Archive for the tag 'small business'

Source: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com/Flickr

In the face of ongoing complaints about the regulatory burdens placed on New York City’s small businesses, the city government has released a short guide to avoiding the most common violations affecting small business owners.

The two-page guide shows how to comply with rules that account for more than 30 percent of small business violations. It was released in December, but we only caught wind of it in an e-mail newsletter earlier this week, and couldn’t find a link to it on any of the related city websites – so we figured it was worth sharing.

The guide is an initiative of NYC Business, the new online destination that hopes to be a portal for all small business owners. Their site launched in late 2013, with basic information about starting a business and overviews of various regulations. The site is meant to be a hub that brings together the services of various agencies, including Small Business Services the NYC Business Acceleration team.

Plans for the NYC Business portal include expanding the services offered, with a permit, license and inspection status tracker, and increasing the number of  permits and licenses one can apply and pay for online.

The two-page guide lives online at on.nyc.gov/topviolations. But, in a groan-inducing display of ironic inconvenience, that URL just forwards you to a .pdf of the pamphlet. So to make it easier, we’ve posted it below. Click to enlarge.

nyc-business

Click to enlarge

DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz (Source: NYC.gov)

DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz (Source: NYC.gov)

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has admitted to hiring extra staff to dole out more fines on small businesses to make up for a budget shortage. The New York Post is reporting that DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz doubled the agency’s revenue by hiring more inspectors, and made remarks to the City Council that pretty much confirm what we thought all along: city officials see fining small businesses as a means to generating revenue.

According to the Post, Mintz’s plan, which saw the hiring of 14 new inspectors, was laid out before the City Council during a hearing in 2011:

“It will bring in an additional $1.6 million in revenue in the new fiscal year,” Mintz told the City Council at the time.

“These staff additions will enable DCA to focus on undercover inspections of employment agencies and immigrant-service providers, as well as [make] additional focused inspections of tobacco dealers.”

His projections were right on the money.

The number of violations more than doubled from 10,964 in 2010 to 24,176 in 2012.

Most of the fines were lower than those handed out earlier, meaning business owners were paying more frequently for smaller offenses.

Fines averaged $966 between 2002 and 2009, and $697 after 2011.

While Mintz was open about his policy, opponents to his tactics, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, were outraged. As public advocate, de Blasio called for Mintz’s resignation last June, accusing him of using a quota system in his business fining blitz.

Mintz denied those charges but de Blasio’s office found evidence to the contrary:

“Reports of internal DCA documents and interviews with employees in recent days have brought to light a ‘25 percent threshold,’ meaning inspectors are expected to issue one violation for every four businesses they inspect,” according to a public-advocate study.

“Those same accounts confirm agency staff pressured administrative law judges to rule against small businesses’ appeals.”

Fines ranged from $25 for failing to display prices to $10,000 for purposeful use of a condemned gas-station pump.

In their defense, the DCA said that the fines are created by the Council and that it is the DCA’s job to enforce them. DCA spokeswoman Abigail Lootens defended the agency’s actions to the Post.

“Protecting New Yorkers during difficult economic times is a stronger public priority than ever which is why Consumer Affairs aggressively holds businesses accountable,” Looten said.

The Post noted that since 2008, the Council created 38 new laws that can result in penalties for small business owners, including fining stores that sell realistic looking toy guns, tow-truck companies and cigarette retailers.

Sheepshead Bay Bicycles (Source: Google Maps)

Sheepshead Bay Bicycles located at 113 Noel Avenue in Gerritsen Beach (Source: Google Maps)

New York City is bicycle crazy these days as exercisers, sightseers and cash-conscious commuters of all stripes are hopping on bikes like never before. The bicycle craze has not gone unnoticed by Robert Ferrarin of Gerritsen Beach, who has made a killing in repairing and selling used bikes.

According to a report by Crain’s New York, Ferrarin runs his business out of his garage located at 113 Noel Avenue in Gerritsen Beach. Ferrarin, who owns a construction company, started repairing bikes as a hobby but has seen his hobby grow into a lucrative business:

Sheepshead Bay Bicycles is poised to sell 1,000 bikes this season at an average of $300 each, up from 80 bikes during his first year in business five years ago. Customers come from as far afield as New Jersey and Connecticut, he said, and so does the inventory, replenished by six retired men who scrounge for salvageable bike parts at yard sales throughout the tristate area. He performs a tune-up with every purchase, while his wife, Brenda, assembles the bikes and his friend Richie Delea manages sales.

“We thought our first year was good,” he said. “Then it just so happened that we started at the right time.”

Ferrarin’s business was nearly washed away because of Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed 200 bikes at a cost of $30,000 in damage. Despite the setback, Ferrarin noted that the city’s Citi Bike program, which lets anyone rent a bike at kiosks around the city, has added to the bike craze – and his business.

“People who are nervous about riding in the city will get more comfortable. When they get tired of [returning their Citi Bike] every half-hour, they might want to come buy a bike,” Ferrarin told Crain’s.

Loans available by gold bars or check…just kidding. (Source: Angico Eagle Mines Limited via Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the City of New York are providing small businesses with disaster recovery loans. According to a press release, the city, through federal Community Development Block Grants, will by distributing $293 million in loans for the purposes of business recovery.

Small businesses that experienced damage as a result of Superstorm Sandy and can demonstrate that you can repay the loan, will be eligible for up to $150,000 in loans. They will have a one percent interest rate and must be repaid in five to seven years. Businesses who get their loans approved also are eligible for a matching grant up to $60,000.

The program will be administered by the New York City Department of Small Business Services and the New York Business Development Corporation.

Here is a list of relevant links that will help you apply for the loan and give you more information on the program.

Please see the NYC Hurricane Sandy Loan & Grant Program Core application.  Once complete, please contact an account manager at one of the local NYC Business Solutions centers to submit your application. For more information, please see our Loan and Grant Program FAQs and Document Checklist.

For more information about this important loan and grant resource, follow the link below:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/sbs/nycbiz/html/home/home.shtml

And a consolidated list of resources available to businesses is always located here:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/sbs/nycbiz/html/home/Hurricane%20Sandy%20Recovery%20Services.shtml

A new program for residents affected by Sandy will launch next month. We’ll have details then.

If you are a business owner or homeowner still struggling to get back on your feet after Superstorm Sandy, there is help available to you to ease the recovery process.

Asian Americans for Equality and the Kings Bay YM-YWHA will present a “Post-Sandy Recovery Resource Seminar” for business and homeowners, April 18, 7:00 p.m. at the Kings Bay Y’s Sheepshead Bay location, 2801 Emmons Avenue.

The seminar — sponsored by the Brooklyn Community Foundation — will address such topics as emergency repair loans for homeowners, financial assistance for small businesses, rehab cost consultation and how to qualify for a post-Sandy recovery grant of up to $15,000.

The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

To learn more, call (718) 648-7703 extension 239 or email info@kingsbayy.org.

Earlier this week, a boatload of Southern Brooklyn politicians banded together to introduce a bill that would waive fees for businesses recovering from damages sustained during Superstorm Sandy, according to a press release.

The bill whose sponsors include Domenic Recchia, David Greenfield and Michael Nelson would waive fees for permits, applications and inspections for businesses doing their best to rebuild and reopen after the events of Sandy.

Councilman Vincent Gentile, who co-sponsored the bill, stressed the importance of this legislation in a press release.

“Some businesses are literally rebuilding from the ground up and when you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get your business up and running again, you really shouldn’t have to bother with superfluous fees for permits and inspections.”

Businesses that qualify for the special waivers must have been open before Sandy struck and were located in Evacuation Zones A and B or in a building that was inspected for structural damage by the Department of Buildings. These fees have already been waived since Sandy due to an executive order from the mayor, but the pols are looking to extend it beyond its current expiration date.

Here is a list of the fees being waived.

  • Department of Buildings permit and inspection fees required for construction, demolition, scaffolds, boilers, plumbing, electrical work, signs, scaffolds, limited alterations and after hours work.
  • Fire Department fees for inspection of fire protection systems and gas station fuel dispensing systems, as well as for plan review and examination fees for installation of fire protection systems and fuel dispensing systems.
  • Department of Transportation permit fees for opening the street, debris containers, sidewalk construction, vaults, and canopies.
  • Department of Small Business Services permit fees for waterfront construction, equipment use, mooring, fill work, as well as fees for work notices and certificates of completion.
  • Department of Environmental Protection permit fees for fuel burning incinerators, as well as fees for certificates of instruction in the use of and to operate the same.
  • Department of Consumer Affairs licensing fees for salvage and liquidation sales of goods.
  • Taxi and Limousine Commission Fees in connection with the licensing of vehicles, replacing medallions, transferring licenses, and for-hire vehicle inspections.
  • Landmarks and Preservation Commission fees required with respect to obtaining certificates of no affect and certificates of appropriateness.

The Brooklyn Community Foundation is now accepting applications from local residents looking for funding to rebuild and repair their homes damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

This latest effort by the BCF, known as the Community Grant Rebuilding Program, is focused on physically improving homes and buildings located in Brooklyn’s coastal communities. They are centering their efforts on mold removal, the replacement of heating and electrical systems and structural repairs for one to four family homes, non-profit facilities and buildings used by small businesses.

Here are the relevant details:

Priority will be given to proposals from community development and non-profit housing corporations and other qualified organizations with deep knowledge of and experience with mold removal, mold remediation, and housing and building repair/maintenance. We require partnerships between applicants and local service providers and organizations from each impacted community. Together the partnership should demonstrate an ability to provide an up to date community needs assessment about the status of building repair and a plan of action to help individuals, businesses, and institutions move from “rescue” to recovery and rebuilding.  In Red Hook and Coney Island, we will require that all grantees work in partnership with the collaboratives that have been funded through BRF’s first round of recovery grants and will provide you with the information necessary to connect to these organizations.
All funding requests are due no later than Monday, February 4, 2013. We will make every effort to have all funding decisions made by Monday, February 11, 2013.
Target Neighborhoods:
Brooklyn coastal communities that experienced severe storm damage: Red Hook, the Coney Island peninsula, Sheepshead Bay, Canarsie, and Gerritsen Beach.
Grant Amounts:
A limited number of grants are available, up to $200,000 per impacted community (Red Hook, the Coney Island peninsula, Sheepshead Bay, Canarsie, and Gerritsen Beach).
Eligibility:
  • Community development and non-profit housing corporations and other qualified organizations who have established or can demonstrate an ability to establish close working relationships with local nonprofits serving communities or residents impacted by Super Storm Sandy.
Application Guidelines:
  • Provide brief mission statement and history of your organization.
  • What qualifications do you possess to address mold removal, mold remediation, and building repair/maintenance? How will you partner and coordinate with organizations physically located in the impacted community? If you already have an established relationship, who is your/are your partner(s) and what type of partnership currently exists?
  • What nonprofits, government entities, and/or community groups have you been working with to address recovery and rebuilding needs?
  • If you received prior funding from the BRF, how does this request complement your previous request?
  • How will you define and measure the success of this project?
  • Be sure that your application includes full contact information (address, telephone, email) for this request’s point person; also include the community where this work will take place.
  • Only ONE grantee per impacted community will be selected.
  • Please limit your request to no more than 3 pages; not including attachments.
  • Required Documents:
1.   Organization budget
2.   Project budget
3.   Most recent IRS 990 Form
4.   Most recent Financial Audit (note:  if your organization uses a fiscal sponsor, please provide its audit and 990)
5.   Board of Directors
Submit via email or fax requested narrative and attachments by Monday, February 4, 2013 to:
Toya Williford
Program Director
Brooklyn Community Foundation
45 Main Street, #409
Brooklyn, NY  11201
Fax:  718-722-5757
Any questions please contact Toya Williford at 718.722.5352 or twilliford@bcfny.org.

Thor’s vision for its Surf Avenue properties. Source: Thor Equities

Thor Equities, the global urban real estate developer, has announced plans to rent parcels at reduced rates in its new building at the corner of Surf Avenue and Stillwell Avenue in an effort to encourage the growth of local small businesses in the area, according to a press release.

“Coney Island’s popularity has reached record proportions, but we can never forget what got us here – local, ahead-of-their-time business owners who brought flair, hipness and edge to the People’s Playground,” announced Thor CEO Joe Sitt, adding, “While it is wonderful that national chains are now coming to Coney, providing needed jobs and year-round revenue to the community, we must always remember the history of this iconic neighborhood.”

So far, reaction to this plan remains skeptical. Amusing The Zillion highlighted a 2008 New York Post article in which Sitt took severe measures against local Coney business operators, by clipping and changing their storefront locks on Christmas Eve, and hanging “For Lease” signs in their storefront windows. Has Sitt pulled a 180 on small businesses?

Another caveat in Sitt’s altruistic gesture to the local small business people of Coney Island is that the rents will only be slashed for 2013. Amusing The Zillion, recalling the documentary “Zipper,” noted that Sitt’s real plans for Coney Island’s future involves installing a series of national chains. In the documentary, Sitt listed Dave and Buster’s, the Hard Rock Cafe, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and Howie’s Game Factory as his choices to fill in and replace the Coney landscape.

Thor’s new one-story building is on the spot once occupied by the century-old Henderson Music Hall, a building that was demolished when the city re-zoned it in July 2009. Since being erected last January, the sleek and sterile-looking new building has since been covered with plywood decorated in the Coney Island style, promising “THE RETAIL RIDE OF A LIFETIME,” with info about leasing opportunities.

Source: sba.gov

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced the approval of $118 million in Disaster Assistance Loans for businesses and residents affected by Superstorm Sandy. The SBA also extended the filing deadline for physical property damage to January 28, 2013, and the deadline for economic injury applications to July 31, 2013.

In a press release, Frank Skaggs, director of the SBA’s Field Operations Center East, said that, “Currently, 1,945 disaster loans have been approved in the amount of $118,791,500 for affected survivors,” and that, “We are pleased to get these loans approved so residents in the disaster area can start to rebuild and resume their normal lives. I encourage anyone who has not completed their disaster loan application to do so and return it as quickly as possible.”

Those looking to apply, can visit the SBA’s secure website. For further information and additional details on the loan application process and the location of recovery centers, call the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or send an email to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Source: Wikimedia Commons via Wikipedia

Local New York City-based Congressional Representatives are banding together to urge FEMA to extend the deadline for small businesses affected by Superstorm Sandy to apply for disaster aid. A joint letter to FEMA, cosigned by nearly a dozen Congressional Representatives, argues that the deadline, currently set at December 31, is too soon and should be pushed back until May 1, 2013 so small businesses can accurately assess the damages wrought upon their livelihoods.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who represents Coney Island, Bensonhurst, and Borough Park, was among those that signed the letter, wrote:

Hurricane Sandy displaced tens of thousands of New Yorkers and shuttered or destroyed thousands of businesses. Despite the tireless work by so many to rebuild and get business and life back to normal, we are still a long way off.  Our constituents and businesses still need time to regroup and rebuild and, as such, we are asking FEMA to extend the deadline for small business claims to May 1 to give them a real opportunity to get what they need and deserve.

Thus far, FEMA has already paid out $745 million to individuals and families since the advent of Sandy, with $152.1 million earmarked for Kings County alone, while the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), has approved $85.5 million in loans for  businesses, renters, and homeowners. For more information on assistance, you can send an email to DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov, visit sba.gov, or call the SBA Disaster Customer Service Center toll-free number 800-659-2955 (TTY (for hearing impaired) 800-877-8339.)

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