2010-04-30 / Top Stories

City Makes It Easier For Small Businesses

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn announced 14 measures to make it easier for the City’s 220,000 small businesses to influence and comply with the City rules governing them. The 14 measures are the result of the work of the Regulatory Review Panel, a joint effort by the Mayor and City Council to scrutinize City regulations and how they are developed and make recommendations to recast them.

•Establish a Business Owner’s Bill of Rights – The City will create and distribute a Business Owner’s Bill of Rights that sets forth clear customer service standards to encourage constructive interactions between small business owners and agency inspectors. The Bill of Rights will serve as a customer service guide for business owners to know what they can and should expect when interacting with the City.

•Enable Businesses to Avoid Automatic Fines and Penalties – The Administrative Justice Coordinator will work with all City agencies to ensure that small businesses are provided with an opportunity to resolve certain violations before automatic penalties or fines are levied. Currently, the Buildings, Consumer Affairs, Health and Mental Hygiene and Fire Departments provide such an opportunity for certain low-risk violations, i.e. violations that do not pose an imminent threat to public health, safety or well-being.

•Enable Business to Avoid Having to Appear in Person to Settle or Contest Violations – The Administrative Justice Coordinator will work with agencies to ensure that, where possible, small businesses are able to avoid having to physically appear before administrative tribunals. Instead, businesses would be able to settle or contest violations over the Internet, by mail, or by telephone, saving time and money.

•Launch an Interactive NYCRules Website for All Rulemaking Actions – Today, small businesses and the public must rely on an antiquated rulemaking process to comment on proposed agency rules or learn more about rules that are about to go into effect. Bloomberg has signed Executive Order 133 requiring all City agencies to post their proposed and final rules on a new website: www.nyc.gov/nycrules. The site will enable small businesses and the public at large to submit their comments regarding proposed rules electronically, and sign up to receive newsletters about rulemaking activity in the City. Not only will it modernize a process that was first conceived over twenty years ago, but also it will open up agency rulemaking to a much broader range of New Yorkers.

•Develop Plain Language Guides to Demystify Complex Regulations – The Mayor’s Office of Operations will work with agencies to simplify the language of regulations and regulatory processes, helping reduce unnecessary legal and consulting fees. The City will start with regulatory processes that have been identified as sources of confusion for small businesses.

•Expand Programs for Immigrant Small Business Owners – The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Department of Small Business Services will expand efforts to assist immigrant owned small businesses, representing approximately half of all small businesses in the City. The City, which already provides assistance to Latinoowned businesses, will make its materials available for translation to groups representing the City’s other ethnic communities, specifically the Chinese-, Russian- and Korean-American communities.

•Establish Customer Service Review of Proposed Rules – The Mayor’s Office of Operations will review all proposed rules from a customer service perspective to identify inefficiencies and work with agencies to address them before the proposed rule is published and could potentially slow business growth or hinder economic development.

•Implement Customer Service Training for Agency Inspectors – The Mayor’s Office of Operations will work with all agencies to establish new training techniques for agency inspectors that focus on improving the overall customer service businesses receive during their inspection, and encourage more constructive interactions between small business owners and agency inspectors.

•Enhance 311 to Meet the Needs of Small Businesses – The Mayor’s Office of Operations will enhance the up-todate regulation information available through the 311 Customer Call Center to ensure that small business owners can access easily the resources they need.

•Distribute Industry-Specific Newsletters to Small Businesses – The Department of Small Business Services will work with agencies to distribute enewsletters to certain types of small businesses, such as a “Restaurant News” newsletter, so businesses can stay on top of regulatory developments that directly impact their operations.

•Teach Businesses How to Avoid Violations All agencies will seek to replicate, where applicable, the Department of Consumer Affairs “Education Days” initiative, where inspectors are deployed specifically to educate businesses on how best to comply with agency rules and prevent fines and penalties.

•Provide Information on Incentive Programs Online – In February 2010, in response to the work of the Regulatory Reform Panel, the Department of Small Business Services upgraded NYC Business Express, the City’s onestop website for City-issued licenses and permits, to include a new feature that will provide information about various tax incentive programs.

•Designate Agency Liaisons with the City’s Chambers of Commerce – All City agencies will designate a liaison to chambers of commerce, providing small businesses with a person with whom they can have an ongoing conversation about regulatory issues.

•Expand Agency Rule Revision Initiatives – In light of all the above reforms, all agencies will re-evaluate their rules with an eye towards eliminating undue costs and burdens.

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