health care they need, without financial obstacles or hardship.  No one says they disagree with that.  And the New York Health Act is the only proposal that can achieve that goal.

In NY State, we spend $300 billion – federal, state, and non-governmental – on health coverage.  Nationally, we spend far more than any industrial democracy as a percentage of GDP.  But 18 cents of the insurance premium dollar goes for insurance company bureaucracy and profit.  Our doctors and hospitals spend twice what Canadian doctors and hospitals do on administrative costs, because they have to fight with insurance companies.  We pay exorbitant prescription drug prices because no one has the bargaining leverage to negotiate effectively with drug companies.

Just about every New Yorker – patients, employees, employers, and taxpayers – is burdened by a combination of rising premiums, skyrocketing deductibles, co-pays, restrictive provider networks, out-of-network charges, coverage gaps, and unjustified denials of coverage.  I know I am, and I bet everyone in this room is.

And those financial burdens are not based on ability to pay.  The premium, the deductibles – the insurance company doesn’t care if you’re a multi-millionaire CEO or a receptionist.

In a given year, a third of households with insurance has someone go without needed health care because they can’t afford it – and usually for a serious condition.

The number one cause of personal bankruptcy is health care — even for those who have commercial health coverage.

We’ve put control of our health care in the hands of unaccountable insurance company bureaucrats. Nobody wants insurance company bureaucrats deciding what doctor you or your family can see and when.

The health insurance system means massive cost increases for most everyone and better health care for hardly anyone. It’s a disaster.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The NY Health Act will save billions of dollars for patients, employees, employers, health care providers and taxpayers – while providing complete health coverage to every New Yorker.

Everyone would be able to receive any service or product covered by any of the following:  NY Medicaid, Medicare, state insurance law mandates, and the current state public employee benefit, plus anything the plan decides to add.

And there will be no premiums, no deductibles, no co-pays, no restricted provider network, and no out-of-network charges.

We’ll actually save billions of dollars because we get rid of insurance company bureaucracy and profit, doctors and hospitals will be able to slash their administrative costs, and New York Health will be able to negotiate much lower drug prices by bargaining for 20 million patients.

And this lower cost will be shared fairly, based on ability to pay.  NY Health will be funded by broad-based progressively graduate taxes.

There will be one tax on payroll.  At least 80% of it must be paid by the employer.

There will be a similar tax on currently taxable “unearned” income – like capital gains and dividends.

Because of the savings and the progressively graduated tax mechanism, 90% or more of New Yorkers will spend less and have more in their pocket.

Pumping this money back into our economy will create 200,000 new jobs in New York.

And there will be money to completely cover everyone, and make sure doctors, hospitals and other providers are paid fairly – and today, most of the time, they are not.

The vast majority of our hospitals get most of their revenue from Medicaid, Medicare, and uncompensated care pools – none of which fully cover the cost of care.  The NY Health Act requires full funding for all hospital care, and hospitals will save billions in reduced administrative costs.

Here are 3 basic numbers:  The savings from insurance company bureaucracy and profit, provider administrative costs, and drug prices will total $55 billion.  The increased spending for covering everyone; eliminating deductibles, co-pays and out-of-network charges; and paying providers more fairly will cost $26 billion.  So the net savings to New Yorkers is $29 billion.

The way our society deals with long-term care – meaning home health care and nursing home care – for the elderly and people with disabilities is a moral outrage.  NY’s Medicaid does a much better job than other states.  But today, New Yorkers spend $11 billion a year out-of-pocket for long-term care.  And family members – usually women – provide unpaid home care worth $19 billion.

In January, Senator Rivera and I will be announcing that the NY Health Act will cover long-term care.

Now, that will use up $19 billion of the net savings.  But it means no NY family will have to wipe out lifetime savings, and no family member will have to give up a career, to provide long-term care for a loved one.  That’s profoundly important.

How much tax revenue will we need?  With the net savings, we’ll need $129 billion from the NY Health taxes.  When we add home care and nursing home care, we’ll need $159 billion.

How do we know the NY Health program will treat us – and our doctors and hospitals – fairly?  Two ways.

First, the legislation explicitly requires that provider payments be reasonable, related to the cost of providing the care, and assure an adequate supply of the care.  No coverage today has that guarantee.

Second, we’ll all be in the same boat; rich and poor.  Every New Yorker – every voter – will benefit from the program.  And every voter will have a stake in making sure our elected officials keep it as good as possible.

Remember where we started:  Every New Yorker should have access to needed health care, without financial obstacles or hardship.  We’re not there today.  The NY Health Act will get us there.  If anyone doesn’t like the NY Health Act, they should either put on the table another plan that will get us there, or admit that they’re OK with depriving millions of New Yorkers of health care or family financial stability.

Concerns have been raised by many of NY City’s municipal labor unions.  They are justifiably proud of the good deal they have won for their members over the years.  Good scope of coverage.  The City pays the full premium.  And the contract says that if there are savings in the health benefit, the savings go into a stabilization fund to pay for salaries and benefits.  As they remind us: at the bargaining table they have given up wages and benefits to protect this deal.

Under NY Health, by law, every municipal employee, like every New Yorker, would have an even broader scope of benefits, and without deductibles, co-pays and restricted provider networks and out-of-network charges.

Under the bill now, collective bargaining could continue to have the City pick up the whole tab for the payroll tax and pass on the savings to the stabilization fund.  But Sen. Rivera and I have offered to add bill language that by law would require the City to do that, without the need to bargain for it.

Our parents didn’t raise us to screw workers.  Period.  Sen. Rivera and I are determined to make sure that labor’s concerns are protected under the NY Health Act.  We are continuing the dialogue with them.

Thank you for letting me testify.

Testimony Before NYC Human Resources Administration: Expand & Strengthen Tenants’ Right to Counsel

Testifying on behalf of tenants’ right to counsel before the NYC Human Resources Agency, November 15, 2018

Testimony by Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried Before the NYC Human Resources Administration’s Office of Civil Justice

                                        Public Hearing on the                                                      Universal Access to Legal Services Program for Tenants Facing Eviction

                                Thursday, November 15, 2018

My name is Richard N. Gottfried.  I represent the 75th Assembly District in Manhattan, which includes the neighborhoods of Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown, and part of the Upper West Side and Murray Hill.  Thank you for this opportunity to testify about the Right to Counsel program.

Right to Counsel (RTC) or Universal Access to Legal Counsel (UATC) in Housing Court became a New York City law in 2017.  With this law, some, but not all, low-income tenants have the right to have a lawyer provided to them if they are sued in Housing Court by their landlord.  Before Right to Counsel was enacted, landlords tried to evict over 230,000 tenants a year.  Most of those tenants were low-income people, and predominantly people of color and immigrants.

The program has quickly made a real difference in the lives of many people.  Since the implementation of Right to Counsel, evictions are down 24 percent from 2014; filings are down 10% from 2014; and shelter entries from evictions are down. The program contributes to preserving affordable housing and stable communities by keeping people out of court and out of homeless shelters.  But there are too many people who cannot access the program because of the income level requirement.  The next step is to expand and strengthen the successful Right to Counsel program.

City Council Members Mark Levine, Vanessa Gibson and Diana Ayala have introduced legislation, Intro 1104-2018,  to increase the income threshold of 200% of the federal poverty level to 400% and to expand the types of cases covered by RTC to include administrative hearings such as those in HPD, and the NYS HCR (Homes and Community Renewal) agency, as well as for cases that are appealed and a portion that land in state Supreme Court.  These would be important steps ahead.

More must be done to increase outreach and tenant awareness.  The City needs to finance efforts by various community organizations to educate tenants about when they are entitled to legal representation.

It continues to be a challenge to get the word out to tenants that the right to counsel in Housing Court exists and how to find out if they are eligible and where to go.  As part of the RTC implementation, New York City’s Tenant Support Unit knocks on doors to advise tenants at risk of eviction that they are entitled to a lawyer.  More tenant outreach and education is needed and can best be provided by neighborhood-based groups with a history of tenant organizing, as well as the Tenant Support Unit. Increased funding to neighborhood-based groups already doing education and outreach would contribute to the effectiveness of the right to counsel program.

Several public awareness efforts, if funded by the City, would help tenants learn of the new right.  Efforts such as subway ads, tele-town halls, mass mailings, email and social media, and a hotline are all possible ways to increase access to the program

After only a year, Right to Counsel has proven its effectiveness.  It should be expanded and strengthened.



Chelsea Now: Food and Fun in Chelsea at the National Night Out Against Crime


The temperature, like the chicken being grilled, was sizzling — but the mood was buoyant at the annual National Night Out Against Crime on Tues., Aug. 7.

The event — a way for the police and the community to come together — was held locally by Chelsea’s 10th Precinct, and took place at the Fulton Houses on W. 17th St., between Ninth and 10th Aves.

“I think it’s great for the community,” said Jennifer Beeks, 35, who has been living at the Fulton Houses for three years. “It gives the children a chance not to be fearful of the police.”

Chelsea Now: Spar and the City: CRDC Sees Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo Proxy Trade Jabs

By Donathan Salkaln, May 23

Since March 19’s announcement of her run for governor, Cynthia Nixon, a lifelong NYC activist and star of the hit series “Sex and the City,” has forged a surprisingly effective campaign. While garnering support, she has also pushed Governor Andrew Cuomo to consider many important left-wing issues — including April’s trifecta of trying to get a Democratic majority in the NY State Senate, a ban on plastic bags, and the legalizing of recreational marijuana. To many, Nixon has become a superhero firefly in lighting heat under the incumbent, “Mr. Big.”

On May 17, Nixon brought her battle for governorship to Chelsea by seeking an endorsement from the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club (CRDC). The bout was witnessed by a crowd who packed the Hudson Guild’s John Lovejoy Elliott Center (441 W. 26th St.), and there was much buzz before Nixon’s arrival. The CRDC is celebrating its 60th year of political activism that has helped shape Chelsea to be one of the most compassionate, diverse, and exciting places in the world — and its members take endorsement voting very seriously. Nixon faced off against New York State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (Assembly District 75), representing the corner of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Chelsea Now: Vacancy Tax Would Fine Landlords Who Let Storefronts Languish

By Dusica Malesevic, May 1

As the specter of empty storefronts continues to haunt the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s floating of a possible penalty for landlords who leave properties vacant for long periods of time has been greeted by elected officials and advocates as an encouraging sign.

“I’m heartened [by] City Hall’s attention to the issue and the mayor’s personal interest,” State Senator Brad Hoylman said in a phone interview late last week.

On March 30, de Blasio told WNYC, “I am very interested… in fighting for a vacancy fee or vacancy tax which would penalize landlords who leave their storefronts vacant for long periods of time in neighborhoods because they are looking for some top-dollar rent, but they blight neighborhoods by doing it…”

He added, “That’s something we could get done through Albany.”

A vacancy tax falls under the state legislature’s purview.