For Immediate Release
December 16, 2020
Contact: dobcommunications@buildings.nyc.gov, (212) 393-2126


DOB SHARES RECOMMENDATIONS TO CUT RED TAPE AND SUPPORT
SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS

Business signage Task Force report provides clear path for small businesses to install compliant signs; DOB urges City Council to extend moratorium on business sign enforcement and will work with them to implement recommendations


NEW YORK, NY – A Task Force co-directed by the New York City Department of Buildings and the New York City Department of City Planning today released its report providing recommendations to streamline city regulatory practices and help small business owners install compliant storefront signage. The Task Force was established by Local Law 28 of 2019 in response to a substantial increase in the number of 311 complaints filed by the public against illegal business signs. You can read the report here.

“We are always looking for opportunities to better serve our fellow New Yorkers,” said Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca. “We fully endorse the recommendations made in this report and will work diligently to put them in place. Cutting red tape and streamlining enforcement will help support small business across the city.”

Over the upcoming year, DOB will work with New York City Council and agency partners to implement the Task Force recommendations and alleviate avoidable violations for noncompliant signage. Small businesses can expect a streamlined permitting process, increased community outreach and an expanded pool of qualified licensees able to install business signage. DOB will also work with the Council to extend the current moratorium on sign enforcement for at least the next year, to provide small businesses with additional time to bring their signage into compliance, especially during these unprecedented times.

The Task Force’s recommendations include:

Changes to the Zoning Resolution

  • Recommendation Details: Working with community stakeholders, amend the Zoning Resolution to legalize noncompliant existing signs located in well-defined business areas.

Changes to DOB-Required Permits and Filing Process

  • Recommendation Details: Establish a web page providing business owners with all signage resources; including applicable regulations, such as Construction Code and Zoning requirements, permit requirements and a list of licensees who can install or remove signs. Simplify the application process for accessory sign approval and installation to make it more efficient and understandable.

Addressing 311 Abuse

  • Recommendation Details: Maintain moratorium against enforcement until Task Force recommendations are implemented. Provide owners with a six-month period to fix noncompliant signs. During this period, business owners will receive warnings, but will not be issued fines for noncompliant signage. Implement a system for DOB to monitor 311complaints and intervene when sudden spikes are observed.

Outreach and Community Engagement

  • Recommendation Details: Improve resources available to small business owners via agency coordination, led by the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS). Each Borough Office will have a designated DOB sign application liaison to help businesses with the application process and address questions or difficulties they may encounter along the way.

Grant Programs to Assist Small Business Owners with Compliance

  • Recommendation Details: Continue SBS storefront façade improvement program and provide technical assistance to community-based organizations (CBOs) who are interested in starting their own storefront improvement programs. Explore other funding opportunities to assist businesses with compliance.

Expansion of Who is Permitted to Install Signs

  • Recommendation Details: Facilitate an easier installation process for business owners by increasing the number of qualified individuals allowed to safely install and remove signage.

The 17-member Task Force was comprised of stakeholders representing the New York City Department of Planning, the New York City Department of Small Business Services, community organizations, local business advocates and the industry. During their review, the members examined the current landscape of small business signage and how it could be improved.

The Task Force report is part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to help small business owners navigate signage regulations. As part of Local Law 28, DOB created brochures in multiple languages to keep business owners informed of signage regulations and what they need to do in order to comply, which was distributed door-to-door by Community Engagement staff. Additionally, starting in February 2019, and extending through February 2021, the legislation established a moratorium on violations for business signs that existed on or before February 9, 2019. Business owners are also encouraged to sign up for the Department’s annual no-penalty sign inspection program, to make sure their signage is up to code without risk of violations.

“City Planning is proud to have been part of this important task force that explored solutions to signage challenges faced by beloved mom-and-pop stores. Small businesses are the backbone of our neighborhoods and deserve our support,” said Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago.

"Now more than ever, storefront owners need help understanding and complying with government regulations, and these recommendations advance SBS's ongoing efforts to cut red tape for small businesses,"said Jonnel Doris, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services.“We look forward to working with our partner agencies on implementing these recommendations so that business owners can focus on running their businesses and thriving in the community."

"Now more than ever, locally owned businesses are struggling to stay open and maintain their employees. We must do whatever possible to remove the unnecessary hurdles that prevent them from thriving. I applaud the efforts of the signage task force and look forward to the city implementing their recommendations. As Chair of the Council's Small Business committee, I will continue to work with city agencies to do whatever possible to create an environment that values and appreciates small businesses as the backbone of our local economy," said Council Member Mark Gjonaj.

“I’m always striving for different ways to cut through red tape for my constituents. Something as simple as a store sign shouldn’t catch business owners off-guard because they didn’t understand the regulations. With businesses struggling right now, it’s more important than ever that rules and guidelines are fair and easy to follow and I will do whatever I can to make that happen,” said Council Member Justin Brannan.

“Our brick-and-mortar businesses are too often the first to fall victim to our city's confusing, and at times contradictory, small business regulations. In light of the inordinate number of businesses under threat of closure due to the pandemic, the city needs to step up to help them come into compliance with the law, not play gotcha games with underhanded regulatory fines that would quicken their demise. These task force recommendations are a great example of the City of New York working to cut the red tape that too often trips up our businesses, and I'd like to thank the DOB, DCP and all the task force members for working together to help our small businesses get through these difficult times," said Council Member Peter Koo.

"Now more than ever, with small businesses in my Brooklyn district and across the city struggling to stay afloat due to the pandemic, our city has a responsibility to assist storeowners whenever possible rather than placing an additional burden on them through punitive enforcement," said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn). "The recommendations in this report will provide guidance to increase signage compliance while allowing our small businesses to function during this challenging time."

“The recommendations outlined in this report will remove unnecessary burdens and make it easier for businesses to comply with city regulations,” said Jessica Walker, President and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “The process that got us here is a prime example of government and business coming together to find workable solutions. We need more of this thoughtful, inclusive dialogue going forward.”

“The NYC Special Riggers Association commends Commissioner La Rocca and the Planning Department for identifying problems with an antiquated law and making common sense recommendations to guide the City Council to amend the code related to signage permits, installation and removal,” said Veronika Sikorski, President, NYC Special Riggers Association. “These recommendations will protect small business owners from what appear to be predatory practices while maintaining public safety. Our licensed Special Riggers welcome the opportunity to provide our services where needed.”


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