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Council passes bills to forgive outdated fines

Excessive fines, 'red tape' often hurt companies

June 21, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The City Council on Thursday passed two bills that are designed to help relieve restaurants and mom-and-pop stores by restructuring the penalty system that hits them with onerous fines, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson confirmed.

Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said. “Small businesses have suffered tremendously for 16 months following the financial fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These locally owned businesses provide essential services and create jobs in our communities, and legislation to reduce or eliminate fines to ensure their recovery is critically important. 

“We urge Mayor de Blasio to sign the bill into law immediately, and look forward to working with the next mayor to continue improving conditions for the city’s small business community,” he added.

The first bill would reduce or waive financial penalties for certain sanitation, health, transportation, consumer affairs, noise control and buildings violations. The bill would also allow small businesses to often fix a violation before paying a hefty fine, and for certain violations, they’ll face no fine on first offense. 

For example, small business owners had to pay a fee if they didn’t properly label garbage bins. The new rules would allow them to correct the mistake instead.

Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Randy Peers. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

The second bill would create an amnesty program that waives interest on penalties imposed by the Environmental Control Board, eliminates penalties for defaulting, and offers significant discounts on base penalties for money paid during the amnesty period if judgement is paid during the established amnesty period. 

For judgments issued during the pandemic (on or after March 7, 2020), the person would receive a 75 percent discount on base penalties and interest would be waived. For judgments issued before that date, the person would receive a 25 percent discount and interest would be waived if they pay during the amnesty period. Default penalties would also be waived. 

This program would be created by the commissioner of finance and last 90 days with the option to extend at the order of the commissioner.

Councilmember Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx), the sponsor of this second bill, said, “The amnesty program will lessen the regulatory burden on struggling small businesses. By dramatically cutting fee violations, businesses will be able to redirect much-needed capital towards meeting operating costs, retaining their employees and making other payments,” published reports said.

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