Local elected officials, including Honorable Congressman Charles Rangel and Assemblyman Robert J. Rodriguez, attended a press conference Thursday June 9th at 10:30 am at the barber shop of Claudio Caponigro, an East Harlem business owner who has run his shop from the corner of 116th and 1st for the last 60 years. His displacement is imminent because the purchaser of his building plans to triple his rent, and if he is not amenable, to replace his barber shop with a "takeout Chinese restaurant" according to the landlords statement in a New York Times Article.
Mr. Caponigro's attorney has tried to negotiate a rent that Claudio can afford, but Claudio cannot pay the last negotiated rent the landlord offered for the 225 ft sq space. The attorney believes that he may lose his business if the rent is not settled upon. He has received his dispossess notice and has a court date next week.
The issue at hand here is displacement of anchor businesses and the influx landlords who disregard existing tenants. Many landlords purchase buildings with the purpose of emptying them of their tenants so that they can charge higher rents, in many cases in violation of vacancy and rent stabilization laws. There is no such regulation for businesses, but many times the businesses are an important part of the streetscape and the safety and vibrancy of the street. They have made an investment in the Community which leads to stability and attracts tenants, other businesses and consumers. When anchor businesses are displaced, it hurts the stability of the Community. Mr. Caponigro would like one or two years more at this location to retire with dignity.
Concerned about community institutions, such as Claudio's Barbershop, being forced to leave the neighborhood because of exponentially rising rents, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito said, "We must work together to protect our businesses and residents from being displaced and simultaneously facilitate an environment in which all, regardless of their tenure, can thrive and prosper. The tripling of Claudio's rent is extremely troubling and yields displacement." The Council Member has called upon groups such as the East Harlem/El Barrio Anti-Displacement Task Force to participate in the press conference.
Borough President Scott Stringer and State Senator Jose Serrano could not attend but were represented at the press conference. Local elected officials are expected to comment on this business. Additional information is also available by calling the district office of Assemblyman Robert J. Rodriguez at 212-828-3953 and speaking with Chief of Staff Dawn Sanders Cavalli.