New York Small Businesses to Get Fine Refunds Under Council Bill
The New York City Council is considering legislation that would provide relief to small businesses, including easing code-violation enforcement and refunding thousands of fines that restaurateurs and mom-and-pop shops have been issued during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The two-bill package would also allow for-hire pedicabs with electric-assist motor systems back on city streets for the first time since they were banned more than a decade ago. It would also repeal other regulations that have historically hurt small-business operators’ profit margins. The council’s committee on small business will hold a hearing on the bills on Monday.
“This legislation will fundamentally reshape the way New York City interacts with small businesses—giving them a chance to survive, save jobs and allowing them to thrive in the future,” said Councilman Mark Gjonaj, a Bronx Democrat who is chairman of the committee and helped draft the bills.
One bill, whose lead sponsor is Bronx Democrat Vanessa Gibson, would update more than 180 sanitation, health, noise-control and other code violations on the books at city agencies to provide civil-penalty relief for restaurants, laundromats, pawnshops and other small businesses. This includes lowering existing penalties, letting violators off on warnings for first offenses and allowing “cure periods” for businesses to fix violations and avoid fines.
For instance, city Department of Buildings inspectors can now issue $1,250 fines to businesses who illegally display outdoor signs without permits. However, under the bill, operators would get a 30-day grace period to fix the problem and avoid fines.
Eateries now face city Health Department fines of at least $200 for exceeding a half-gram of trans fat per serving and up to $200 fines if they are caught offering children soda or other sugary drinks in kids’ meal packages. However, the legislation would also give these establishments a reprieve if they timely correct the problem.
Businesses that now fail to neatly maintain public trash bins on sidewalks currently face $50 penalties on a first offense and $100 on the second, but city Department of Sanitation inspectors under the legislation would be allowed to give only warnings on first offenses and would have to provide operators the chance to remedy the situation on second offenses to avoid $50 fines.
The other bill, authored by Mr. Gjonaj, would waive or refund thousands of low-level penalties small businesses have been issued for city code violations dating back to March 12, when Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in the city because of the pandemic.
格约纳伊起草的另一项法案将免除或退还小企业自3月12日以来因违反城市法规而被处以的数千笔低级别罚款，当时市长白思豪(Bill De Blasio)宣布该市因疫情蔓延而进入紧急状态。
Since the amnesty period would extend until the continuing emergency concludes, it is unclear how much money the cash-strapped city would need to pay back to businesses or where the city would come up with the funds as it currently faces a budget gap of more than $5 billion.
From July through October, the city Health Department, which inspects restaurants, collected about $8.4 million in fines. The city Department of Consumer Affairs, which enforces licensing and other regulations, collected $2.9 million during that period. Both agencies handle the most small-business fines.
从7月到10月，负责检查餐厅的市卫生局收取了约840万美元的罚款。在此期间，负责执行许可证和其他法规的城市消费者事务部(City Department Of Consumer Affairs)收取了290万美元。这两家机构都处理最多的小企业罚款。
Mayoral spokesman Mitch Schwartz said the mayor’s office is reviewing the bills and is committed to working with the council to help small businesses—provided city agencies can still protect consumers from unscrupulous practices during the pandemic.
Among the de Blasio administration’s concerns is that the legislation as currently written could provide refunds to merchants who were fined for price gouging. Council members insist this isn’t the intention of the legislation.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Democrat, said he supports both bills and was proud the council took the lead in reviewing existing laws to find relief from fines for small businesses.
“This has been a problem for decades, but there’s a renewed energy now because of the pandemic,” he said.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, which represents restaurant and nightlife establishments, said thousands of the city’s bars and eateries have closed since the pandemic and many are teetering on the edge of survival.
代表餐厅和夜生活场所的纽约市酒店联盟(NYC Hotitality Alliance)的执行董事安德鲁·里奇(Andrew Rigie)表示，自疫情爆发以来，该市数以千计的酒吧和餐馆已经关门，许多酒吧和餐馆正徘徊在生存的边缘。
He also said the legislation is desperately needed to keep small businesses afloat. “The city has historically treated restaurants like its personal ATM with fines and fees,” he added.
Ms. Gibson’s bill would also repeal certain licensing requirements for amusement rides, arcades, and some other businesses. It would also eliminate an antiquated rule prohibiting bingo games from beginning before 6 p.m. on Sundays.
The bill also reverses controversial action the council took in 2007 prohibiting pedicabs from using electric assist motors that allow drivers to ease their legs during long treks.
The 2007 legislation, by a council then led by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, also regulated and capped the city’s pedicab industry. Itwas opposed by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat who at the time was an independent, because he felt the free market should determine how many pedicabs are on the road. A veto override by the council was required for the legislation to become law.
2007年的立法由当时由议会议长克里斯汀·奎因(Christine Quinn)领导的一个委员会制定，也对该市的三轮车行业进行了监管和封顶。这也遭到了当时的市长迈克尔·布隆伯格(Michael Bloomberg)的反对，他当时是一名民主党人，是一名无党派人士，因为他认为自由市场应该决定路上有多少三轮车。这项立法要成为法律，需要得到委员会的否决。
Drivers operating electric-powered pedicabs now face fines of $500 to $4,000.
Council members who support striking the violation from city law say it is outdated and no longer makes sense considering state lawmakers in 2019 legalized the use of electric-assist bicycles and scooters.