Cuomo, AOC want eviction protections extended to NY small businesses

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ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he agrees with progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when it comes to expanding the state’s eviction protections to include small business owners struggling to pay rent amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

The liberal darling cheered the Empire State’s newest law passed by the state Legislature during a special session and signed by Cuomo earlier this week. 

It freezes nearly all ongoing eviction-related and residential foreclosure proceedings impacting tenants, homeowners and small landlords for the next two months, and can be stayed even further until May 1 if an application of hardship is filed. 

Formerly, the governor’s executive order was set to expire before Jan. 1.

But AOC took to Twitter Wednesday, arguing Cuomo should expand the measure to also include rent protections to small businesses. 

“Proud of the strides that New York has made in passing one of the strongest anti-eviction laws in the country to protect tenants,” she tweeted.

“There’s still more to go. Let’s extend rent protections to vulnerable small biz, & the federal gov must step up to help rents + mortgages nationwide.”

AOC then called on Cuomo specifically, writing, “@NYGovCuomo should expand his executive order barring evictions to include small businesses across the state. Our priority should be to keep people housed and prevent economic collapse of the family and local small businesses that are the backbone of our communities.”

When asked during a remote press conference in Albany, Cuomo conceded he agreed with her. 

“On the evictions, Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez, I agree with. We signed an eviction bill the other day, the legislature passed it. It’s a good bill.. it’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough and there are loopholes,” he said. 

“It doesn’t protect commercial tenants and New York City has some protections in place but Long Island, Westchester, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany — the whole rest of the state — you have many small businesses that are just getting kicked out. They don’t have the deep pockets, their revenue is down, they’re suffering, you have a lot of restaurants, [a] lot of smaller businesses that can’t pay the rent and the landlord says, ‘you’re out.’”

He continued: “It doesn’t protect small businesses that are dealing with a hardship and that is a very big problem in this state that needs to be addressed. Second loophole is, residential tenants would have to pay late fees and penalties.”

Small business owners have been reeling from the economic shutdowns ordered in March at the pandemic’s start.

Although restrictions were loosened over the summer, limits on capacity and gathering sizes — impacting bars and restaurants, movie theaters and other areas — remained and once cases began rising in the fall, the state re-imposed some strict measures.

New York City’s indoor dining was able to open at 25 percent and was anticipating a boost to 50 percent capacity come November 1, but Cuomo shuttered dining indoors citing fears of gatherings amidst the holiday season and rising positive COVID-19 cases and increasing hospitalization levels.

Cuomo said the fix could be made by executive order, but he would rather legislative leaders state Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) amend the newly minted law.

“Commercial owners, small businesses have to be protected, and tenants should not be charged late fees and penalties. And I have said that from day one. So, those two loopholes do have to be closed and we need a piece of legislation to do that. If the Legislature doesn’t do it or doesn’t do it quickly then I will do an executive order to do it but I would rather just see them close the loopholes in the bill so there’s no confusion,” he said. 

Senate Majority spokesman Mike Murphy told The Post: “Clearly, commercial tenants need help too. The governor’s Executive Order on Commercial Leases extends to January 31, 2021 and should be extended. If not, we will take action.’

“As the Governor knows, our bill dealt with a moratorium for residential tenants, single family homeowners, small landlords and seniors. The governor’s executive order on the residential side was running out this New Year’s Eve and did not offer as extensive protections as our bill,” he added.

Speaker Heastie’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

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