City Hall – At today’s Stated Council meeting, the Council will vote on the Business Owners’ Bill of Rights. The bill aims to fully inform business owners of all of their rights and how to exercise them during agency inspections.
Other legislation includes a bill that would create a committee to advise the Department of Parks and Recreation on whether materials are safe enough for playing fields. The Council will also vote on a resolution calling on Congress to provide seniors with a $250 Social Security stipend.
BETTER INFORMING BUSINESS OWNERS OF THEIR RIGHTS
First mentioned in the Speaker’s State of the City Address, the Business Owners’ Bill of Rights will help educate business owners on the inspection process and what their rights are. This bill is a result of the findings of the City’s Regulatory Review Panel, an effort undertaken together with the Mayor’s Office. The Panel’s members surveyed and listened to the business community in every borough to see how the City could help businesses succeed in a difficult economy.
“We are moving away from an enforcement-driven inspection process to one that is much more customer-service oriented,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “The Business Owners’ Bill of Rights is an important first step toward innovative enforcement as we work with businesses not against them. I am confident that we will make the City a more welcoming place for entrepreneurs to thrive and prosper. Making life easier for our business owners is the key to building a diverse and thriving economy.”
This bill would require that the Mayor’s Office of Operations distribute to business owners, during or following each inspection, a document informing them of their rights to:
Consistent enforcement of agency rules;
Complain about or compliment an inspector’s work to a supervisor;
Contest a violation before the appropriate tribunal;
An inspector who behaves in a professional and courteous manner;
An inspector who can answer questions or promptly make a referral; and
An inspector who is knowledgeable of rules, regulations and laws.
Additional rights will be added by the Mayor’s Office of Operations in advance of the document’s publication.
“I am proud to be the sponsor of the Business Owners’ Bill of Rights,” said Karen Koslowitz, chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee. “Small businesses are the backbone of the city’s economy. This bill will empower business owners by guaranteeing consistent enforcement of agency rules, fair inspections, and the ability to contest a violation. This bill is just the beginning of a movement, by Speaker Quinn and my Council colleagues, aimed at improving the business environment for our small merchants.”
“As a member of the Regulatory Review Panel and former Chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee, it gives me great pleasure to view firsthand how open and honest conversations between small business owners and city government can lead to significant legislation,” said Council Member Leroy Comrie, Deputy Majority Leader. “The current system of enforcement is broken. Rather than empowering business owners to follow important regulations, a culture of fear, miscommunication, and misinformation has been allowed for far too long. Through the passing of today’s legislation, we are taking a first step to ensure that business owners are better informed about inspections and will have the tools necessary to ensure that they can flourish in partnership with government.”
“The Business Owners’ Bill of Rights sends a clear signal to the small business community that the City Council is working to ease the regulatory burdens that have too often delayed the transformation of great ideas into successful businesses,” said Council Member Diana Reyna, Chair of the Small Business Committee.
ENSURING SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD PLAYING FIELDS
In an effort to ensure that all new materials will be reviewed thoroughly in the future for use, the Council will vote on a bill that will create a committee to advise on which materials are safe to install in neighborhood playgrounds and playing fields.
After the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) installed crumb rubber synthetic turf at Thomas Jefferson Field in East Harlem, the agency soon found elevated levels of lead in the field. In addition, a review found that many other fields were becoming excessively hot.
The committee, which will be comprised of nine appointed members, will give recommendations to the agency on whether it should install the proposed type of material, and may make suggestions for alternate materials. This committee will meet every six months, or every time DPR decides to install a new kind of material in its playing fields or playgrounds. The DPR Commissioner will be required to report every six months to the committee regarding any new surfacing materials that are being contemplated, and no new material can be installed without committee review. The reports of both DPR and recommendations of the committee will be available online for public viewing.
“Ever since Thomas Jefferson Field in my district was found to contain high levels of lead, I have been very concerned about the potential dangers posed by the use of synthetic turf on our athletic fields,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, Chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee. “At the same time, I do recognize that many New Yorkers value synthetic turf, since it creates more opportunities for recreation in our parks. This legislation will help ensure that the Parks Department is looking at issues of health, safety and environmental impacts when considering the introduction of new surface materials on our fields and playgrounds.”
LANDMARKING WEST PARK PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The Council will vote to designate the West Park Presbyterian Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side as a historic landmark. The West Park Presbyterian Church is one of New York City’s leading examples of Romanesque Revival style religious architecture. Located at West 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, this historic church was built with deep red sandstone and boasts broad, round-arched openings and a soaring tower.
The West Park Presbyterian Church was founded in 1852 as the 84th Street Presbyterian Church, which formerly occupied a wood chapel on 84th Street and West End Avenue. In 1882, the 84th Street Presbyterian Church purchased the site of the present church and built a small brick chapel on the eastern end of the site. In 1889, the church commissioned Henry Kilburn, the designer of many private residences in the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District, to design a large new church to accommodate the area’s growing population. The West Park Presbyterian Church, now at 263 West 86th Street, was formed in 1911 when the Park Presbyterian Church merged with the West Presbyterian Church, which was founded in 1829 in Greenwich Village and later moved to 42nd Street.
“I continue to believe that it is in the best and highest interest of the community and city, as the well as the Presbytery, to permanently protect West-Park Presbyterian Church. Protecting this structure is about saving a spiritual and everyday human landmark, maintaining the continuity of a designated Landmark District, and protecting not only irreplaceable architecture but history, heritage, community, beauty, and quality of life,” Council Member Gale Brewer said. “Most importantly, landmarking the building does not dispossess the congregation, nor does it deprive the church of its religious home or of its property.”
HELPING SENIORS WITH SOCIAL SECURITY
The Council will also be calling on the U.S. Congress to authorize at least a $250 economic stimulus payment for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients to help seniors during this economic downturn.
“Without a cost-of-living allowance, seniors’ incomes are even more fixed,” said Council Member Jessica Lappin, Chair of the Aging Committee. “The costs for health care, housing, food, and transportation are all going up. If income doesn’t keep pace, seniors are going to be facing some real problems.”
“For the federal government to deny seniors a cost-of-living increase when transit fares, bridge tolls, water bills, Con Ed rates, and prices at the supermarket are all going up, means they are truly out of touch with what’s been happening in New York,” Council Member James Vacca said. “At minimum, we should provide seniors with this small rebate during this very difficult time.”
SPURRING HOUSING DEVELOPMENT AND SAFETY
In addition, the Council will vote on a bill that will revise the Commencement of Construction standard used by the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development to determine eligibility for 421-a tax benefits or when construction benefits may be claimed. The bill will expedite the approval process for projects by removing the need to demonstrate that either plumbing plans have been approved or a plumbing permit has been issued.
“Int No. 66 seeks to correct a technicality that arose several years ago after revisions were made to 421-a that defined when a project was deemed to have commenced in order to qualify for benefits. That technicality caused a handful of developments to be deemed ineligible for the tax benefits because they missed the deadline to file their plumbing permits, which are usually applied for much later in the construction process than all other permits,” said Council Member Erik Martin Dilan, Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee. “With this revision, the plumbing requirement in 421-a is eliminated. This will allow these developments to qualify for the 421-a tax benefit and thereby positively impact the City’s quest to increase our affordable housing stock.”
COUNCIL COMBATS ASTHMA TRIGGERS
The Council will also be introducing a bill that will help identify buildings throughout the five boroughs have the greatest number of mold, rats, mice, insects, water and garbage violations – conditions that are considered triggers for pulmonary problems such as asthma. The program will be a 24-month pilot that will be implemented as a joint effort of the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“Asthma is a huge public health problem in New York City, especially in low-income neighborhoods,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez, Chair of the Public Housing Committee. “Among the most serious asthma triggers affecting city kids are indoor allergens like mold and pests in poorly maintained buildings. This administration has put considerable emphasis on public health, and now this pilot program will direct more attention to the connection between asthma and chronic health and buildings violations related to mold and pests.”