Thousands of small business can breathe a sigh of relief as a new bill regarding awnings will soon issue reprieves for violations across the city.
City Council members Bob Holden (D-Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, Woodside) andPeter Koo (D- Bayside, College Point, Flushing, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Fresh Meadows, Whitestone) are applauding the new Awnings Act, a measure aimed at protecting small businesses across the five boroughs.
Under the legislation the hundreds of small shop owners that were targeted and issued fines for up to $6,000 this year for signs and awnings that have been hanging for decades, will not have to pay anything. For those that have already paid the fine, they will receive discounted rates on permits for installing a new awning or sign, needing to pay only 25% of the cost.
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. They need every help they can get, and don’t need to be fined to death. Intro 728 is a great first step in loosening the burdens put on our small businesses, and I am proud to be a sponsor of this bill,” said Holden.
On Wednesday night, Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn) finalized the measure with Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s office after leading the charge to spotlight an issue hitting mom & pop stores.
“The closed market combined with the ongoing enforcement blitz is stripping our neighborhoods of their unique character by forcing mom and pop shops to remove signs that have been up for decades. This legislative action looks to implement a fair solution that prioritizes safety and opens the market to make it easier for small businesses to comply with the law,” said Koo.
In total the The Awnings Act will:
– Establish an immediate year-long moratorium on the DOB’s ability to issue fines for awnings
– For those that have yet to pay the fine, they can enter into a DOB program and have the fine removed, meaning they will not have to pay anything
– For those that have already paid the fine, they will receive discounted rates on permits for installing a new awning or sign, needing to pay only 25% of the cost
– An awnings task force will be convened including small business owners, chambers of commerce from each borough, and representatives of various agencies, to address further and existing concerns
– Allow any general contractor the ability to hang awnings or signs, which will dramatically reduce the cost as it opens the market beyond the 20-30 licensed hangers before
According to a previous KCP story, immigrant Bodegas and mom & pop stores, particularly Chinese and Arabic owned have been hit hardest by anonymous 311 calls, which resulted in the Department of Business doing an inspection, which lead to a wave of tickets.
Besides these tickets, the violations forced many shops to have to take down their signs in a bid to avoid tickets.
“Laws like this one, that have received so much support from the community and my colleagues, make me proud to serve in the City Council. It took a network of New Yorkers to put together The Awnings Act, but the final product is a law that will forever protect mom & pops. It achieves unprecedented aid for small businesses that have been unfairly targeted, and represents the exact kinds of issues that a responsive Council should be resolving every day,” said Espinal.