Council Member Keith Powers Backs Small Biz Break

Updated legislation introduced by the majority leader would ward off awning violations for another two years, after a tough go for local businesses during the pandemic

| 27 Jan 2023 | 07:26

Small businesses were hurting badly during the pandemic — and the way Council Member Keith Powers sees it, they ought to have a bit more time to prepare for old city regulations to kick back into effect. On Thursday, Jan. 19, the City Council majority leader introduced updated legislation to extend a moratorium on the city’s enforcement of “accessory sign” or awning violations, for another two years starting retroactively on Jan. 1 of this year.

“After a devastating three years, small business owners need a helping hand from the City, not a punch in the stomach,” Powers said in a statement. “This legislation puts New York on track to protect them from unexpected fines at a time where they are still struggling with razor-thin margins and economic uncertainty.” Powers, who represents a district that spans the Upper East Side, Midtown East and Stuyvesant Town, referenced his father’s own experience running a small business in an acknowledgement of “how hard mom-and-pop stores work to keep their doors open.”

The moratorium was first proposed in 2019 and extended in 2021. Now, the proposed amendment to Local Law 28 has backing from Council Members Julie Menin, Pierina Sanchez, Justin Brannan, Marjorie Velázquez and Robert Holden, all sponsors. The legislation would additionally extend a temporary Department of Buildings “assistance program” created to “educate businesses about sign regulations and make it easier and more affordable for businesses to bring their signs into compliance,” according to a press release.

Fines can reach tens of thousands of dollars, according to Menin, who called such costs “exuberant.” “The city must continue to provide support for our small businesses to help them thrive,” she said.

Powers expects the legislation could be put to a vote as soon as February — and feels confident it will pass, having only garnered support thus far.

“After a devastating three years, small business owners need a helping hand from the City, not a punch in the stomach.” Council Member Keith Powers