Also approves major expansion of Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus
City Hall – At today’s Stated Council Meeting, the City Council voted on two pieces of legislation that will make life easier for small businesses. The first of two bills announced in the Speaker’s State of the City Speech will establish a three month penalty forgiveness period for businesses and individuals with outstanding violations. The second piece of legislation will establish a task force to examine unnecessary regulations.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our City’s economy,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “As we look to help these businesses through the recession, our first priority must be to ease their financial and regulatory burdens, so they can thrive and prosper. These initiatives represent just two ways the Council is looking to help businesses from Steinway Street to Hylan Boulevard.”
Other legislative items include:
Omnibus street renaming package for 35 thoroughfares and public places throughout the City
Resolution urging Congress to pass the Community Choice Act
Resolution urging the State to repeal the mandated policy of charging rent at the City’s homeless shelters
The Council will also vote to approve the Fordham University Expansion plan.
The Council is voting to establish a three month penalty forgiveness period for businesses and individuals with outstanding violations returnable to the Environmental Control Board – which make up the vast majority of non-parking fines on businesses. Right now the City is owed approximately $200 million in such unpaid fines, plus another $518 million in default judgments and interest.
Businesses and individuals will have a chance to pay their initial violation fine, and have all default penalties and interest waived. The penalty forgiveness period will take place in the fall. Businesses and individuals will be required to correct any underlying problem in order to qualify.
“In this tough economic climate it is imperative that we do all we can to assist small businesses,” said Council Member Helen Sears, Chairperson of the Committee on Government Operations. “This legislation will modernize the City’s regulatory code and help keep small businesses afloat. Sensible legislation is the backbone of good governing, and these bills are a win for everyone.”
ELIMINATING UNNECCESARY REGULATION
The many laws and rules the city imposes on small businesses can be another major obstacle to business growth. The Council is voting today on a bill to create a Regulatory Review Panel, made up of Council Members, representatives of the Mayor’s office, and the Commissioners of City Agencies like Consumer Affairs and Small Business Services.
The panel will be charged with examining agency rules and regulations that affect the business community, and looking for those that may be outdated, or unnecessarily interfere with business operations. They will also evaluate the rulemaking process at City agencies. By December 31st, the panel will have developed a report on its initial findings and recommendations, to be presented to the Mayor and Speaker.
“Normally when government assembles panels and task forces it results in more government,” said Minority Leader James Oddo. “This panel is unique in that it will strive to limit bureaucracy, get government out of the way of small business, diversify the city’s economy, and fully unleash our private sector’s full potential.”
FORDHAM UNIVERSITY EXPANSION PLAN
The Council will vote today to approve Fordham University’s plan to expand its campus at Lincoln Center. The university has worked extensively with the community to ensure that its plans for the high-rise campus would be more open and accessible to the general public and neighborhood residents, and would offer the community a way to benefit from the proximity of a world-class university. The project will include a 3500 square foot open space accessible to the public and capable of supporting commercial business. The university will work with the community to ensure that businesses selected for the site are locally owned “mom and pops.” All construction will meet LEEDS standards.
“Much has been achieved to date by working in an atmosphere of good will and serious reflection,” said Council Member Gale Brewer. “With the agreements reached on June 10, I believe that we have improved the quality of Fordham’s plans for an enlarged campus at Lincoln Center, and I look forward to continuing work on the tasks ahead.”
RECONGIZING MUSLIM HOLIDAYS IN CITY SCHOOLS
The Council will also vote to urge the City’s Department of Education and the State Government to recognize the Muslim holidays of Eid Ul-Fitr and Eid Ul-Adha. City schools currently observe holidays from different religious denominations. However, to date no Muslim holidays are recognized. The Muslim community is a rapidly growing population in the City, accounting for over 10% of kids in the New York City pubic school system.
“As a Muslim myself, I know what it is like to have to choose between school and faith—and no parent should have to make that choice for their children. Our public schools have long served as not only institutions of learning, but as gateways to the cultural melting pot that is New York City,” said Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson. “Today the Council urges the Department of Education to provide fairness for Muslim students by recognizing two significant days of worship.”
URGING CONGRESS TO PASS THE COMMUNITY CHOICE ACT
The Community Choice Act (H.R.1670/S.683) would amend the Social Security Act to provide individuals with disabilities and older Americans with equal access to home care as an alternative to nursing home care. Presently, hundreds of thousands of individuals with disabilities and older Americans who would prefer to receive care in more integrated settings are currently relegated to living in institutions. The Community Choice Act would allow individuals eligible for Nursing Facility Services or Intermediate Care Facility Services for the Mentally Retarded (ICF-MR) the opportunity to choose a new alternative, “Community-based Attendant Services and Supports.”
“It is important to provide seniors and individuals with disabilities with the most convenient and effective care for their special situation,” said Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo. “By offering home care as an alternative to nursing home care, the Community Choice Act will rectify the inflexible and unjust situation that has affected some of our most vulnerable residents.”
“Our current system is not neutral, and it does not reflect people’s choices,” said Council Member Michael Nelson. “When it came to my attention that there is a bill before the United States Senate and House of Representatives that has the potential to drastically change the current broken institution of nursing home services I felt that it was most important that New York City lend its support to this measure.”
URGING STATE TO STOP CHARGING RENT TO HOMELESS FAMILIES
The Council will vote on a resolution that calls on the state legislature to end the mandated City policy of charging rent to homeless families. In May, it was revealed that the Department of Homeless Services had implemented a state mandated policy to collect rent from homeless families living in shelters. When the policy was implemented many homeless families were forced to pay more than 50% of their income to stay in shelters. Families who failed to pay rent faced serious consequences including being ejected from shelters and as a result having their children put in foster care.
“We will never solve homelessness by punishing the homeless. Forcing people in shelters to pay rent will split up families and put more New Yorkers on the street. Today I am proud the Council is passing a resolution in support of state legislation that would eliminate this backwards policy for good,” said Chair of the General Welfare Committee Bill de Blasio.
STREET CO-NAMING LEGISLATION
Together in an omnibus bill, the members of the City Council will vote to co-name 35 thoroughfares and public places throughout the City. Included in the omnibus bill are streets co-named after Firefighter Robert Beddia, who perished during a tragic fire at the Deutsche Bank Building, and boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson. Further information regarding each of the 35 street co-namings can be found at: http://council.nyc.gov/downloads/pdf/summer_2009_street_renaming.pdf