Comprehensive legislation will eliminate unnecessary obstacles that hinder business growth

Council will vote to approve the Pier 57 redevelopment plan on Manhattan’s west side
New York, NY- Today, the City Council will vote to ease the regulatory burdens on the city’s small businesses. The bills to be voted on are a result of the Regulatory Review Panel – a joint effort by the Mayor and the Council – to scrutinize City regulations, make recommendations for reform and eliminate unnecessary obstacles that hinder business growth.

In an ongoing effort to make New York greener, the Council will vote on a bill to study the feasibility of developing geothermal energy resources in the city.

The Council will also vote to approve the Pier 57 redevelopment proposal – transforming an unused waterfront space into an innovative hub of cultural, recreational and public market activities.

Additionally, the Council will vote on a Resolution calling on the United States Congress to pass, and President Obama to sign, a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013.

Improving Regulatory Climate for Small Businesses

This legislative package furthers the initial 14 measures based on the Regulatory Review Panel’s April 2010 recommendations. Today, the Council will vote to put the Panel’s recommendations into action.

The first bill would require a review by the Departments of Buildings (DOB), Consumer Affairs (DCA), Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), Environmental Protection (DEP), Sanitation (DSNY), Transportation (DOT) and the Bureau of Fire Prevention of the Fire Department (FDNY) to review the rules and laws they enforce for which a fine may be issued. After this assessment, the agencies must recommend which rules and laws should be changed to include a cure period, warning or other opportunity to fix the problem before the imposition of a fine.

“Given the complexity of regulations facing small business owners, it’s no surprise that thorough inspectors can often find technical violations at a business run by even the most scrupulous owner,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “When steep fines are levied for non-dangerous violations against business owners attempting in good faith to comply with the law, it undermines the fairness of our regulatory system. Fines should be avoidable with reasonable efforts – not ‘a cost of doing business.’ This legislation is a step towards restoring faith in the system by making sure fines are a last resort. It’s not fair to slap someone with a fine when a warning would do.”

Minority Leader James Oddo said, “Some people talk about helping small businesses. We are once again acting to help them. This package of bills moves us closer to the small business friendly city we all want.”
“As we look to ensure that New York’s economy continues to grow, the relationship the city has with its entrepreneurs will be increasingly important. The new liaisons to local chambers of commerce and other industry groups, will help keep the lines of communication open, enabling city agencies to become more responsive to their questions and concerns,” said Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie. “This package of legislation will help enhance the relationship between the city and small businesses, while simultaneously easing fines and streamlining the regulatory process. I would like to thank Speaker Christine C. Quinn and my colleagues in the Council for sponsoring and supporting these bills.”

“Intro 949-A emphasizes compliance through education, transparency and outreach not punitive measures. It is what the small business community needs and it is what New Yorkers at large need,” said Council Member Diana Reyna.

The Council will also consider a bill that requires the Mayor’s Office of Operations to develop a standardized customer service training curriculum for inspectors within DOB, DCA, DOHMH, DEP, DSNY and the Bureau of Fire Prevention in the FDNY. The program must include information on assisting non-English speaking business owners.

Small business owners have an obligation to abide by the rules and to operate safely, legitimately and fairly. Inspectors have an obligation to ensure that these rules are being followed. However, inspectors must provide a service that is respectful and understanding of non-English speakers. The training required by this bill seeks to achieve these goals.

Another concern often expressed by business owners is that they do not know who to contact in City government when problems arise, often leading to confusion and frustration.

To this end, the Council will vote on a bill that requires the Chief Business Operations Officer in the Office of the Mayor to ensure that the DOB, DCA, DOHMH, DEP, DSNY and the Bureau of Fire Protections of the FDNY each designate an employee to serve as a liaison to the agency’s regulated community, and that each liaison meet regularly with the members of that community. The liaisons will be independent of the agencies, reporting directly to the Office of the Mayor.

This legislation gives businesses added support when navigating City government so that hopefully, concerns can be addressed more quickly and efficiently.

Finally, the Council will vote on a bill to amend Local Law 18 of 2010 that requires the publication of a Business Owner’s Bill of Rights. Under the bill, a physical copy of the document must be distributed at all non-undercover inspections, which was not previously required. This bill aims to ensure that small businesses are getting as much use out of the Business Owner’s Bill of Rights as possible.

“The ‘Business Owners Bill of Rights’ is an integral piece to help business owners understand their full rights during an inspection process. By now making it compulsory for inspectors to hand out a copy of the Business Owners Bill of Rights, at the time of their visit, will ensure that businesses are well informed on what to expect before, during and after an inspection by city agencies,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz.

Pier 57

The Council will vote to approve the Pier 57 redevelopment proposal. Specifically, this project includes a 170,000 square-foot marketplace which will be housed, in-part, in recycled and creatively refitted shipping containers.

This market will be New York’s first large-scale concentration of year-round, affordable work/sell space for local start-ups and micro-businesses in creative industries spanning retail, media, art, fashion and food. The project will also create acres of new open space for the public on the Pier 57 rooftop and along the Hudson River waterfront.

In addition to housing new restaurants and shops, the Tribeca Film Festival will establish a permanent outdoor venue on the roof of the pier, offering a mix of film, music and arts-based programming.

The plan also calls for education and community uses, including cooking schools, art gallery space, lecture halls, music recording studios, photography labs and other forms of cultural incubation.

Seasonal docks will also be provided off the pier for kayaks, canoes and other small craft.

“The pier 57 redevelopment plan is a major victory for Manhattan’s west side community,” said Speaker Quinn. “This project ensures the Hudson River Park Trust will soon see a new, sorely needed source of revenue, which will be used to help improve and maintain the entire park. I want to thank the Hudson River Park Trust and Young Woo & Associates for engaging and working with the community and all stakeholders so that the final proposal best fits the needs of the community.”

Studying the Feasibility of Developing Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is the earth’s natural heat energy. By utilizing heat pumps and other technologies, the heat differential between the Earth’s crust and the surface can be utilized to heat buildings in the winter, cool them in the summer and generate hot water year-round.

With the right technology, geothermal energy is available almost everywhere, and is an efficient source of renewable energy. Wider implementation of this technology could help reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to meet the requirements of the New York City Climate Protection Act.

Today, the Council will vote on a bill to require the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability to study the feasibility of developing geothermal energy resources in the city. This study would include a map that visually estimates areas of the city that may be appropriate for geothermal energy.

It would also examine the possibility of installations in existing buildings, the feasibility of shared geothermal systems for clusters of buildings and would make recommendations to promote the use of these systems.

“New Yorkers may not realize that there is an unlimited supply of clean, renewable energy right underneath their feet. Geothermal energy involves harnessing the power of the sun’s rays stored in the upper levels of the Earth’s crust. This bill clears the way for a comprehensive study into unlocking this enormous energy potential for homes and businesses throughout our city,” said Council Member James F. Gennaro. “Already there are local ‘green’ businesses ready to reap the economic benefits of geothermal energy. I want to thank Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg for their unwavering support in building a sustainable future for all New Yorkers.”

New York City Housing Authority Resolution

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has announced plans to lease land on the grounds of its housing developments to private developers. This plan will have a significant impact on the developments targeted and on residents as well as on the larger community that must also be included in the decision-making process.

The Resolution calls on NYCHA to engage its residents, increase the percentage of affordable units and delay the release of the RFP until progress is made on these and other important principles.

“Passage of this resolution sends a strong and unwavering signal to NYCHA that they must do substantially better in terms of meaningfully addressing the concerns of residents throughout the Infill process. We strongly urge NYCHA to opt into the ULURP process, take actions that will allow residents to have the benefit of ‘technical advisory teams,’ mandate preponderant and permanent affordability at all prospective Infill sites and delay the issuance of any RFP’s until such time that feedback from residents has been incorporated into the Infill plan. Only through these actions can NYCHA demonstrate that the voices and priorities of residents are of the utmost importance and will be heard,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez.

Resolution Calling for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2013

This resolution describes the challenges that undocumented immigrants face, and the ways in which passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill could address those challenges.

A truly comprehensive immigration reform bill should, at a minimum, seek to provide a pathway to citizenship, increase access to higher education for immigrant youth, provide protections for immigrant workers, deter businesses from violating labor laws, support family unity and increase the level of discretion afforded to immigration judges.

“It is vital to the future of our country that we pass comprehensive immigration reform immediately,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “It is also important to note that comprehensive immigration reform is not truly comprehensive without the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families. Now is the time to seize justice for the almost 12 million undocumented people living in the United States. I thank Speaker Quinn for her steadfast support of this issue and look forward to the passage of this resolution in the Council.”