The New York City Council Committee on Small Business held a public hearing on a proposed digital portal to centralize the information and paperwork necessary to open and run a small business. On June 9, 2022, the New York City Council’s Committee on Small Business held a public hearing on a proposed bill that would require the City to create and maintain the, “One-Stop Shop NYC Business Portal.” The Portal would be an on-line hub for information and functionality related to opening and running a small business. It is meant to make the process more efficient by allowing business owners to deal with all the necessary city agencies in a single, easily-accessible space.
The proposal was sponsored by committee-chair, Council Member Julie Menin, whose district covers the upper east side of Manhattan including Roosevelt Island and parts of East Harlem. Menin previously served as, Commissioner for the Department of Consumer Affairs. The bill was first introduced in March.
The bill would amend the administrative code and lays out specific requirements for how the Portal would work. It mandates that the Portal be useable through both computer and mobile app, include all necessary applications, permits, and licenses, and that users be able to file all paperwork, and monitor the application’s progress toward approval, on the Portal itself. The bill also requires the city to do an initial review of the process of starting a new business, with an eye toward making it more efficient through use of the Portal, and that the review be repeated yearly.
Comments during the hearing were overwhelmingly supportive. Representatives of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, the NYC BID Association, the New York State Restaurant Association, the Real Estate Board of New York, and Brooklyn and Manhattan Chambers of Commerce all voiced support. Jessica Walker, President of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce said, “We absolutely support Council Member Menin’s One-Stop Bill. It is vital, creating a friendly environment for entrepreneurs.”
There were also consistent concerns. The most often repeated concern was that the Portal should not perpetuate the digital divide, disadvantaging those with inconsistent internet access, often including low-income, immigrant, and non-English speaking communities. This was first mentioned by Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, representing parts of Queens including Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens, Rosedale, and Far Rockaway.
Tian Weinberg, Chief of Staff at the Department of Small Business Services, said that outreach, done in conjunction with community-based organizations, would be key to the Portal’s implementation. Michelle Shang, of the Asian American Federation, and Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, of the Street Vendor Project, both emphasized the importance of Small Business Services maintaining one-on-one, live assistance and training in use of the Portal.
Language accessibility was the second most-often mentioned concern. This was brought up in testimony from Ms. Shang, Ms. Kaufman-Gutierrez, as well as from Emily Goldstein of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, and Laura Sewell of the East Village Community Coalition, Inc. Comments emphasized the importance of the Portal using high-quality translation, in contrast to many of the City’s websites, and that the Portal be available in more languages than the 10 currently required by law.
Other suggestions were that the Portal also include information on commercial compliance and violations; a list of vendors licensed by the city, like plumbers, sign-hangers, and electricians, that new businesses could work with; and that street vendors and their needs be covered by the Portal.
By: Christopher Kipiniak (Christopher is a CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)
CC: Committee on Small Business (Int. 0116-2022. 6/9/22).