Operating a small business (or commercial vehicle) in New York City has never been an easy task, with complex and onerous regulations, many of which having nothing to do with public safety. Throw in the economic hardships brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and NYC small businesses found themselves in dire straits. Now, a new package of bills that has been passed is looking to help small businesses. The City Council, passed a package of bills aiming to help small businesses by reducing the regulatory and financial burdens imposed on small businesses for certain violations:
Int 2233-2021 (Vanessa L. Gibson)-Reducing penalties and allowing opportunities to cure for certain violations:
- This bill would provide civil penalty relief from certain sanitation, health, transportation, consumer affairs, noise control and buildings violations. It would set fixed penalties at the bottom of existing penalty ranges, lower existing penalty ceilings (or sometimes set a lower fixed amount), or lower existing fixed penalties. In certain instances, the bill would allow a cure period for a first violation, or it would eliminate the civil penalty for a first violation. This bill would also clarify that submission of proof of cure for consumer affairs and health violations is an admission of liability only if the proof is accepted by the relevant agency, repeal several requirements and prohibitions in the Administrative Code to provide relief for small businesses, and make an administrative change to the storefront registry filing requirement.
Int 2234-2021 (Mark Gjonaj)- Establish a temporary program to resolve outstanding judgments imposed by the environmental control board:
- This bill would require the Commissioner of Finance to establish a temporary program to resolve outstanding judgments imposed by the Environmental Control Board. Subject to certain conditions, default penalties and associated accrued interest would be waived, respondents would be able to resolve judgments docketed prior to March 7, 2020 by payment of 75% of the imposed penalties without payment of accrued interest, and respondents would be able to resolve judgments docketed on or after March 7, 2020 by payment of 25% of the imposed penalties without payment of accrued interest. The program would last for 90 days in fiscal year 2022 and the Commissioner would be able to extend the program for an additional 90 days. Judgments entered in the 90 days leading up to the start of the program would be ineligible for resolution. Respondents who made certain partial penalty payments prior to the start of the program would be eligible to resolve the associated judgments.
Commercial vehicles, which deliver almost 90 percent of goods and services in NYC received a much-needed rule change in this package with the reconciliation of the New York City Department of Transportation’s (DOT) marking laws with that of the state and federal departments of transportations.
Under current federal and state law (which NYC will now adopt), commercial trucks must be marked on both sides of the vehicle with the legal business name or DBA as it appears on their USDOT registrations. The lettering must be written in a color that contrasts with the background color of the vehicle and it must be visible from a minimum distance of 50 feet. However, for decades NYC Traffic Rules went beyond that to mandate an additional requirement that commercial trucks include their full address in characters at least three inches high on both sides of the vehicle, with such display being in a color contrasting with that of the vehicle and placed approximately midway vertically on doors or side panels. If the vehicle is not marked in this manner, it is deemed an “unaltered vehicle” and would not be in compliance with NYC laws for purposes of commercial vehicle parking. This subjects the company to the stacking of tickets for not having an altered motor vehicle as well as being in violation if that vehicle is parked in a commercial loading zone. Frankly, this is a way for NYC to circumvent specific defenses carved out for trucks such as double parking, subjecting them to double and triple fines. No longer! Finally, the NYC standards match those of the federal government making life much easier, and less costly for operators.
There are plenty of changes such us this in the package. The City Council deserves credit for doing their part to help small businesses in the city.