July 18, 2017
DCA’s new Visiting Inspector Program will provide 3,500 new businesses with free no-fine inspections to learn about the law without penalties; Jamaica Now Action Plan takes hold with SBS $500,000 storefront improvement program
NEW YORK—As part of City Hall in Your Borough, Mayor de Blasio today announced two new initiatives to help small businesses increase foot traffic and avoid costly fines during a tour of businesses in Jamaica, Queens. Joined by Borough President Melinda Katz, the Mayor announced the launch of a new storefront improvement program that will provide $20,000 grants to dozens of businesses in Jamaica to upgrade signs and window displays, part of the ongoing $153 million Jamaica NOW Action Plan of 26 strategic action items. The Mayor also unveiled DCA’s new Visiting Inspector Program, or VIP, which will offer each of the agency’s 3,500 new brick and mortar licensees each year with a free educational inspection that will help them get into compliance with City laws without incurring any penalties. Small business fines are down 40 percent since the Mayor took office, putting more than $6 million annually back into the pockets of neighborhood businesses.
“We’re working with small businesses boost sales, lower costs and employ more people,” said Mayor de Blasio. “The City is reducing fines, increasing compliance, and investing in brick-and-mortar store-fronts. Vibrant commercial hubs like downtown Jamaica are made possible by the entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners, and we'll support them with innovative City programs.”
DCA’s VIP will provide new brick-and-mortar DCA licensees with a free, educational inspection so they can better understand the DCA laws that apply to their business and how to avoid fines. More than 3,500 businesses each year—from electronic stores and cigarette retail dealers to employment agencies and sidewalk cafes—that receive a new license in dozens of industries licensed by DCA will now be able to schedule an educational inspection within three months of receiving their license.
During the violation-free inspection, one of DCA’s senior inspectors will provide the business with important information about how to comply with the laws that DCA enforces, including licensing laws, the City’s Consumer Protection Law, and workplace laws like the City’s Paid Sick Leave Law. The free educational inspection will be conducted in the business’ language of choice. DCA encourages businesses to fix any potential violations immediately so they can avoid violations during their first official inspection, which will be conducted within a year. VIP is part of the Mayor’s ongoing efforts, through DCA, to educate and reduce fines for small businesses.
The Mayor also highlighted the new Jamaica storefront improvement program and announced the opening of applications. Area small businesses and building owners are able to secure up to $20,000 to make storefront improvements, including façade restoration, new signs and awnings, exterior painting, and more. Funding will reimburse up to 75% of the cost of the enhancements.
Applications are open for nine weeks for the first round of funding and additional applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. In total, the program will invest $500,000 in the neighborhood and reach up to 30 area businesses. Funding for this program was provided by New York City Economic Development Corporation.
The Jamaica storefront improvement program announced today builds upon the success of the Jamaica NOW Action Plan, and was made possible through work of the Borough President’s office and the leadership of the Jamaica Now Leadership Council. The plan is a culmination of a nine month community-wide engagement process of over 30 meetings between residents, businesses, local leaders, and other stakeholders. Uniting new initiatives with ongoing projects, the Action Plan seeks to address the challenges that have faced the Jamaica area in recent years by providing workforce training and small business support, among other initiatives. The plan was first released in April 2015 in partnership with Borough President Melinda Katz.
“It can be challenging to know and understand what you need to do to comply with the regulations that apply to your business,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “With VIP, new licensees can start out on the right foot by learning about the DCA laws that apply to their businesses from some of our most seasoned inspectors. With a culture of compliance, businesses and their communities can grow and thrive.”
“Thriving small business corridors help foster vibrant neighborhoods across our city,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “The Jamaica storefront improvement program is investing in this community and will make Jamaica an even better place to live and to run a business.”
“The storefront improvement program will help revitalize Jamaica’s downtown core and give local businesses a boost,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. NYCEDC is proud to continue supporting this critical initiative. We look forward to the positive impact the project will have on downtown Jamaica for years to come."
“SBS' new storefront improvement program is a critical component and latest deliverable of the holistic and comprehensive Jamaica NOW Action Plan, currently underway for the community-driven revitalization and smart growth of Downtown Jamaica,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “This is a concerted, strategic investment on the part of the City toward uplifting the commercial corridor and will go a long way toward making the area even more attractive to residents, businesses and investors.”
"This program will ensure that business owners are given an appropriate amount of time to understand DCA laws before they are inundated with costly violations," said Senator Leroy Comrie. "Moreover, it is my hope that it will facilitate better relationships between the City and small business owner. I thank Mayor de Blasio for throwing City Hall's support behind entrepreneurs here in Southeast Queens."
"This storefront improvement program will help ensure the entrepreneurs who built this corridor will be able to continue to thrive. When we did this last year everyone in the community was excited about these enhancements and I cannot wait to see what these businesses will look like when the work is complete. I would like to thank Commissioner Gregg Bishop and his entire team at Small Business Services for implementing this program,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. “I am proud to have supported many laws that protect workers and our communities, and am pleased to see the Department of Consumer Affairs launch this education program so they can be properly enforced. By ensuring small businesses are compliant with these laws, we can continue to reduce the fines they would have to pay and ensure that New Yorkers are living the quality of life they deserve. I would like to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Lorelei Salas for implementing the Visiting Inspector program.”
“Gone are the gotcha days,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal, Chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs. “Under the de Blasio administration, DCA has made a genuine effort to support businesses and protect consumers by encouraging cures to violations and reducing fines. This is so important to the stability and vibrancy of our marketplace and this is yet another example of local government working with our small businesses, rather than against them.”
“As Chair of the Council’s Committee on Small Business, I understand the burden small business owners face in complying with City regulations,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. “Unfortunately, too many businesses in this city are not as well informed of their regulatory responsibilities. The educational approach of the Visiting Inspector Program is exactly the kind of outreach needed from city agencies to ensure businesses are afforded an opportunity to learn about and comply with regulations that apply to them. I commend Commissioner Salas and the entire DCA team for their innovative approach and for their commitment to improving the regulatory landscape for New York City’s small business owners.”
"The community stakeholder driven Jamaica Now Leadership Council's Small Business & Workforce Development Committee are excited about the announcement of the storefront improvement program available to businesses in Jamaica,” said Ricardi Calixte, Committee Chair of the Jamaica NOW Leadership Council’s Small Business & Workforce Development Committee. “This program will help beautify our commercial corridors, attract more shoppers, and boost economic activity in the business district. We are encouraged by the continued commitment by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz on the smart and equable growth of our community. We look forward to working with the New York City Department of Small Business Services on the implementation of the Downtown Jamaica Storefront Improvement Program."
"Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and public-sector support helps to ensure their longevity," said Hope Knight, president and CEO of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. "Innovative City programs like the SBS's 'Storefront Improvement Program' not only bolster 'mom & pop shops,' but lay the foundation for neighborhood growth."
“Starting a new business, or an existing business, is exciting, but, can also be overwhelming when one is not completely aware of rules and regulations,” said Valerie Stevens, Director of Business Services and Operations for the Jamaica Center BID. “The VIP program will actually work collectively with JBID’s efforts in providing the necessary resources our businesses need to continue to thrive. The JBID is thankful and excited.”
"The Queens Chamber of Commerce is very happy to support the VIP initiative,” said Thomas J. Grech, Executive Director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “This program dovetails well with our educational focus and supports small business awareness throughout Queens County and beyond."