Legislation will ensure that the system is fair, consistent, transparent and accountable

Council will also vote on several land use proposals, including those in Willets Point, the Upper East Side and Long Island City

New York, NY- Today, the City Council will vote on a legislative package to reform the City’s restaurant inspection system. Despite its good intentions, the grading system has become overly punitive and has increased the regulatory and financial burdens on restaurants. The five bills the Council will consider today will continue to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers, and will help foster an environment where restaurants may succeed.

Additionally, the Council will also vote to increase the frequency of Staten Island Ferry Service.

The Council will also consider several land use proposals including the Special Willets Point District in Queens, the expansion of Memorial Sloan Kettering and CUNY on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and a mixed use development in Long Island City known as “Five Pointz.”

Restaurant Inspection System and Letter Grading Reforms

The Council will vote on five bills to improve the lines of communication between the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and restaurant owners and operators, and increase the quality of information provided to restaurant owners and operators. This will help make the system less adversarial and more cooperative and educational. The legislation will also improve both the oversight and the performance of the restaurant inspection system by developing better performance indicators.

“Everyone has a favorite restaurant in a neighborhood that wouldn’t be the same without it. Restaurants bring family, friends and communities together. They’re also vital to the city’s economy. But for years now, many restaurant owners have felt under siege by a system that has become increasingly taxing, mounting both financial and regulatory burdens,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “This sensible legislation will improve the lives of struggling restaurant owners – as well as those of their employees and families – while protecting the public’s health. Any proposal that accomplishes all of this deserves an A in my book.”

Ombuds Office (Int. 1129-A)

DOHMH would establish an office, with a hotline and website, to field complaints, compliments, and comments about individual restaurant inspection issues and the program in general. The office would be charged with a number of responsibilities, including investigating inspection-related complaints, issuing guidance to restaurant operators, monitoring inspection results and making recommendations to the Health Commissioner regarding improvements to the process.

“This package of legislation, along with the agreement reached with the Administration to reduce fines, will provide much needed relief for restaurant owners across the City, and will go a long way to ensuring that our letter grading system is reasonable, fair and predictable,” said Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo. “The creation of an ombuds office will help centralize the feedback received regarding the inspection of restaurants.”

Inspection Code of Conduct (Int. 1132-A)

DOHMH would create a code of conduct pamphlet so that restaurant owners and operators know what to expect during an inspection. Inspectors would distribute the code of conduct immediately prior to the beginning of an initial inspection, and it would also be available on DOHMH’s website.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. In order to help these businesses grow and succeed, health inspectors must work with restaurants owners rather than attempt to catch them off guard and penalize them,” said Council Member Vincent J. Gentile. “My bill develops an inspection code of conduct pamphlet based on standards that exist in the restaurant inspection process. As inspectors will be required to distribute the pamphlet to all restaurant owners and operators prior to an inspection, this bill ensures that everyone is aware of how inspections ought to proceed and no one is caught off guard.”

Advisory Board (Int.1134-A)

DOHMH would create a 20 member advisory board to advise DOHMH on the effect of the inspection program on restaurants, food safety and public health. The board members would include a mix of restaurant owners, industry representatives, food safety experts and nutritionists to be appointed by the Mayor and by the Speaker as well as by the Health Commissioner, who would serve ex-officio.

“I am excited for today’s vote and hope that my colleagues will realize the benefits of Intro 1134-A. Intro 1134-A will allow for the DOHMH to remain up to date on inspection processes, improve the inspection system wherever possible, and ensure the highest level of food safety and good public health. Furthermore, the oversight provided by an advisory board would be beneficial not only for inspectors, but also restaurant owners, stake-holders, and consumers at large,” said Council Member Peter Koo.

Data Reporting (Int. 1141-A)

DOHMH would add to the categories of information currently provided to the public through OpenData. Specifically, DOHMH would make public for each inspection: the type of inspection (initial, compliance, pre-permit, re-inspection, etc.); each violation cited and corresponding points given; the total score awarded; the date of adjudication, if any; and the amount of any fine assessed.

“Faced with a hyper-competitive market, restaurants are often the “canary in the coal mine” when a regulatory environment becomes over burdensome,” said Council Member Diana Reyna. “With Intro. 1141-A, we will be able to provide restaurant owners and advocates a detailed record of when, where, what, and how city inspectors are regulating restaurants and we will be able to track any progress we make in terms of lessening the burden that small businesses face.”

Consultative Inspection Program (Intro 1146-A)

DOHMH would establish a program where all restaurants would be able to request an optional, ungraded consultative inspection for educational purposes only. Under this program, consultative inspections would not result in fines or violations, although DOHMH would retain its right require a restaurant to immediately remedy a public health hazard.

Inspectors would review the results of the consultative inspection and advise the owner or operator of any potential violations and how to correct those violations. A special feature of the program would allow new restaurants to request a consultative inspection to be conducted in advance of their (first) initial inspection.

“No longer will New York City’s restaurateurs be caught by surprise and vilified for minor infractions they did not know would have serious consequences for their establishment’s bottom line,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Through the implementation of my legislation we will give small business owners the opportunity to request a consultative and ungraded restaurant inspection that will guide them through the agency’s process. This will not only make the inspection process more transparent and inclusive it will also save small businesses millions of dollars in hard earned revenue. I am proud to have drafted legislation that protects our small businesses. We must continue to foster an environment that allows our City’s local economies to thrive, and this legislation does just that.”

Special Willets Point District Text Amendment

The Council will vote to approve a special permit necessary to developing the Willets Point site in Queens pursuant to the approved 2008 Willets Point Development Plan. The Council has secured several major agreements with both the Bloomberg Administration and the developer which will result in:

Affordable Housing
o The developer has agreed to construct 872 new affordable housing units, or 35 percent of the total residential units constructed as part of the project. Additionally, the Administration has agreed to release a Request For Proposals for two lots in Queens to construct additional affordable housing.

Funding For Flushing Meadows Corona Park
o The developer has agreed to provide $15.5 million in funding to a new non-profit alliance, The Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance, for much needed improvements and upkeep to the park.

Creation of Construction and Retail Jobs
o This project will result in the creation of hundreds of new construction and retail jobs. To ensure local hiring is made a priority, the developer has also agreed to partner with Make the Road for job training, the Building Trades Union for an apprenticeship program and has agreed to 25 percent Minority and Women Owned Businesses/Enterprises and local contracting on the site and will provide $930,000 to strengthen the ability of MWBEs to compete for contracts. The developer has also agreed to pay prevailing wage to contractors, building service workers and security guards, supermarket employees, hotel workers and hire workers that come out of the new apprenticeship program.

Additional Funding for Business Relocation
o The Administration will pay $15.5 million for the relocation, moving expenses and support for Willet’s Point businesses, including those businesses that want to move altogether. The City will also assist relocated businesses with marketing in their new location and job skill training for Willets Point workers.

Community Space
o As part of the project, the developer has agreed to work with the School Construction Authority to construct a new 1,000 seat public K-8 school as well provide space for other community facilities for community groups, a library, a day care and a public plaza in front of the mall.

Environmental Remediation
o The developer and Administration have agreed to clean 23 acres of soil on the site. The agreement stipulates that no building may occur until the remediation of the site is completed. The city has already committed $40 million to the project and the developer has agreed to pay at least $55 million. Additionally, the developer will pay 2.68 million to construct a Rooftop Farm/Greenhouse on top of Willets West Mall.

“This deal was years in the making,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras. “After many long years of reviewing this proposal and taking my district’s needs into account, I am confident that this development will be a win for my constituents, a win for Willets Point, and a win for the great City of New York. For the first time in history, the 21st Council District will finally have affordable housing, and in addition, all the other community benefits made possible through the agreement between the Administration and developers will undoubtedly have major positive impact for my constituents.”

“Today, the Land Use Committee of the City Council voted in favor of the Willets Point project, helping to ensure that a long blighted area will now be a place of interest. With this rezoning, there will be affordable housing, a school, new open spaces, a sustainable farm with opportunities for local vendors, and retail development. This project will provide construction and permanent jobs for Queens residents,” said Council Member Leroy Comrie, Chair of the Land Use Committee. “For decades, Willets Point served as an ash dump for the City, and, now, as a collection of automobile service shops. During this time, the City failed to create the proper infrastructure for this industrial zone, and missed many opportunities to bring resources to the community. Now we have a real opportunity to remove the blight and ensure it is a place for families to enjoy living and shopping. Additionally, the City will work directly with the businesses currently at Willets Point, providing direct funds to help them relocate and provide job training opportunities, so that the residents of Queens can still take advantage of their services. I want to thank Council Member’s Julissa Ferreras and Peter Koo for their work and leadership on this project.”

Memorial Sloan Kettering / CUNY Expansion

The Council will also approve the development of a new, state-of-the-art healthcare facility and nursing school in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. CUNY and Sloan Kettering were selected in 2012 after the city issued an RFP to purchase the city owned land on the condition that it be used for the expansion or creation of a healthcare, education or scientific research facility. The building, which is within walking distance of the main Memorial Sloan-Kettering campus, will include state-of-the-art outpatient bone marrow transplantation and other services.

Additionally, CUNY Hunter College will build an up to 336,000-square-foot Science and Health Professions building to upgrade its science and nursing facilities and enabling its faculty, researchers and students to benefit from close proximity to its main campus on the Upper East Side as well as from the neighborhood’s world-renowned medical and research institutions.
Additionally, as a result of this project, over $25 million will be invested in the Andrew Haswell Green Park on the East River Esplanade just north of the Ed Koch Bridge in Manhattan. The City has also committed to doing a traffic study for the York Avenue corridor community.

22-44 Jackson Avenue (5Pointz)

The Council will approve a special permit to allow a mixed used development on privately owned land in Long Island City known as “5Pointz”. The project will result in the construction of two new towers that will include 1,000 new housing units, 20 percent of which will be affordable, and space for retail and art studios. The Council has also secured agreements with the developer that ensures there will be approximately 32,100 square feet of public open space and the installation of art panels along Davis Street.

Increasing Staten Island Ferry Service

The Staten Island Ferry is a critical link for all Staten Island residents and businesses. The Ferry is the sole way for Staten Islanders to reach other boroughs without driving a car – making it a more ecofriendly option – and paying a toll.

At various times, including after 7:00 p.m. on weekends from Staten Island and 7:30 p.m. on weekends from Manhattan, the Ferry only runs hourly, and commuters have expressed a need and a desire for more frequent service. To this end, the Council will vote on legislation today to require that Staten Island Ferry service increase to every 30 minutes, in both directions, from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. on weekend nights. This change would become effective in six months, unless the Department of Transportation (DOT) determines that staffing levels do not permit such an increase in service. However, DOT would have to implement the increased service within 18 months of the bill’s enactment, regardless.

The legislation would also require that Staten Island Ferry service be at least as frequent as every 30 minutes at all times as of May 1, 2015, unless the DOT, in consultation with the Mayor’s office, determines that this additional service is not economically feasible. If there is such a determination, DOT will have to submit a report on the issue to the Mayor, Council Speaker and Manhattan and Staten Island Borough Presidents, and revisit the economic feasibility every two years.

Council Member James Oddo said, “Enacting this bill will be remembered as an important moment that helped contribute to the shaping of Staten Island’s future. On behalf of the residents of Staten Island, I’d like to thank Speaker Quinn for this day. For far too long Staten Islanders have been on a sort of city-enforced curfew, as they planned their forays into Manhattan around the unforgiving Ferry schedule. Once fully implemented this bill modernize the Ferry schedule, giving Staten Islanders better and more regular public transportation access to the other boroughs. Whether you are a person who works overnights or someone who wants to go to dinner and a Broadway show, you will benefit from this bill.”

“I am thrilled that this long-awaited bill is coming to a vote by the city council and I want to thank the Speaker and my Staten Island delegation colleagues for their work on and support of this important legislation. Int. 1049-A is about basic fairness – waiting an hour or more for the ferry at night and on weekends is an unacceptable situation which is not tolerated in any other borough. Now Staten Island commuters and the many tourists who take the ferry can be assured that they will have reasonable access to this important and vital transportation resource. This bill is a victory for all Staten Islanders,” said Council Member Debi Rose.

Sandy Relief Resolution

The Council will vote on a resolution that would allow New York City to waive certain state imposed fees for pulling documents, such as deeds or other property records, from the county clerk’s office in support of applications for Sandy-related Small Business Administration benefits

On September 27th, the Governor signed into law a bill that authorizes New York City to waive these fees. In an effort to provide additional relief to the real property owner suffering from the devastation incurred from Hurricane Sandy, this resolution would exempt property owners from the state portion of the required filing fees, as well as authorize the county clerk to issue refunds to property owners that have already paid the filing fees.