City Council Passes Legislation Helping Small Businesses

The City Council Chambers at City Hall.

The City Council passed a slew of laws earlier today, including two bills that will bring about relief to small businesses by restructuring the penalty system that has hit them with weighty fines. 

The first bill would reduce or waive financial penalties for certain sanitation, health, transportation, consumer affairs, noise control, and building violations. It would also allow for small businesses the opportunity to fix the violation before having to pay the fine. They will face no fine on the first offense. 

City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, who is also running for Bronx Borough President, sponsored the measure. The majority of the provision of this bill will go into effect in 120 days. 

“Our small businesses are hurting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and are in desperate need of financial relief,” said Gibson. “Instead of imposing punitive fines on them, we must educate them about the process and provide them with the necessary support to continue to operate their business successfully.”

The second bill requires the Commissioner of Finance to establish a temporary program to resolve outstanding judgments issued by the Environmental Control Board. In certain situations, default penalties and associated accrued interest would be waived. 

Judgments docketed prior to March 7, 2020 can be resolved by payment of 75% of the penalty without payment of accrued interest. Judgments docketed on or after March 7, 2020 can be resolved by payment of 25% of the penalty without payment of accrued interest.

This bill is sponsored by Council Member Mark Gjonaj. The bill will take effect immediately.

“The amnesty program will lessen the regulatory burden on struggling small businesses. By dramatically cutting fee violations, businesses will be able to redirect much-needed capital towards meeting operating costs, retaining their employees and making other payments,” said Gjonaj.  “We want to ensure that our city’s small businesses are not merely surviving, but thriving as the city begins the long and difficult road towards recovery.”

The City Council also passed a law pertaining to land use, including one sponsored by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Council Member Rafael Salamanca. The bill would create new requirement for applicants for most land use actions to provide the City Planning Commission and public with a report on racial equity in connection with their project.

“Often rezonings are presented as being great for the city, but it’s clear that only applies to certain areas and communities. In others, in communities of more color, they have helped spur gentrification and displacement. Both developers and the city have been reluctant to recognize the role of rezonings in this racial and ethnic displacement, much less take adequate action to prevent it,” said Williams.

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