We need a vacancy tax in the city


To the editor:

(re: “Open your eyes,” Jan. 3)

One of the first actions I took as a newly elected council member was to meet with the Friedland Group to do a walk-through of Johnson Avenue. The main goal of this visit was twofold — to highlight the area’s store vacancy problems, and to express my disappointment with its overall dowdy appearance.

Years later, the Friedland Group continues to be a bad steward of their commercial corridors in Riverdale — both on Johnson Avenue and Knolls Crescent. It is clear that Friedland, and many commercial landlords, do not mind having vacancies while they wait for big box stores that will pay top dollar.

That is the problem.

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez has an interesting piece of legislation known as the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, aka commercial rent control. This bill attempts to create fair lease renewal terms, but it does not necessarily ensure positive terms for the current tenant. I do not believe that this bill will solve the central problem: vacancies.

I believe that the creation of a vacancy tax, a tax that landlords would be required to pay as their storefront remains unoccupied, is the answer.

Implementing this tax would be a more precise tool for bringing new businesses to our community while discouraging greedy landlords from rent-gouging our existing ones.

This would require state action, but I believe that this is the best approach to achieve fully rented, safe and vibrant commercial corridors in our district.

Andrew Cohen

The author is a city councilman representing District 11.

Andrew Cohen,