The bill reduces or eliminates some fines. On June 17, 2021, the City Council voted to pass a bill that reduces fines and allows opportunities to remedy certain violations for 185 civil penalties. Int. No. 2233-A, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Gibson, provides civil penalty relief from 185 different sanitation, health, transportation, consumer affairs, noise control and buildings violations.
City agencies that regulate small businesses issue tens of thousands of violations each year. These violations can cost thousands of dollars, and small businesses struggling to recover from the pandemic-related Citywide shut down simply cannot afford the high civil penalties. As a result, City Council has passed this bill to provide small businesses with another form of relief. The bill lowers the amount small businesses have to pay for certain violations, and sets fixed dollar amounts for some penalties that previously had a range of possible fees. For example, a violation for an uncovered trash receptacle used to be a $100 for the first offense, $100-200 for the second, and $200-300 for the third offense. Now, the violation would be $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second, and $200 for the third.
In certain instances, the bill allows a cure period or eliminates the civil penalty for the first violation. For example, if a food vender previously did not have a letter grade or Grade Pending card posted, they would be fined $1,000 for their first violation. Now, food vendors have an opportunity to cure the problem on their first violation, and the second violation is a $500 fine.
The bill also repeals certain civil violations. At laundromats, failure to label handcarts and pushcarts resulted in a $375 fine for the first violation, and $450-$500 fines for future violations. The penalty is now repealed.
Council Member Vanessa Gibson stated, “Our small businesses are hurting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and are in desperate need of financial relief. Instead of imposing punitive fines on them, we must educate them about the process and provide them with the necessary support to continue to operate their business successfully. Intro. 2233 will provide much needed support for our mom and pop stores that are the lifeblood of our economy and are what make our city unique.”
Read more about the new bill here.
By: Victoria Agosta (Victoria is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2022.)