The law would provide immediate relief for small businesses that were hit with stiff penalties for awning violations.
The surge in sign fines began last year, when shops in major commercial corridors across the city reported an uptick in violations. In some cases, like Union Street in Flushing, store owners saw a city inspector come by every two weeks.
Most of the stores impacted were immigrant-run mom-and-pops. Many say they had no idea they needed a permit to put up a simple sign for their shop.
But the result was painful. Some businesses were hit with thousands of dollars in penalties. Others took down their signs out of fear of receiving a fine.
The Awnings Act, overwhelmingly supported by the City Council, would implement a two-year moratorium on the violations. Businesses that did not pay their fines won’t have to, and those that did will receive a steep discount on their permit fees.
More importantly, the legislation requires city agencies to create an education programs on sign regulations, and a task force to evaluate current rules to root out repetition and outdated laws.
De Blasio needs to sign this common-sense bill. If the progressive mayor wants to keep the small businesses that make New York City so diverse, unique and charming, he should make the Awnings Act a reality.
The city should also investigate who was making those 311 calls against the small businesses in the first place. There are rumors it was someone who works for a sign-hanging company, but city officials should get to the bottom of it to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Otherwise, small businesses already facing pressures from high rent and increasing regulations will be forced out altogether.