Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner sat down with leaders of the South and East Asian communities of Queens on Friday to discuss hardships faced by small businesses in the outer boroughs.
“When you run for mayor, you have an opportunity to see parts of the city that other people don’t get to see very often as a regular citizen, or even if you’re an elected official who represents a small district,” Weiner said. “You all, however, are representing a group of people of which I am very familiar with because of my service as an elected official in Brooklyn and Queens, which have a large Asian community.”
Although the former congressman has faced a lot of scrutiny, and a significant drop in the polls since a gossip website revealed he had been sending sexually suggestive photos to a woman after resigning in 2011 for the same reason, attendees were mostly pleased with the sit-down.
The topic that seemed to be on everyone’s mind was the ticketing policies of the Department of Health, which is notorious for issuing many fines for small violations.
“The letter grading system is very troubling because it’s almost a death sentence if you get a B,” Weiner said when a restaurateur asked if he would repeal the grade system for eateries. “You want to be conservative when issuing these fines and the way we do that is if we have an organization similar to the Police Department set up. You have an inspector and then a sergeant or supervisor who works a specific area who oversees what’s going on.”
Weiner said that many restaurants have to practically shut down their establishments during health inspections for fear of a low letter grade, which hinders the businesses.
“You know, every year, the mayor and the City Council shake hands and say they settled on a budget but what a lot of people don’t know is, they assume each year there will be a dramatic increase in fines,” Weiner said. “It’s become a form of taxation. We have to figure out a way to protect public health but not scare small business owners.”
The candidate made many references to his idea book “Keys to the City” that outlines his intention for the position, including the creation of a mobile ticketing office business owners could visit to question fines they feel have been wrongfully placed on their establishments.
“We can’t expect a small business with a handful of employees to take the time out of their day to meet with the inspectors over a ticket,” Weiner said. “But if we have conveniently located offices that owners can get to, it can help the process and improve relationships between the businesses and the agencies.”
There were 21 community leaders seated around Weiner, who specifically requested to sit at the middle of the table so he could hear everybody, in Tandoor, an Indian restaurant at 95-24 Queens Blvd. in Rego Park. Afterwards, many of them shook the candidate’s hand and took photos with him.