The many fines small businesses, particularly those in the food industry, face were a frequent subject of debate during former Mayor Bloomberg’s administration.
Owners complained they were being ticketed for minor infractions.
Now that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have passed legislation such as the paid sick leave bill and new letter-grading regulations, some business owners are unsure how the new rules will affect them.
For state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), there is an added layer of confusion as many business owners in his district do not speak English well or at all.
“I haven’t received too many complaints about paid sick leave but there are people who are not aware of what has changed, what has remained the same,” he said. “From time to time I still hear certain complaints and I think it’s important for local business owners to get educated.”
On Monday, Peralta invited business owners to a town hall at the Langston Hughes Library in Corona to hear from representatives of the departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Small Business Services and other city agencies in order to better inform shopkeepers of their rights and what to expect from new legislation.
“People are still confused,” Peralta said. “People have been getting fines left and right until just recently for ridiculous things.”
Translators were provided for attendees so as not to shut out the dozens of restaurateurs who do not speak or understand English.
About 30 or so business owners showed up to listen to the agencies present information that, in the past, left them baffled and sometimes resulted in major fines and low grades for their restaurants.
Rochelle Marnes, a representative from the Department of Health, delivered a presentation on the new letter-grading system.
“We have been making changes to better the grading process,” she said. “We still believe the system is an effective tool but we anticipate a 25 percent reduction in fines this year.”
The agency oversees 24,000 restaurants citywide and the letter-grading system implemented several years ago was first introduced to inform the public on the quality of the food they ingested.
“Since the system was introduced, we saw a major reduction in food-related illnesses,” Marnes said.
Many of the business owners sat quietly and attentively, listening to each speaker and nodding their heads in agreement with certain points made.
“We were in a major recession and, unfortunately, the recovery hasn’t been as robust as we would have hoped,” Peralta said to the business owners. “Under the Bloomberg administration, small businesses in the outer boroughs were treated like ATMs. De Blasio has hit the reset button on this. Small businesses are the heart and soul of the community, the heart and soul of the city, the heart and soul of the state and the heart and soul of the country. You need the government to be on your side.”