The Department of Buildings has taken another step towards streamlining permitting and zoning regulations to make life easier for contractors and small businesses.
The newest recommendations come from a Task Force co-directed by the DOB and the New York City Department of City Planning concern the installation of compliant storefront signage.
And it is hoped they will help cut the red tape and bureaucracy that has hurt small businesses in particular who’ve run foul of antiquated rules that regulate the size, site and even who’s qualified to erect and install different signs.
The NYC Special Riggers Association hailed the new rules as “common sense recommendations.” Veronika Sikorski, President, NYC Special Riggers Association, said, “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.”
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:
- Working with community stakeholders to amend Zoning Resolution to legalize noncompliant existing signs located in well-defined business areas
- 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.
- Addressing 311 Abuse by maintaining a moratorium against enforcement until Task Force recommendations are implemented. Owners will get 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. The DOB will also implement a system to monitor 311 complaints and intervene when sudden spikes are observed.
- 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.
- Continue SBS storefront façade improvement program supplemented by funding from NYC Economic Development Corporation and New York State. Provide NYC grants to assist businesses with compliance.
- 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.”