NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Peers says businesses have received "no relief" from commercial landlords in the borough during the coronavirus pandemic.
Citing data from the Chamber on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank, Peers tells Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that 46 percent of businesses missed rent payments in May and only 21 percent of those surveyed received a concession from their landlords.
"I still think there's some degree of denial on behalf of the real estate industry about what the long-term impact's going to be," Peers said, adding, "If you're a smart landlord and you've had, for the most part, good tenants who've paid on time and have been good businesses in your space, you should do everything you can to work it out."
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce leader says three factors "should give landlords pause" before denying rent relief even when landlords are struggling to pay their own bills in the widespread economic downturn brought on by the business shutdowns amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Those factors include a “retail vacancy crisis” that started prior to the pandemic, leading to a supply surplus of commercial space. That is more prevalent with the shift to work from home and the implementation of digital tools in industries that had resisted technological advancements. And, Peers said a third of local businesses in Brooklyn might not recover from the shutdowns, meaning there will be less demand for commercial space.
He said landlords should realize businesses will scale back their brick and mortar footprint. Therefore, they and their tenants should find mutual solutions to the economic turmoil because they may not have companies interested in renting their properties.
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce recently launched a no-interest loan program after finding 84 percent of Brooklyn businesses that applied for the Federal Payment Protection Payment (PPP) loans, intended for small businesses, were unable to access funds for overhead costs.
"Once we give out a loan [and> it's paid back, it goes back into the fund and we can help even more businesses," Peers said of The Bring Back Brooklyn Fund that is raising money through donors online.
He described it as an investment in the community.
"Economic development of today is about attracting and retaining talent," Peers said. "The more creative people that you can cultivate, both who are already there and living there, and the more that you can attract, you're going to be more equipped for a knowledge-based economy, which is really the transformation that the United States has gone through."
Peers believes Brooklyn businesses can team-up with their diverse community as they grappled with vandalism and looting from the protests for racial equality stemming from the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota.
"The majority of small businesses in Brooklyn are owned by minorities, women and immigrants. They tackle it from a different perspective," he said, noting owners can offer opportunities through employment.
"Economic empowerment of communities of color is key and critical," Peers said as the Chamber encourages companies to hire people within their communities.
Brooklyn has excelled in innovation, punctuated by the Brooklyn Navy Yard's war-like manufacturing effort to help New York City combat the coronavirus.
"We're second only to San Francisco in terms of new tech startups," said Peers. "We've attracted innovators, we've attracted skilled workers and we've really had people who have taken risks and made investments in our communities.”
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce president told WCBS 880 he believes that entrepreneurial spirit and resilience is needed in the recovery as New York City enters phase one of reopening next week.
"COVID can temporarily kind of hold us back, but I think when we come out of this, we're going to be a better community, we're going to be a better Brooklyn, and we're going to be even more creative and innovative than we were before," Peers said.
Hear ideas for how communities can survive the economic crisis and thrive on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast on the RADIO.COM app or the media player above.