Supermarkets Are Endangered Species in NYC Part 2
February 14, 2018

Supermarkets Are Endangered Species in NYC Part 2 by Denisse GironBy Denisse Giron, Gotham Government Relations

In our last article, we talked about the reasons that supermarkets are on the endangered species list in New York City. This week, we look at some commercial rent tax (CRT) reforms being proposed in City Council that might help supermarkets with their bottom line.

There are two reforms being discussed in City Council. One that is being pushed by Councilman Garodnick would increase the annual rent threshold from $250,000 to $500,000 before the CRT would kick in. If passed, the bill would allow 4,000 small businesses to be exempt from the CRT. That wouldn’t really help supermarkets, however, because their stores are so large.

The second bill is being pursued by Cory Johnson at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. This bill has a specific exemption for supermarkets, because of two important things:

  1. Loss of jobs: Supermarkets are closing left and right, resulting in the loss of minimum wage unionized jobs with benefits.
  2. Lack of fresh food: The City has a program called The Fresh Program, designed to provide New Yorkers increased access to affordable fresh and healthy food.

It is ironic that the City isn’t stepping up and helping the supermarkets when the retail stores that are entering the City are chain stores. In a city that is supposedly shifting towards healthy options and fresh food, we’re seeing fast food establishments like Shake Shack and Chick-Fil-A popping up everywhere. And even grocery delivery services can’t offer the fresh food that regular, in-person supermarkets do.

We support Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s bill sponsored by Corey Johnson, but with the start of the new year, Corey Johnson is the NYC Council Speaker and will likely not sponsor the bill. We are working with Manhattan President Brewer’s office to pinpoint a new sponsor, which is a bit of a challenge as councilmembers just got assigned to new committee chairmanships. Since Corey Johnson was the previous sponsor, we believe that as Speaker, he’ll help push the bill forward.

We will continue to support the bill to exempt supermarkets from the commercial rent tax. This will help our small businesses that provide fresh food access so that they can survive in this market — but for now, they continue to be an endangered species.