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July 10th, 2013

by Total Food Service

NYC Mayoral Forum

 


Q & A with Democratic Mayoral Candidate Bill De Blasio


How would you work with borough presidents to ensure restaurants have a fair hearing at the community boards?


Both community leaders and business owners must be involved in a conversation about how we can grow local economies while protecting the public’s health. As Mayor, I will work with borough presidents to develop an open dialogue between restaurant owners and neighborhood leaders about defining a fair set of criteria against which the development and management of restaurants can be judged by community boards. I will also work with borough presidents on the development of economic development hubs that will help businesses navigate regulatory rules, comply with wage and labor laws and avoid consumer and health violations.

How would you enhance or reform the Department of Small Business Services and/ or the Small Business Acceleration Team?

The Department of Small Business Services must work more closely with community-based organizations to increase knowledge of services. SBS currently dispenses services through brick and mortar centers that place the onus on businesses to seek out help. The agency should partner with cultural, religious and community-affiliated groups to disseminate information about the programs it offers. I believe that SBS should change its current outreach strategy by increasing the amount of resources allotted to reaching immigrant businesses at their place of business. A targeted campaign that goes from business to business will be a more effective means of reaching immigrant businesses, many of which do not have a history of seeking out services at government centers. 


Additionally, the Department of Small Business Services should track the effectiveness of its outreach to immigrant-owned businesses. SBS does not currently distinguish between minority-owned businesses and those owned by immigrants. Including this information in its initial contact and follow-up evaluations with businesses will help the agency adapt its programs to the unique barriers and assets of immigrant-run firms. By tracking this information, SBS will be better able to deliver tailor-made services that will increase job creation and economic growth for New York City.

Do you support the culture of fining that has existed under the current administration?

Absolutely not. As Public Advocate, I issued two reports documenting, for the first time, the incredible burden on small businesses from the rapid rise in fines. After suing the city to obtain never-before seen data, I discovered that, starting in 2010, City Hall implemented an unannounced revenue-driven enforcement campaign, which has led to a dramatic increase in inspections and nuisance fines on small businesses, particularly in the outer boroughs, to plug gaps in the city’s budget. 

As Mayor, I would replace the City’s current fine assault on small businesses with assistance to ensure compliance. I will create tiered classifications of small business violations to distinguish low-risk violations and create easier ways for businesses to fix problems or contest violations online, by mail or by phone.

What are your views on the paid-sick leave legislation? Do you see any other wage/hour legislation coming?

The paid-sick leave legislation passed by City Hall is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. We need to ensure that every New Yorker has these rights. For 300,000 New Yorkers working without any paid sick time, even a minor illness in the family can lead to a genuine crisis. Taking a day off to take care of a sick child means losing a day's pay–and potentially a job. That's bad for New York City. We need parents to take care of themselves and their kids when they're ill. It's in the best interests not only of children and parents, but also of schools, hospitals, businesses and healthcare budgets. 


As Mayor, I also plan to raise wages as a bottom-up driver of economic development in low-income neighborhoods. I will fight in Albany to give NYC the ability to set the minimum wage rate at a level appropriate to the high cost of living. 


What are your views on the mandatory calorie postings?

I support the mandates to post calorie counts to inform consumers and ban harmful trans-fats. Obesity and smoking remain two of New York City’s biggest killers–which is why I have also been a strong supporter of banning smoking in restaurants and bars, and expanding parks and public spaces. These policies have not always been popular, but they have collectively saved thousands of lives.


What are your views on Penn Station?  

Penn Station is straining under growing ridership–it currently is more than 100 percent over capacity. We need to transform Penn Station into a transit hub that will meet the city’s future transportation needs, instead of struggling to keep up with current usage. However, while Madison Square Garden sits on top of Penn Station, no expansion is possible. The City Planning Commission erred this year in granting MSG a 15-year special permit, and it erred in approving the permit with a loophole that may lock away the city’s ability to ever realize the full promise of the surrounding area.

We must limit the permit to 10 years while requiring public hearings and review before any further extension of the permit is granted. By limiting the permit and finding a new home for the arena, we can set the groundwork for a true transformation at Penn Station and for the rest of New York, with a new transportation hub that can accommodate the growth we want to see in our city.

What are your views on the letter grading system?   

I believe that having window grades is beneficial for consumer awareness and public health, but I feel strongly that we need to take a comprehensive look at all our small business regulations, including those for restaurants, and find ways to reduce the undue burden they place on owners. As Mayor, I would replace the City’s current fine assault on small businesses with assistance to ensure compliance.


Q & A with Democratic Mayoral Candidate Erick Salgado


How would you enhance or reform the Department of Small Business Services and/ or the Small Business Acceleration Team?

I would put as much of the permit procurement process as possible, and all information important to restaurants just starting up, online in an easy to understand format. For example, promotion of the map of new restaurants must be improved and the information included on it needs to be enhanced to provide such information as type of cuisine.

How would you work with borough presidents to ensure restaurants have a fair hearing at the community boards?

I would have a representative from the Mayor's Office at each community board meeting with instructions to work with the district managers and board members to overcome any obstacles that may come up for a proposed restaurant. My representative would make it known that he/she will remain after the meeting to listen to any objections from the community so that my office may expeditiously respond to them, as well as any allegations that the proposal is not receiving fair treatment from the community board.

Do you support the culture of fining that has existed under the current administration?

No. I would eliminate quotas that help to drive the inspectors' pens and make certain that restaurants are not looked at as ATM's providing revenue for the city. Summonses should only be issued for serious violations. The city should work with the restaurateur to eliminate lesser problems without a fine.

How would you streamline the permit process for restaurants, alcohol licenses? 

I would put as much of the permit process as possible online with easy to understand instructions in several languages.

Are you looking to grow tourism or keep it at the same level?

Tourism is already a major revenue source for the city and I would work hard to further increase tourism, looking to attract more families by promoting the family-oriented sites in our city as well as highlighting the attractions in the outer boroughs including the Bronx Zoo, Historic Richmond Town, The New York Aquarium and The New York Hall of Science.

What are your views on the mandatory calorie postings and/or imposing calorie limits on menu items?

City Hall's intrusion into an individual's personal eating habits is unacceptable. New Yorkers should take nutritional guidance from their medical professionals and not mayoral mandates. Therefore, I oppose government restrictions on the calorie count of restaurant food. However, I would encourage calorie count postings through tax incentives.


Q & A with Democratic Mayoral Candidate Bill Thompson


How would you enhance or reform the Department of Small Business Services and/or the Small Business Acceleration Team?

I will end the excessive fines and fees on our city’s small businesses. The city's current quota system is outrageous–and it will end when I'm Mayor. Small businesses aren't ATM machines for city revenue; they help us create jobs and develop communities.

How would you work with borough presidents to ensure restaurants have a fair hearing at the community boards?

Restaurants should not be punished, lose their liquor licenses or be shut down. I will work with all parties involved, including borough presidents, to ensure that restaurants are given a fair hearing before community boards

How do you clarify for restaurant owners the regulations that pertain to them?

It’s impossible to learn a lesson from getting punished without knowing what you are getting punished for. In regards to restaurants–and all other businesses, for that matter–I will work to make our city’s rules and regulations easier to understand as Mayor. That way, a business can do things right the first time–saving time and money.

Do you support the culture of fining that has existed under the current administration?

As Mayor, I will ensure that the city stops nickel and diming businesses through aggressive fines. These last 12 years have shown that fining doesn’t teach businesses anything, especially when they are fined for violations they did not know even existed. We need to reform the current system and eliminate excessive fines on businesses.

What are your views on the letter grading system?

The city’s letter grading system is a useful resource to New York’s citizens looking to eat at clean, sanitary restaurants. But in its current form, the system lacks a fair level of transparency–restaurant owners just don’t know what they need to do to receive an A. One way to reform the system would be to change the 1,000 point grading curve (where garnering just 14 violation points results in a B grade) to a 100 point grading curve, similar to the one they have in California. This way, businesses and the public will better understand the health code restaurants are supposed to be adhering to.

What are your views on the paid-sick leave legislation? Do you see any other wage/hour legislation coming?

I am a staunch supporter of paid-sick leave. We should no longer force parents to choose between holding their jobs and caring for loved ones – paid-sick leave legislation is an excellent way to ensure just that.

What are your views on calorie postings?

It helps us avoid foods that aren’t healthy.


Q & A with Independent Mayoral Candidate Adolfo Carrión, Jr.


How would you work with borough presidents to ensure restaurants have a fair hearing at the community boards?

Having been a borough president, I know this process all too well. And having been a district manager of a local community board, I know the headaches that businesses go through and the terrible experience that they usually have with the city bureaucracy–waiting for permits, certificates of occupancy, waiting for sign-offs on licensing, the multiple agencies they often have to go through and of course the economic impact on their businesses and the economy in general. Having said that, I would commission my team–my five-borough team–to work on two levels with the borough presidents. One to give regular briefings and presentations on all of the business services we provide and the polices behind them to borough boards. The other would be to dispatch a local team from the borough Business Solution Centers to each of the community boards on a regular basis. We need to make government more user-friendly. This is not about the government’s convenience. It’s about the convenience of the citizenry and businesses of New York.

Do you support the culture of fining that has existed under the current administration?

I recently heard a story of a small business that got fined something like $14,000 for some items associated with a toy gun. It was a little package that had a badge, a toy gun and some other things for kids. It cost the guy about $65 to buy a small case of these toys and rather than the city coming in and saying look I am going to give you a warning, you can’t sell that item because they don’t have the bright orange cap on the front. The city rather than saying this is a problem you have to stop, they fined him thousands of dollars and now the guy has to go hire a lawyer to try to bring that back down. At the end of the day, it practically puts him out of business. These are hand-to-mouth businesses. They are stretched financially. Every penny counts. The city should not be in the business of punishing small businesses like restaurants. They should be in the business of helping them to get through difficult times and comply with the rules. The city government works for the businesses and not the other way around. The city should not be using small business as its ATM.

How do you clarify for restaurant owners the regulations that pertain to them?

Given the importance and enormity of the food service industry in New York City, I think we need to have a dedicated unit within the Department of Small Business Services so there is a one-stop shopping experience for these types of businesses. We need to make sure that the Department of Small Business Services is supporting and trying to advance the businesses in the food service industry and make it easier to do business here. We need to streamline some of these regulations and there might be some regulations that we need to take away.

Would you add some sort of hospitality office if you were elected be it a liaison, deputy mayor, or staffer?

I would look to focus a unit within Small Business Services or within the Economic Development Corporation on the hospitality industry because it is so important for our economy. We know that there are about 350,000 jobs associated with the tourism industry in NYC, much of it in restaurants and the entrainment industry. Hotels alone have 90,000 workers. It is obviously a driver of our local economic activity. We want more. I am embracing Mayor Bloomberg’s goal of having 70 million tourists and visitors by 2015. We accelerated tourism and visiting to New York City over the last decade-it has exploded since 9/11- we need to continue to do that.

What initiatives would you put in place to foster the growth of tourism to meet Mayor Bloomberg’s goal?

We don’t have enough hotel rooms that are affordable and I think we should be looking to build hotel options throughout the five boroughs not just have the focus on the Times Square/Midtown area. I think a lot of potential visitors to New York probably chose not to come here because it’s so costly, but if they have more affordable options they would probably come. So the development of hotels throughout the five boroughs is one thing. Number two I would do a five borough marketing strategy for all of the historic and cultural destinations that exist in all the five boroughs. We get tourists that come to New York City and they never leave Manhattan.

What are your views on the letter grading system?

I don’t know if it is necessarily a good thing to have this grading system. A customer wants to know is this a good establishment or is this not a good establishment, but on the business owner side, I’ve gone to restaurants where they have a “B” rating and they’re saying, ‘Mr. Carrion, we’ve been waiting months and months and months to get our “A” rating. We know we’ve passed all the necessary tests and thresholds.’ Frankly, it can impact their business activity.

What are your views on the foam ban?

It’s environmentally correct and responsible. I think what we need to do is say how do we phase out something that is a regular business practice without putting people out of business. So you work with the businesses on what are the alternatives in terms of containerization for their customers and their products. There are viable options, and as with anything else, the objective is a good one and then the question is how do you implement it without destroying the business. I don’t believe that it’s going to be the end of the New York City food industry. But, I don’t think we should rush into new practices without working with the businesses.

What are your views on the mandatory calorie postings?

I’m almost libertarian on this. I think the most important thing government needs to do is educate–not tell people what to do, not force choices on them. I don’t care what size drink people drink. They can eat whatever the heck they want. At the end of the day, the question is are we educating the consumer? Are we informing them of the choices they have? That is all we are suppose to do as a government. As people make choices, the supply will change. If people don’t buy sugary drinks, manufactures won’t make them because they’re not selling. So what we need to do is make sure we educate so people make smart choices.

 


Q & A with Democratic Mayoral Candidate John Liu


Do you support the culture of fining that has existed under the current administration?

I do not support a culture of targeting small businesses and entrepreneurs who are trying to create economic industries and jobs that are vital to the city’s economy. Fines only impose a monetary punishment to those who have not obeyed the rules and regulations. Fines should not be seen as a revenue generator for the city, and the city should not be balancing its budget on the back of small business owners. Instead, we should be doing everything we can to foster and support our small business. They are critical to our economy and provide accessible jobs.

A better approach to supporting small businesses that usually obey the rules is to enforce the rules on those that do not. Those who do not are usually just a handful of bad apples and enforcement can be done in a rigorous, frequent manner with the coordination of multiple agencies and community groups. Agencies need to go back to the basics of education before enforcement. As mayor, I would direct personnel from the Department of Small Business services to work with business owners and help them come into compliance. Through cooperation we can support business and ensure that restaurants are safe and following health regulations.

How would you enhance or reform the Department of Small Business Services and/ or the Small Business Acceleration Team?

The Department of Small Business Services could be enhanced through the expansion of its Business Outreach Team. If the city wants to truly help businesses succeed, they need to be available for businesses when they need them and on their time. The Business Outreach Team could use more experienced field staff who can spend more time out in the field reaching out to business owners and listening to their needs and bringing much-needed resources and services directly to them. The truth is, business owners usually do not have the time or money to travel to an agency or center to get help, let alone pay fines. Business owners are usually found in their place of business, and that’s where the department needs to start providing assistance. A business acceleration team is good to have but is not helpful if they do not understand the needs of businesses from hands on experience and cannot go directly to the businesses and provide help.

SBS also plays a critical role in jobs development and training. While they are an important component of the jobs ecosystem, they should not own it. I would empower community-based recruiters and trainers to work with their local community members to prepare and match candidates to jobs. SBS would act as a clearinghouse for job opportunities and ensure that the local community providers are effective.

How would you work with borough presidents to ensure restaurants have a fair hearing at the community boards?

I would work with the borough presidents through their local economic development corporations or departments and task forces who usually work closely with business associations that include restaurant owners as members. The borough presidents can also ensure that restaurants are informed of community board meetings and notices so that they can become active participants in the local process and have their needs and concerns heard.

I would also encourage Borough Presidents to appoint business owners to the community board. Fellow business owners will understand the difficulties that restaurants face when dealing with regulations and can offer helpful advice and advocate for restaurants to their fellow community board members.

What are your views on the paid-sick leave legislation? Do you see any other wage/hour legislation coming?

I support the paid-sick leave legislation. I do not believe it is good for the public and/or businesses to have sick employees come in to work because they cannot afford to take a day off.  Sick employees may get other employees sick, and, in the case of restaurants, may even spread disease through their handling of food. I understand that paid-sick leave will cause some businesses to incur some additional costs, but I believe the benefits of the bill outweigh the costs.

What are your views on the mandatory calorie postings?

I like the calorie postings but I am not a fan of penalizing businesses that do not post. The point is to bring awareness to the consumer on their calorie intake of foods they eat. 

What are your views on the foam ban?

Styrene, a key ingredient in Styrofoam, has recently been recognized as a carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This, combined with the fact that it is being disposed of in great volume - filling up our landfills faster than necessary - is of great concern. I support a foam ban. We want to make sustainable choices, which means reducing unnecessary discards and removing all resources (organics, recyclables, etc.) before we bury our trash. This ban is the first step in my comprehensive green and sustainability plan to reduce our solid waste stream (and footprint).  We consider foam a “low hanging fruit” because substitutes are available and it holds health risks. Foam is inexpensive, so the primary business owner stumbling block is cost. The price differential between foam and non-foam products continues to decrease, but ban supporters must also be willing to absorb a few cents of additional cost for recyclable or compostable take-out containers. 

Would you add some sort of hospitality office if you were elected be it a liaison, deputy mayor, or staffer?

NYC & Company is the official marketing and tourism office for New York City.  I understand that most of its focus is on tourism and I will work with them to do a better job of promoting New York City’s great restaurants and other attractions to New York City residents. 

If elected, is there any new legislation that you would introduce that would directly impact restaurants?

I would create opportunities to source food locally - this is not only environmentally friendly, but will help boost the local economy. We can create incentives for neighborhood-based farmers markets and food coops and links them with local restaurants. Finally, we must also significantly expand composting systems where neighborhood-specific, vermin-free machines can be used by residents, restaurants and other businesses to drop compost in lieu of DSNY trash pickup. Working closely with restaurants will go a long way in getting composting done successfully. This is not only good practice but represents an opportunity to significantly reduce waste.

 


Q & A with Democratic Mayoral Candidate Sal Albanese


How would you enhance or reform the Department of Small Business Services and/ or the Small Business Acceleration Team?

Small businesses have been operating in a constant state of crisis for too long in this city. In neighborhoods like mine in Bay Ridge, they not only serve the community, they employ it and offer their services and space to help schools, nonprofits, and other community groups. It's time for them to have a Mayor that helps them in return. Many small business owners are immigrant entrepreneurs. As an immigrant myself, I want to ensure that all city agencies that work with small businesses are culturally and linguistically competent. I'll also drag them into the 21st century by bringing permitting and licensing online, making applications easier and processing time faster so that business owners aren't forced to sit in limbo and lose money while bureaucracy muddles along.

How would you work with borough presidents to ensure restaurants have a fair hearing at the community boards?

In every neighborhood that I visit, at least one restaurateur tells me they just aren't being heard. They feel shaken down and then ignored by their government. That's just not right. I'll have an open line of communication with borough presidents and encourage them to give restaurant-owners and associations a seat at the table when important restaurant-related policies are being considered.

How do you clarify for restaurant owners the regulations that pertain to them?

It all comes down to competence and communication. The Bloomberg administration has done an awful job of training agency employees to work with and respond to restaurant owners. Worse yet, they have failed entirely to ensure that restaurant owners are well educated about new rules and policies. Too often, this administration has been content to march in, lay down the law, extract fines, and walk away. 

Do you support the culture of fining that has existed under the current administration?

Absolutely not. Health and safety rules are, as the name suggests, meant to protect the health and safety of customers and employees. They are not meant solely as revenue generators for the city. Under my administration, inspectors would operate under a "warn first, help second, fine third" approach. If an inspection turned up violations, owners would be given a warning and helped to understand how they can bring themselves up to code. They would be given a period to correct the violations, after which, if they have not done so, they would be fined appropriately. Instead of "dine and dash," we've been practicing "fine and dash." That's not how you protect the public or encourage small businesses to improve.

What are your views on the paid-sick leave legislation? Do you see any other wage/hour legislation coming?

Paid sick leave is a worker rights issue. It's better for society and for business if a sick individual is entitled to take time home to heal without fear of losing their job. No one should have to choose between their health and their livelihood. That said, driving small businesses to close helps absolutely no one. I opposed the original "5 employees and up bill," because too many small business owners are operating on too narrow of a margin. I think the final version, which covers 20+ employees, is appropriate.

What are your views on the foam ban?

The ban on polystyrene is good for business and good for New York. Styrofoam is toxic to the environment and, in order to move our city toward a zero waste future needs to be eliminated. By fostering a culture of recycling, compost, and proper waste management in New York City, we can save business owners and citizens a boatload of money in the long run.

What are your views on the mandatory calorie postings?

As a former health teacher, I specialized in teaching students to make good decisions about nutrition and lifestyle. I support public health initiatives that give citizens the information they need to make smart dietary decisions. Obesity is out of control in our society, and we all have to take responsibility to address it. While regulation is not ideal, it can be necessary to nudge food producers in the right direction.

 


Q & A with Democratic Mayoral Candidate Randy Credico 


Do you support the culture of fining that has existed under the current administration?

No. Absolutely not.  That would come to an end. For huge chains like Hard Rock Cafe–maybe– but these extravagant fines that are levied on food carts and small restaurants are unjust. All these small businesses are really subsidizing Wall Street and the banks and the big real estate firms.

These three big industries would pay their fare share of taxes that run New York City’s political machines. It’s like the time going up to the French Revolution where only the small bourgeois merchants were paying taxes and the nobles with all the big estates and the clergy, which had all the real estate, were paying no taxes. So they have to pay their fair share.

If the current system of fines is not the answer, then how do you effectively enforce regulations?

Well you want clean restaurants, but to heavily tax [restaurant owners] beyond what they can pay is the same as taxing a taxi driver $300 for getting too far away from the curb and he has to work all day to pay that. A guy with a food cart has to work two days to pay one of his $500 fine–three days maybe. A reasonable fine would be fine, but it’s got to be the kind of income that the restaurant or the food cart makes so it’s not punitive to the smaller guy. You have to find a balance here.

How do you clarify for restaurant owners the regulations that pertain to them?

The system is very corrupt. A lot of people are out there shaking down restaurant owners. You certainly want people to comply. It’s a difficult business. The restaurant business is very difficult to make any money. I know because I used to be a waiter and a busboy and it’s hard work and even the owners don’t make that much money. But, you have to bring in people from the industry and employees and you sit down and you come up with solutions that everyone agrees to and make it more democratic rather than it just be a disguised unfair tax on small businesses like restaurants.

How would you enhance or reform the Department of Small Business Services and/ or the Small Business Acceleration Team?

I would bring in people from small businesses. People from Washington Heights and people from Jamaica, Queens –

I would have these guys come in there and come up with regulations rather than it just be some business man from Wall Street running the Small Business. 

The current administration does not have any staffer dedicated to hospitality. If you were elected, would you add some sort of hospitality office be it a liaison, deputy mayor, or staffer?

I am definitely a huge supporter of a Department of Hospitality.

What are your views on the paid sick-leave legislation?

I believe in the paid-sick leave. If a guy is sick, you don’t want him coughing up germs on the food. If it’s a small business, like 15 people or less, than the city would find a way to pay for the sick leave and not the business.

How would you streamline the permit process for restaurants and/or alcohol licenses?

There is so much red tape and it’s all controlled by the community boards and they are certainly under the thumb of the Borough Presidents and it’s a very corrupt process. There’s got to be a way to amend the law to encourage more small business to open without having to go through so much red tape. I definitely want to make it easier for restaurants to open in the city.

How would you work with borough presidents to ensure restaurants have a fair hearing at the community boards?

I’d put a lot of pressure on them. Remember these people–the borough presidents–they’re elected officials and they’ve got a job. They’ve got a job for four years and benefits and everything and we’re talking about small businesses that are trying to open and employ six–eight–10–12 employees and they need those jobs. Once these guys get into office they forget how difficult it is to find a job right now. You need to put the pressure on the other borough presidents to create more jobs for the community as long as they are not counterproductive to the health of the community.

What are your views on the mandatory calorie postings?

It’s intrusive and unnecessary and most people ignore them. The average person that goes into a Burger King and McDonald doesn’t even look at them. If you’re putting on weight, then you can change your diet. You can’t jam instructions on what to eat. It creates another bureaucracy in the city and there are much bigger problems that the city has to deal with than enforcing calorie counts.


Tyler Pager is  a freelance writer based in West Harrison, New York.
He is a rising freshman at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He was named the 2013 New York State Journalist of the Year by the Journalism Education Association and served as the editor-in-chief of his high school's newspaper, Tower. His work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Caller and The Daily Northwestern.

 

 

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