Bay Ridge

Snowy sidewalks an issue in Bay Ridge council race

Brannan wants bigger fines for chain stores that fail to shovel

February 15, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Pedestrians make their way along a shoveled Bensonhurst sidewalk following a 2016 snow storm. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

In the wake of the snowstorm that hit New York City last week, the icy winter weather has become a hot issue in the Bay Ridge City Council race.

One of the candidates, Democrat Justin Brannan, said the city should crack down on large chain stores that fail to shovel the sidewalks in front of their businesses.

His political rivals, however, said that increasing the fines would be a mistake.

Brannan, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination to run for the 43rd Council District (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst), called on the Department of Sanitation (DOS) to increase the fines leveled against merchants who let snow and ice linger on sidewalks.

According to the DOS website, the fines currently range from $100-$150 for a first offense and up to $350 for subsequent offenses.

“If these large national retailers and banks aren’t responsible enough to do their jobs as property owners, then the city needs to take steps to increase penalties and enforcement,” Brannan said in a statement.

In his letter to DOS, Brannan wrote that the city should focus its enforcement on large retail chains and franchises with 10 or more locations within the five boroughs.

Brannan also said that under his proposal, most of the city’s small, mom-and-pop stores would be exempt from any fine increases. Brannan and his wife, Leigh Holliday Brannan, are the owners of the Art Room, an art school and gallery at 8710 Third Ave. in Bay Ridge.

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“If it snows on a Thursday, there shouldn’t still be snow and ice outside your storefront that Saturday. If small business owners like me can shovel their sidewalk after a storm, then a chain store or bank with multiple storefronts can surely hire a company to do it whenever there’s a storm. No one likes that one guy on the block who never shovels. But I’ll be damned if a homeowner or a small business owner is going to get slapped with a fine for not shoveling before one of these big chains,” Brannan stated.

Two of Brannan’s opponents criticized his proposal, charging that the Democrat seemed too eager to raise fines.

“Mr. Brannan is the classic ‘Bill de Blasio liberal’ who wants to tax, fine and regulate everything,” Republican Bob Capano told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“This is a typical response from Justin Brannan and his office to look to raising taxes and fines as soon as they see a problem,” Republican Liam McCabe told the Eagle. “You can raise fines on business all you want but if the councilman’s office isn’t engaged with sanitation and emergency services, you can’t resolve problems. It’s sad that Justin Brannan’s first legislative proposal is about raising taxes and fines.”

In addition to Brannan, the Democrats who have announced their candidacies in the council race are Kevin Peter Carroll and Nancy Tong. The Republicans who are running are Capano, McCabe and John Quaglione. 

Carroll told the Eagle that he did not want to comment directly on Brannan’s letter DOS since he had not seen it. But he did call for the agency to enforce existing laws regarding snow shoveling. “We need stronger enforcement from the department. The laws are not enforced enough,” he said.

Quaglione called for a broader approach to the issue.

“It is unacceptable that a major bank, or any store, allow their sidewalk to create a hazardous situation for all pedestrians.  I think this proposal should be part of a larger conversation the city should have to review the entire summonsing around the failure to remove snow,” Quaglione said. “I think the city also should consider creating a penalty pay scale, and make summonses greater as time elapses from the conclusion of the storm and hazardous conditions are found. Most people will agree that the penalties as they stand now are clearly not a deterrent enough and something must be done on this issue.”

Democrat Vincent Gentile, who has held the council seat since 2003, is ineligible to run for another term under the city’s term limits law. The election to determine his successor will take place Nov. 7.

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