De Blasio Administration Announces 'Small Business First' Initiative to Reduce The Regulatory Burden on Small Businesses Across The Five Boroughs

July 25, 2014

Inter-agency initiative will simplify City rules and compliance processes and help reduce fines and violations on small businesses

NEW YORK—The de Blasio Administration today announced Small Business First, a new initiative led by the Mayor’s Office of Operations and the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), in coordination with multiple City agencies, to improve the regulatory climate in New York City and help businesses avoid penalties and fines. Collaborating with more than ten City agencies, the initiative will build upon existing regulatory reforms by reaching small businesses and underserved New Yorkers across the five boroughs, promoting education and compliance as part of enforcement, and reducing violations by focusing on cross-agency collaboration to simplify rules and compliance processes. The first inter-agency meeting was held on Thursday, July 24th, with First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen in attendance.

“Small Business First is about changing the way the City of New York interacts with small business owners,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “When a representative of the City walks through the door of a small business for the first time, we want the owner to see a partner. From simplifying the rules and regulations to helping small business owners remain compliant, we are bringing together agencies in a concerted effort to ensure our small business owners have the resources and support they need to flourish.”

“Small businesses are economic and cultural pillars of every community in New York City,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This initiative will create a more collaborative and cooperative environment for small businesses while still ensuring that all consumers and employees are protected. I commend the de Blasio Administration for this effort and hope to continue working with my colleagues in city government to improve conditions for small businesses in New York.”

“Through simplification, collaboration, and education, Small Business First will help small businesses comply with the City's rules and regulations, and as a result reduce fines and violations on small businesses," said Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer. “The Department of Small Business Services is proud to lead this multi-faceted and far-reaching effort with the Mayor's Office of Operations and our partner agencies to remove regulatory hurdles and facilitate the growth of small businesses throughout the five boroughs.”

“We greatly look forward to co-leading this effort with Commissioner Torres-Springer and her team, and to providing the project management and analytic support to ensure the success of this effort so that the City’s vital small business community continues to thrive,” said Mindy Tarlow, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations.

“This is another example of how the Administration is solving real problems by offering a common sense way forward for small businesses, who in the past, found themselves battling a maze of bureaucratic confusion,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Julie Menin. “Working with SBS and other agencies, this unprecedented collaborative effort will reduce red tape by simplifying rules, improving services to low income and immigrant populations and increasing transparency, which are crucial to helping businesses strengthen and grow within their communities. At DCA, we’ve implemented nearly two-dozen fine reduction reforms so that law-abiding owners will be able to direct their hard-earned money that previously went to onerous fines, towards reinvestment into their businesses.”

“Teaching New Yorkers to keep their employees and businesses safe from fire is one of the most important duties of the FDNY,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “We’re excited to be a part of this new Small Business First Initiative because it affords our members the opportunity to not only fulfill their life-saving mission, but help small businesses grow throughout our city as well.”

“The Health Department permits and licenses thousands of small businesses that provide child care, prepare food, offer recreation and deliver critical public services,” said First Deputy Commissioner of Health Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Through Small Business First, we look forward to helping streamline their engagement with the City and assisting businesses in protecting public health and safety."

“The Department of Buildings looks forward to helping make the Small Business First initiative a success by finding ways our agency can promote a better understanding of building code safety requirements, and in addition encourage increased usage of electronic filing of applications to help simplify the permitting process,” said Department of Buildings Acting Commissioner Thomas Fariello. “Not only will the initiative help educate small business owners on the safety codes minimizing their possibility of receiving violations, but it will also help them be better prepared to resolve any issues that arise during an inspection.”

Over the coming months, the Mayor has charged the Mayor’s Office of Operations and SBS to work closely with participating agencies and solicit public feedback to develop concrete recommendations on how the City can achieve the goals of Small Business First. The Mayor’s Office of Operations and SBS will be working closely with the Departments of Buildings, Consumer Affairs, Environmental Protection, FDNY, Health and Mental Hygiene, and Sanitation, along with projects with OATH, Board of Standards and Appeals, Department of City Planning, and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Supporting agencies include the Departments of Law, Finance, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

A report of the recommendations will be issued in the late-fall. Goals of Small Business First include:

  • Delivering improved services to underserved businesses (i.e. immigrant owned businesses, outer boroughs, low/moderate-income business owners)
  • Providing better information about government requirements and how to comply
  • Simplifying rules and compliance processes to reduce violations
  • Ensuring enforcement promotes compliance through education and flexibility
  • Easing the process for correction and adjudication by helping businesses understand penalties and providing more convenient ways to resolve violations

“I commend the de Blasio administration for the launch of Small Business First. New York City is the best place in the world to do business but also a challenging place for small businesses to succeed. Reducing fines and simplifying the way our agencies interact with businesses will allow owners to spend their time and money on the things that matter most – running their operations, creating jobs and making New York City great,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy.

“Our neighborhoods rely on the various services small businesses provide in the community.  It’s important for these establishments to have access to the information they need in order to be successful,” Council Member Rafael Espinal said. “I applaud Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to build a bridge between small business owners and the City. The Small Business First initiative will be a vital resource to help grow and establish small businesses. It is a step in the right direction that will benefit all New Yorkers."

“The City doesn’t need to be in the business of playing ‘gotcha’ with people’s livelihoods,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “If a business owner makes an honest mistake, the City should work to correct it first before turning to more punitive measures.”

“This initiative will help disseminate critical information to our small businesses, allowing them to properly comply with regulations.  Furthermore, we welcome the continued support of city agencies to help businesses with any needed technical assistance,” said Lenny Caro, President and CEO of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. “Thank you, Mayor de Blasio for this program.”

“Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Torres-Springer understand that small business owners are experts when it comes to building, creating and selling, but not when it comes to the City’s complex regulatory framework," said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carlo A. Scissura. “By simplifying rules, and by giving businesses a chance to comply before levying onerous fines, the administration is putting our businesses the best position to succeed, while protecting all New Yorkers.”

“We applaud the Mayor and his colleagues in creating this new and needed initiative.  Working with small businesses and diverse business communities, we know the challenges they have in not only in fully understanding the regulations, but also with regard to excessive fines on violations not directly affecting consumers or employees. We know there are steps being taken to recognize these issues and develop instead warnings and cure periods which we think is the right way to go.  Also we are very happy to see that agencies will be working more closely together to educate and support our small business owners to help them run good businesses and sustain and create more jobs,” said Nancy Ploeger, President of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.

“‘Small Business First’ is going to make operating a business in New York City a lot easier. Concentrating on training and education, rather than violations is sure to enhance the business climate and easing the process for resolving violations will save business owners time and money. We applaud Mayor de Blasio for this initiative and look forward to working with SBS and all the participating agencies to bring this great change to our City,” said Jack Friedman, Executive Director, Queens Chamber of Commerce.

“The Staten Island Chamber of Commerce commends the de Blasio administration on its announcement of ‘Small Business First’ – a program we believe will make it easier for our City’s small businesses to understand and navigate our sometimes onerous and complex regulatory system. Most of the City’s small businesses operate on razor thin profit margins, and the time, cost, and hassle required to understand City regulations and deal with penalties and fines inhibits growth in our economy. We hope that this program, and the various agencies taking part, embrace and realize their goal of drastically improving our City’s business environment,” said Linda Baran, President and CEO of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.

Free services are available to help small businesses in New York City succeed at every stage – whether they are starting, operating, or growing. Services include business courses, access to capital, recruitment, pro-bono legal assistance, employee training and more. For more information on the free business services available, visit, call 311, or visit an NYC Business Solutions Center, located in all five boroughs.

(212) 788-2958