Styrofoam ban puts more pressure on small businesses
by Andrew Shilling
Sep 10, 2013 | 1537 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilwoman Diana Reyna and James Moncion, owner of Nelson Paella Restaurant.
Councilwoman Diana Reyna and James Moncion, owner of Nelson Paella Restaurant.
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Councilwoman Diana Reyna meets with local business owners to discuss the possible ban on styrofoam.
Councilwoman Diana Reyna meets with local business owners to discuss the possible ban on styrofoam.
slideshow
While business owners struggle to keep up with the “ABCs” of New York's restaurant grading system, a new proposed ban on polystyrene foam – or styrofoam - has them struggling to comply with even more regulations.

More than 1,000 small business owners across the have written letters to members of the City Council in opposition of the proposed ban, which they say would increase business costs.

According to a recent study by MB Public Affairs, for every $1 spent on polystyrene foam products, restaurant owners would have to spend $1.94 on replacements if the ban goes through.

Marisa Rosa opened El Gran Malecon at 234 Knickerbocker Ave. nearly seven months ago, and she is already feeling the financial pinch from the city. Fighting nearly $10,000 in inspection fines, Rosa said the ban would put additional costs on her business and limit her chances of getting out of debt.

“This would effect my business because the price for other materials is just so high,” Rosa said. “This would do damage to my business, but if they said I could recycle I would do it.”

The City Council is currently looking into the feasibility of recycling polystyrene foam as an alternative option, according to Reyna.

Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. said the proposal is necessary to keep businesses afloat.

“Foam can and should be recycled, and I urge the mayor to work with the council to explore this option instead of a ban,” Vallone said. “We need solutions that work, not window dressing.”

“We have mainly styrofoam here,” explained James Moncion, owner of Nelson Paella Restaurant at 200 Knickerbocker Ave. “I only have two waitresses and I would have to give them less pay or get rid of one of them if this ban goes through.”

Moncion sat with Councilwoman Diana Reyna to discuss his problems with the ban and regulations in the dining room of his recently opened Bushwick restaurant. While there is a B grade posted in his front window, he says the grading system is unfair.

“Everyone has the mindset that if you are below an A, you’re disgusting,” he said. “I lost six points just for being late to the inspection.”

He said he also lost points for not having the cap on his Clorox bleach container out back, however no points were deducted for sanitary reasons relating to the food.

“I think 90 percent of the community doesn’t have representation like a lawyer or an expediter and can't maneuver through navigating government and it’s regulations,” Reyna said on her tour along Knickerbocker Avenue last week. “They account for two-thirds of the workforce.”

Reyna went business to business to meet with owners. Restaurant after restaurant, owners told Reyna there were few corners left to be cut to help them turn a profit.

“I think it has a negative impact,” Reyna said. “We have to change that culture and we have to make sure we understand their challenges, the lack of education of what is existing in relation to the rules and regulations. There’s no one clear pathway, no one vessel.”

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