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Stringer talks to small business owners in Brooklyn

October 19, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer joined moderators Michael Lambert, executive director of the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID, and Jessica Lappin, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, during the Red Tape Commission Brooklyn Business Hearing that was held at Brooklyn Law School on Friday. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and other business leaders tackled the concerns of small business owners in Brooklyn, an outdated 311 system, sanitation, parking and other concerns for two hours at a hearing of the Red Tape Commission that Stringer helped assemble at Brooklyn Law School on Friday.

“This commission is not about window dressing, it’s not about checking off a box,” Stringer said. “We are here to listen to business leaders to identify roadblocks that prevent growth of business here in New York City. We’re going to attack red tape by government agencies by learning what you are saying and putting our agenda together.”

The hearing drew business owners from across the borough. Commission members and the nearly 100 attendees engaged in discussion about issues they face that hold back their businesses. Stringer wanted to hear from business owners to see what the government can do to foster growth and encourage entrepreneurship by cutting back on bureaucracy.

“When 311 was established it was pretty novel and the first of its kind,” Stringer said. It changed the way we dealt with complaints. I just wonder, has 311 kept up with technology, with challenges 10 years later? Technology has changed, issues have changed and 311 has really been locked in place.”

Many in the audience agreed with the idea that 311 needed updating and explained their frustrations.

“As a business owner, 311 can really work against you,” said Jonathan Butler, founder of Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg. “We have one person on the block where my bar is who has taken a special dislike against us [and] who has single handedly lodged hundreds of complaints. As a small business you have no way to defend yourself, and they can bring every agency to your doorstep with no downside or accountability.”

The commission continued to take testimonials from other business owners. The panel of 11 business leaders, regulatory experts and advocates from around the city weighed in on some issues while others were simply noted to be addressed at a later time.

There was no shortage of issues. Aside from 311, business owners complained about garbage pickups, parking and unlicensed street vendors. A few people raised the issue of office space: one complaint said that Downtown Brooklyn is running out of offices and another asked about the possibilities of creating more office spaces for people who otherwise work from home.

“The purpose of the Red Tape Commission is not to take testimony for testimony’s sake,” Stringer said. “We’re going to distill what you are saying, match your issues with city agencies. We want to help create an agenda to help breakdown some of this bureaucracy. My pledge to all of you is that we’re going to work collaboratively with the mayor, with the borough president and we’re going to be partners with all of you.”

Any small business owners who could not attend the meeting are encouraged to submit their story about red tape and to complete a survey online at www.comptroller.nyc.gov/redtape/.

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