During the pandemic, roughly 20% of the businesses in Brooklyn closed their doors for good. And many more are just barely hanging on. However, as many of New York’s political candidates call for more taxes and fees, District 33 City Council candidate April Somboun wants to reduce fees and taxes and introduce public-private partnerships and other incentives as a way to bring more businesses in.
“Business is the lifeblood of any community,” said April Somboun. “Doing more of the things that are chasing businesses away isn’t going to solve our problems. We need to be mindful of the Techxodus in California because it can happen here in New York City. And, we must learn from places like Austin, Texas and St. Petersburg, Florida and create an environment that will retain our businesses and attract more startups.”
A recent survey by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce showed a staggering 80% of all businesses in the borough – and 77% of minority- and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs) – saw a decline in revenue from 2019 to 2020. The degree of loss was also troubling, with 47% of all businesses and 51% of minority- and women-owned businesses reporting a decline of more than half their annual revenue. Workers have suffered too, of course – New York City lost 557,000 jobs in 2020.
“Ideas I believe could gain traction and make a positive impact include lower property taxes across the board and a lower commercial tax classification for smaller retail and commercial spaces,” add Somboun. “I also want to push local and state leaders for tax credits and other incentives that encourage investments in startups, and that entices businesses to relocate to New York and Brooklyn. Much like the film tax credits that New York offers, we need a startup tax credit.”
With so many shuttered storefronts, the key to Somboun’s plan is making it easier for new businesses to open. She wants to make shifts in the way city leaders invest tax dollars, while also eliminating red tape like nuisance fees and onerous processing times for starting a business. Giving landlords more runway is another part of her plan.
“One thing we can do is help mitigate vacancies, not by punishing people but by incentivizing them to do better. For example, providing landlords with tax credits for improving and maintaining their properties inside and out,” says Somboun.
April Somboun is a moderate Democrat that seems to have a realistic approach to leveraging business capital for good. This includes striking a balance, with an eye on achieving a responsible free-market economy that will inject capital back into Brooklyn. Part of her pro-business philosophy stems from her childhood. Somboun came to the U.S. with her single mother as a refugee from Laos. It was the free-market economy that helped lift her out of poverty and gave her the tools to achieve the American dream.
“We need to work on programs that not only retain employers, but that attract them as well,” explained Somboun. “This includes both large and small businesses, as each is needed to infuse jobs, money, and tax revenue into the economy. I also believe it’s imperative for the City Council to remain open to larger-scale economic development, including projects that bring major companies into New York City. The City is making it difficult for companies to do business here — and to stay here.”
Somboun is the only City Council candidate in District 33 that is backed by mayoral candidate Ray McGuire, former Citigroup Executive. District 33 includes Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, Fulton Ferry, Greenpoint, Vinegar Hill, and Williamsburg.