Making Our Voices Heard for the Betterment of New York City

Last week, I had the great privilege of standing with more than 100 REBNY members who attended a public hearing on commercial rent control legislation.  I want to sincerely thank everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to prepare testimony, organize their colleagues, and physically show up at City Hall.

I also want to take a moment to explain how proud I am to stand with you. The fact that we’ve been engaged as an organization was on full display as REBNY brokers, managers, and developers turned out wearing royal blue ‘VOTE NO Commercial Rent Control’ baseball caps. We joined our allies who were represented by co-op and condo homeowners, business improvement districts, affordable housing advocates, 32BJ building service workers and religious charitable nonprofit organizations, all of whom are strongly opposed to a bill that would mandate commercial rent control in an ill-advised effort to help small retail businesses.

Some of our members waited literally all day and into the evening for a chance to testify. Others were shut out in the cold and not allowed into the building. Those of us who were allowed inside made it very clear to the City Council that the legislation under consideration would do nothing to solve the underlying issues behind storefront vacancies and instead would have a damaging impact on our local economy. A special thank you to our Retail Committee members including Joanne Podell and Steven Soutendijk of Cushman & Wakefield, James Wacht of Lee & Associates, Robin Abrams of Compass, James Nelson of Avison Young, and Bill Montana of Savills Studley. Thanks to REBNY members Jordan Barowitz of The Durst Organization, Eric Gural, and Brian Steinwurtzel of GFP Real Estate, among others, who endured the marathon hearing in the Council Chambers.

And to everyone else who took the time to come out, I think Scott Rechler of RXR Realty said it best when he told attendees at our REBNY Fall Members’ Luncheon, “I am thrilled that more than 100 people were there. Being a developer, we are often in front of boards when the only other people there are the vocal minority who don’t want the project to move forward for NIMBY reasons, not for the good of the whole city.  The people who care and are most vested, usually don’t show up. It is incumbent on all of us to be responsible and use our voice and not expect someone else to do it for us, because it’s not going to happen. And that starts with voting…If we want to have good leaders who are thoughtful and who can navigate all the challenges facing us today. It really starts with us being good leaders, going to vote on November 6th, and getting everyone else to do the same. We need to be civically engaged across the board because that’s what’s going to drive change when our voices are heard.”

I couldn’t agree more. I believe that it is the kind of civic engagement we were able to demonstrate together at City Hall last week that makes all the difference. When our members offer their experience and expertise, the discourse and the process of making decisions will be based on sound data and rational logic.

We will soon expand this effort—before the end of this year, REBNY will host information sessions with government officials for REBNY members who are interested in joining their local community board.

If you want to learn more about the commercial rent control issue and find out how you can get involved, please contact REBNY Senior Vice President Reggie Thomas.