Fix It Don’t Fine It, City Expands Relief For Small Businesses From Harlem To Hollis

February 20, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced the City is expanding relief for small businesses, including eliminating fines for first-time violations and expanding the universe of violations that will have cure periods. As announced at the Mayor’s State of the City, the de Blasio Administration has cut small business fines by over 40 percent since 2014 and will cut an additional 10 percent by the time the Mayor leaves office. The Administration has put over $100 million back in the pockets of small business owners, and this relief will raise the amount of money saved yearly from $20 million to $26 million.

“New York City is not New York City without our small businesses,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will not be a city that gives in to corporate takeover. Instead, we’ll fight for our mom-and-pops and do all we can to help them thrive.”

Fines subject to relief include select Department of Buildings, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Transportation, Department of Sanitation, and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection violations. The City will work with the City Council to review more than 75 violations. DOB and DOT can implement their own rule changes, and will begin providing additional relief in the fall.

To ensure businesses are aware of these changes, these agencies will update their summonses to include clear and easy explanations for how to fix the violation. In partnership with these agencies, the Department of Small Business Services will also organize a canvassing effort across the city to spread the word.

Examples of 1st-time fines forgiven:

  • Failure to clean 18 inches from curb into the street ($100 penalty)
  • Excessive noise created by an air compressor ($560 penalty)

Examples of fines added to cure list:

  • Scale used for weighed items at supermarket/bodega not clearly in-sight of customer ($75 penalty)
  • Failure to disclose details about layaway plans ($260 penalty)
  • Failure to post clear price list at laundromats ($375 penalty)

“The expansion of small business services for NYC’s community is a deeper investment in the businesses that make up the backbone of our economy,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services. “Businesses will now have a greater opportunity to comply with regulations prior to being fined, which puts money back in their pockets and creates a safer and more secure City.”

“Small businesses are the cornerstone of neighborhoods across the city, and we’re cutting red tape so they can better serve their fellow New Yorkers,” said DOB Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca. “By making more fines curable while expanding on outreach and education, we are building on the work we’ve already done to lighten the load on owners and entrepreneurs. We look forward to working with our colleagues in government to grow these efforts and help all small businesses be informed and avoid fines in the first place.”

“In order to protect public health and the environment we work with businesses every day to come into compliance with our rules and regulations,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “Expanding relief for small businesses makes sense and we applaud the Mayor for extending this initiative.”

“We want nothing more than for businesses in New York City to succeed,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “Expanding the category of curable violations in addition to our Business Education Days and Visiting Inspector Program will help businesses better understand their responsibilities under the law and create a culture of compliance.”

“Small businesses are a vital part of our City’s economy, and also the foundation of the American Dream. Many small businesses call New York City home, and it’s important that they have the opportunity to thrive. I’m so glad to see an expansion of relief that will put more money back in the pockets of small businesses. I thank the Mayor for his dedication to this issue, and to the people of our great city,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.

“Local, small businesses are the life blood of neighborhoods like those in my district,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “In recent years, New York City has put a lot of requirements on small businesses. The city’s oversight has furthered workplace standards and helped to protect the public and consumers. However, we cannot continuously dump fines on businesses without offering them relief. Mayor de Blasio’s reforms to small business fines — announced today in my district— are necessary measures to provide much needed support to small business owners.”

“I applaud Mayor de Blasio for undertaking this important initiative to expand first-time fine reforms and grant relief to thousands of small business owners,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “These new measures to ease penalties and create opportunities for businesses to correct first-time violations allow for a restorative approach to enforcement that will balance protections for small businesses with continued commitment to public safety and accountability to consumers. For our most vulnerable small businesses, many of which are immigrant-owned, the reality is that even the smallest fines can hurt their ability to survive, cause significant hardship, and exacerbate cost barriers to participation. We are stepping up to promote fairness and opportunity for businesses that need relief and a fair chance to grow and thrive.”

“Our small businesses are the core of New York City’s economic engine, and it is no secret being a business owner is often an arduous task,” said Council Member Paul Vallone, Chair of the Committee on Economic Development. “In these difficult economic times, this much-needed relief for our mom and pop institutions will go a long way in helping our city’s business owners and their employees thrive and continue to serve their communities.”

“Starting a small business in New York City is already a huge feat. Not only do mom and pops have to deal with growing competition from big corporations and rising commercial rents, they are also expected to navigate the complex spiderweb of City regulations and agencies on their own. A focus on partnership — not punishment — is what will truly make a difference in these local entrepreneurs’ chances to succeed and continue serving our communities, and I thank the Mayor for his commitment to level the playing field for small businesses,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin.

Our city’s economic engine is fueled by immigrants, minority-and-women-owned businesses who need our patronage not penalties to thrive. By shifting our priorities to improving business compliance, we are bolstering their bottom line and our collective economic growth,” said Council Member Farah N. Louis.

“Fines and penalties are designed to protect businesses, not put them out of business. I applaud the Mayor for recognizing this and expanding relief to small businesses with respect to fines and cure periods. In my district, this relief will help tremendously, especially for the hundreds of immigrant-owned businesses who have been targeted by suspicious 3-1-1 complaints. The City is showing once again we don’t have to wait for a crisis to do the right thing,” said Council Member Menchaca

“Too often, we see businesses suffer because of punitive fines and owners not fully understanding the rules of engagement,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. “Our office regularly holds OATH Pop-Up Court sessions and informational workshops to help educate small business owners. Education and transparency are key to ensuring that our businesses have the tools they need to flourish. The City should aim to strike a balance between enforcement and effective regulation to work with business owners, and we support the Administration in this effort.”

“We all know that small businesses, the lifeblood of our city, need relief. Fine forgiveness helps businesses put some money in savings while still remedying any issue. I thank the Mayor’s office and SBS for working to support our small business, and look forward to continued relief efforts throughout the year,” said Council Member Keith Powers

“Aside from rent, one of the most common items mom-and-pops cite to my office as a challenge to their viability is government red tape. I applaud Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Small Business Services on revisiting how and when these entrepreneurs are fined for certain violations, providing an opportunity for owners to more thoroughly understand how to comply with local laws,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera. “I look forward to additional efforts to review regulations and penalties so that New Yorkers might consider our city a friendlier place to own or start a small business.”

“Small businesses — from hardware stores to dry cleaners to coffee shops — are vital to the civic fabric of New York City. They create roughly half the private-sector jobs in our city and make our neighborhoods livable and human-scale. As our city’s affordability crisis continues, I’m glad to see the de Blasio Administration taking action to cut unnecessary fines for small businesses and provide clear guidelines on how to fix minor violations,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.

“I support the city’s efforts to make it easier for small businesses to operate in the city and hopefully encourage more entrepreneurship. Reducing fines and helping educate business owners on how to resolve or pay off penalties is a positive step forward but there is more to be done,” said State Senator James Sanders Jr.

“This opportunity to cure certain violations before being financially burdened is a great welcome to small businesses. There is a lot that goes into running a business and oftentimes these small businesses are individuals and families that are stretched with many other burdens. This new opportunity will give businesses a sense of community partnership with New York City”, says Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte.

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