Small businesses in Manhattan aren't just struggling under higher rents. They're also paying taxes that some business owners say are unfair. Our Michael Scotto has the story.
Robert Schwartz has been selling these orthopedic shoes to Mayor Bill de Blasio for years.
But now Schwartz says he wants de Blasio to provide some relief for him.
"What our city officials don't understand is small-owner-operated retail businesses are working class," said Robert Schwartz owner of Eneslow: The Foot Comfort Center. "And there's just nothing left for us, so they're adding more costs on to us pushing us closer and closer to going out of business."
Schwartz is talking about the commercial rent tax, a fee Manhattan businesses south of 96th Street must pay if their annual rent is more than $250,000. It costs Schwartz $24,000 a year.
Don Winter recently moved his media company from Manhattan to Queens, in part to avoid the tax.
"That's the sad thing about Manhattan," said Winter, with Encompass Media Group. "It's an incredible place to do business - but at the same time it is prohibitive to do business for small and mid-size companies."
As rents keep increasing, more businesses are being forced to pay the tax. Last year, some 7,300 businesses were hit with it, up from nearly 6,800 in 2013.
Enacted in the 1960s when the city needed cash, the tax was not changed until the 1990s, when Mayor Rudy Giuliani convinced the state to eliminate it in every borough but Manhattan.
Borough leaders say it's time Manhattan got some relief.
"At the core we think commercial rent tax is a bad tax, it's an unfair tax," said Ken Biberaj with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. "There's a lot going on in the outer boroughs — more businesses now have an incentive to go there — and if you operate in Manhattan you have a disincentive."
"We would like to see the tax particularly eliminated for those who are on the street, store-fronters," said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
The Mayor says he backs restructuring the tax if the solution is revenue neutral, last year it generated $720 million for the city.
But his office is not lobbying Albany for a change — and nobody in Albany, which has the final say, is pressing the issue, either.