Op-ed: Albany Can Support Small Businesses Like Mine by Expanding the Film Tax Credit

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I always wanted to be a small business owner. As a lifelong Brooklynite, I know how important it is to have a community rich in mom-and-pop stores. My dream came true when my partner and I opened The Coffee Shop in Greenpoint, where I could serve my fellow neighbors and friends. We do more than just serve a cup of coffee and a smile. We are an LGBTQia+ friendly space and do work throughout the year to support our community – including hosting food drives and partnering with local food pantries. 

While my business was built to support others, like many in New York City, we fell on hard times during COVID. We could barely support ourselves, let alone others. The day-to-day foot traffic that my business relied on came to a screeching halt. No one was coming in to patronize our store, causing us to close for two months. Things looked bleak and it seemed my dream business was going to be another victim of the pandemic. 

Then, slowly but surely, foot traffic picked up from those going back to work. One of the first industries to come back wasn’t finance or construction, but film. Movie productions in New York City began to film once again thanks to the implementation of extensive COVID protocols. Employees from Broadway Stages, Silvercup Studios, and Windmill Studios began coming in and supporting my business once again. 

Their familiar faces, and more importantly – direct investment in the community – helped to keep us afloat. It wasn’t just my coffee shop: eateries, hardware stores, and businesses in the area are frequented by the hundreds of local employees hired for these productions. Over time, we were able to get back on our feet. Three years later, we’re still supporting those in our community. 

I’m excited to hear that better times might be on the way. Specifically, Governor Hochul recently proposed a needed expansion of the Film Production Tax Credit, from the existing $420 million to $700 million. 

Film, tv, and streaming are combined currently a combined multibillion-dollar industry in New York State that directly help a business like mine. But it’s clear from the news and my conversations with my industry regulars that production companies are choosing to film in other states with more competitive incentives, taking jobs and investments away from the city. 

For instance, The Joker, which famously filmed in New York, is now filming the sequel in New Jersey due to the expansion of their tax credit offering. Losing productions is not something our state, and community, can afford. A recent study foun that for every $1 in state incentives offered, $9 is invested directly back into our communities. These credits pay for themselves and they’ve helped keep businesses like mine afloat. 

I couldn’t be more grateful to the film industry in New York for helping my business not just stay open but eventually thrive as our city emerged from some of the darkest years we have ever faced. Albany, please help keep these film jobs, productions, and community investments in New York.

Catherine Vera-Milligan is the co-owner of The Coffee Shop in Greenpoint.