BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Wasting no time making it clear that helping pandemic-battered, mom-and-pop shops is part of his agenda, Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday signed an executive order to reform small business violations.
Called “Small Business Forward,” the reforms will reduce fine schedules and allow for warnings for first-time violations, ensuring that local businesses face fewer needless fines and penalties.
Affecting multiple agencies, the exectuive order calls on the Department of Buildings, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Sanitation, Fire Department, Department of Consumer and Worker Protection and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to review business regulations with the goal of reducing fine schedules and allowing for cure periods or warnings for first-time violations.
“Our small businesses have been through so much during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Adams said. “The last thing they need to deal with is unnecessary fines. We’re cutting the red tape and bringing real relief to the entrepreneurs who have made their dreams a reality and keep our local economy strong.”
“Under Mayor Adams’s leadership, we’re going to drive real change that cuts red tape and allows small businesses across the five boroughs to power our economic recovery,” said Maria Torres-Springer, deputy mayor for Economic and Workforce Development. “I look forward to working with my colleagues across government to deliver on this mayoral priority.”
(Side note: Torres-Springer is the wife of Jamie Torres-Springer, who in November stepped down as commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction, the agency that is clear-cutting East River Park for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project.)
“With this executive order, New York City is being decisive and focusing on what municipal government can do right now to help our small businesses,” said Kevin Kim, the new commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services. “Ultimately, this E.O. will save small businesses millions of dollars and countless hours of dealing with red tape and bureaucracy. Thank you to Mayor Adams for making small businesses a top priority from day one.”
“My in-laws have been small business owners in New York City for 50 years, surviving recessions, hurricanes, blackouts, 9/11 and now a pandemic,” said Joanne Kwong, president and second-generation owner of Pearl River Mart, the longtime Asian American emporium in Soho, now at 452 Broadway. “For those of us still standing, we’ve made it through the worst but still need support and partnership from government to recover. We are incredibly heartened by Mayor Adams’s commitment to small business and feel hopeful for a new year, new mayoralty, and reenergized New York City.”
“Mayor Adams understands that excessive fines are undermining our economic recovery and crushing the optimism of small business owners who have already been through so much,” said Jessica Walker, president and C.E.O. of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “By signing this Week One he is sending a strong message that New York City has their back once again.”
Under the executive order, within three months, each agency will identify the 25 violations responsible for the most summonses and fines issued to small businesses. The agencies will then submit recommendations for reforms, including either eliminating the violations, scaling back fine schedules, allowing first-time warnings, or allowing for a cure period for first-time violations. If no reform is recommended, an explanation must be given for why the status quo should be maintained — such as health or safety risk.
Fellow politicians in droves also hailed the news.
“Small businesses are the cornerstone of what makes New York City unique, and they bore the brunt of the COVID-19 economic crisis,” said Congressmember Carolyn Maloney. “I applaud Mayor Adams for swiftly moving forward with today’s action to ensure these businesses are not burdened with unnecessary fines. Small businesses are a core part of the cultural and economic fabric of our city, and we must do all we can to ensure these businesses survive and thrive coming out of the pandemic.”
“As any New Yorker can tell from the skyrocketing number of storefront vacancies, small businesses have been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic,” state Senator Brad Hoylman said. “Every week, I’m contacted by business owners worried they won’t survive the next COVID-19 wave. As one of his first moves in office, I greatly appreciate Mayor Adams taking action to reform how the city issues fines to help right-size the regulations for small businesses.”
“Small businesses continue to suffer the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many employing only a skeleton staff and benefiting from limited foot traffic as they seek to recover,” state Senator Brian Kavanaugh said. “This review serves as a welcome sign that the city intends to avoid placing undue burdens on small businesses at this critical time. I look forward to working with the mayor and my colleagues in state and city government to do everything we can to help our small business community to thrive.”
“I commend Mayor Adams on taking immediate action to help small businesses,” Councilmember Chris Marte said. “Many of our shops and restaurants here in Lower Manhattan are immigrant-run, intergenerational and sometimes operated by non-English speakers, who can unknowingly be out of compliance with our complicated permitting systems, either due to language barriers or inaccessible information. I fully support warnings for first-time violations, and more proactive instead of punitive outreach to small businesses. This is a great step to supporting the shops that make our city run.”
“Small businesses are the backbone of our city,” Councilmember Gale Brewer said. “Of the 200,000 businesses, 98 percent have fewer than 100 employees and 89 percent have less than 20 employees. Many are storefronters, a group I have advocated for over decades. … In addition, we need a Public Realm Czar to support these businesses in their outdoor spaces. Congratulations to the Adams administration for focusing on these important issues!”
“I applaud Mayor Adams’s swift action to relieve the unnecessary burdens on our small businesses,” said Queens Assemblymember Jennifer Rajkumar, who was formerly a Downtown Manhattan Democratic district leader. “Now is not the time to soak them with unnecessary fines. Every day I meet inspiring small business owners who embody the American Dream with their entrepreneurial spirit. By cutting through the bureaucratic red tape for these businesses, Mayor Adams once again shows that under his strong leadership, New York is back.”
Other elected officials praising the reforms included Comptroller Brad Lander, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso.