Queens small businesses are suffering because of excessive fines from city agencies, while Manhattan is left practically untouched, according to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
Fine revenue from the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and Department of Health (DOH) on Queens businesses has risen by $54 million between fiscal years 2002 and 2012, de Blasio said at a Tuesday, February 25 press conference. The public advocate alleged the city had continued to inconsistently fine business in the outer boroughs, particularly Queens, to drive revenue for the city in what he called “shocking, clear patterns.” It was from disproportionate fines on small businesses, he said, that the city had continued to make money as part of budgetary plans.
“It’s time to stop balancing the city budget on the backs of small business,” he said.
The announcement is part of a push by the public advocate’s office to show the discrepancy between how Manhattan businesses were treated in comparison to other areas of the city.
Richmond Hill, where de Blasio delivered his address, was one of the hardest hit areas in the city, he said. Because many of these business owners work long hours, and more than the traditional five days, going to court and fighting fines is nearly impossible for them.
Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council, said the city had consistently picked on the immigrant communities.
Andy Jarbandhn, a business owner on Liberty Avenue, said he had gotten hammered with fines from DCA on matters he had never been informed of. Jarbandhn said he had racked up thousands of dollars in fines because of issues he tried to remedy — only to be hit with a follow-up fine.
“It seems we’re being led down a dark alley where we have no idea what the rules are,” he said.
The data provided by de Blasio’s office shows a major spike in fine revenue beginning with the economic downturn from 2007 to 2008. The public advocate said these “ill-gotten gains” were to balance the city budget at the expense of uninformed business owners.