Thursday, June 3, 2010

Council Approves Business Owners' Bill of Rights

The City Council has approved the Business Owners’ Bill of Rights, which aims to fully inform business owners of all their rights during agency inspections. It was sponsored by Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), who chairs the Consumer Affairs Committee.

The Business Owners’ Bill of Rights came as a result of the findings of the city’s Regulatory Review Panel, which surveyed and listened to the business community in every borough to see how the city could help businesses succeed in a difficult economy.

The bill requires that the Mayor’s Office of Operations distributes to business owners, during or following each inspection, a document listing their rights to: consistent enforcement of agency rules, complain about or compliment an inspector’s work, contest a violation before the appropriate tribunal, an inspector who behaves in a professional manner, an inspector who can answer questions or promptly make a referral and an inspector who is knowledgeable of rules, regulations and laws.

The bill marks the first sponsored by Koslowitz to be signed into law since she returned to the City Council this year. She called small businesses “the lifeline of the economy” and noted that the city has the most small businesses of any municipality in the nation, with more than one million. That means nearly half of all the small businesses in the entire state are within the five boroughs.

“Keeping small businesses informed of government policies and regulations will empower owners with their rights,” said Koslowitz. “The bill of rights will guarantee consistent enforcement of agency rules, fair inspectors, and the ability to contest a violation… This is just the beginning of a movement, by Speaker [Christine] Quinn and my council colleagues, aimed at improving the business environment for our small merchants.”

Quinn (D-Manhattan) said the new bill is a signal that the city intends to work with its merchants, and not against them. “We are moving away from an enforcement-driven inspection process to one that is much more customer-service orientated,” she said. “I am confident that we will make the city a more welcoming place for entrepreneurs to thrive and prosper. Making life easier for our business owners is the key to building a diverse and thriving economy.”

Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Bushwick), who is chair of the Small Business Committee, said the bill “sends a clear message to the small business community that the City Council is working to ease the regulatory burdens that have too often delayed the transformation of great ideas into successful businesses.”

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