New York City set to lower many fines on small businesses



Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant

The New York City Council passed a legislation on June 17 that will help small businesses in New York City hit by COVID-19. The legislation includes relief for small businesses, easing of code enforcement and fine slashings.

The legislation is a two bill package that provides aid to New York City’s business sector, which has faced devastating side effects as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One bill, sponsored by Bronx Democratic Council Member Mark Gjonaj, will create a temporary amnesty program run by the Department of Finance.

The amnesty program will offer 75% discounts on all unpaid code violations that were issued on or after March 7, 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported. Other unpaid city code violations would qualify for 25% discounts.

The 90-day amnesty program will go into effect later in the new fiscal year starting in July. It could also be extended for another 90 days.

“This amnesty program will give businesses a fighting chance to survive, maintain jobs and help rebuild our local economy,” Gjonai, who also serves as chairman of the committee on small businesses, said.

The second bill, sponsored by Bronx Democrat Congress MemberVanessa Gibson, will update over “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.”

Businesses that do not maintain public trash bins on sidewalk areas are likely to face a 50% penalty for a first-time offense, with a $100 fine issued on the second offense. Both fines will come from the Department of Sanitation.

This economic legislation also gives reprieves to businesses that originally faced $200 fines for exceeding a half gram of trans fats per serving and eateries that are caught selling meal packages to children that contain sugary drinks or soda.

The legislation has managed to garner support from other New York politicians including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is on record stating that he supports the bill while also noting that “too many eateries and mom-and-pop shops are struggling to survive.”

Laura Feyer, who serves as a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said he supports the legislation. “The mayor is committed to helping small businesses recover post-COVID, including reducing these fines,” Feyer said.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, called the congressional package “long overdue.”

“Amnesty and forgiveness of existing fines is very welcome, and the legislation eliminating future fines and providing warnings and opportunities to cure nuisance violations that have hurt restaurants and bars for too long is also critically important,” Rigie said.

The passing of this legislation arrives around the same time that coronavirus positivity rates have reached record lows in New York, resulting in Gov. Andrew Cuomo easing several pandemic-era rules.