For the obvious reasons, labor law, restaurant letter grades and high rents are the hot button issues that have the industry buzzing. At the NYC Hospitality Alliance, we are not only intimately involved in those matters, but many other issues that may not grab the headlines, but that are critically important to the operations of the city’s restaurant industry.
So in this month’s column, I share with you my abridged comments from two City Council hearings that I recently testified at on behalf of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. I hope they provide you with greater insight into our vital work representing the industry and get you familiar with two important issues impacting restaurants throughout the city: scaffolding and organic waste separation.
It’s no secret that scaffolding plays an important role in protecting people from falling debris from building construction. But it’s also no secret that scaffolding that is left up for extended periods of time has a devastating impact on restaurants and bars, ranging from a significant loss of business, to the reduction of employee hours and layoffs, to being a major factor in some businesses closing.
Last year, the NYC Hospitality Alliance conducted a survey of our membership, in partnership with the NYC Department of Small Business Services inquiring about the impact of scaffolding on their businesses. The responses demonstrated that when scaffolding is left up unnecessarily, it too often poses a significant and sometimes existential threat to our city’s restaurants and the jobs of New Yorkers.
This is why we support Council Member Ben Kallos’ effort to pass legislation that would regulate the length of time in which scaffolding may stay constructed, helping to mitigate unnecessary scaffolding that stays up for many months or in some cases years beyond its intended purpose. In addition to the current proposal, we suggest that the city establish a vehicle for which a business may file a complaint if they believe scaffolding constructed in front of their business is in violation of this law.
As we’ve said before, the wheels of government move slowly, and that’s why it’s important to have the NYC Hospitality Alliance in the halls of government advocating on behalf of our industry. But the wheels of government do move, and we’re encouraged that scaffolding reform has reached the next step in the legislative process. We will continue to advocate until scaffolding reform is implemented.
Organic Waste Separation:
The New York City Hospitality Alliance is supportive of environmentally friendly business practices, such as organic waste separation. Some of our members who operate restaurants both large and small have implemented composting programs into their operations, and many seek other ways to reduce their environmental impact. Environmentally sustainable business practices are the ethos of so many of our members operations.
First, we would like to address concerns about the enforcement of the current organic separation Rule, which seems to run counter to efforts by the de Blasio administration to reduce fines on businesses and provide cure periods for minor violations. Since the current law took effect several of our members who operate restaurants in hotels and are covered by the law have experienced aggressive enforcement for minor infractions. For example, one restaurant was fined hundreds of dollars because a city inspector cited a single onion peel located in the wrong garbage. As you can imagine, this business owner felt he was the target of overaggressive enforcement. Because such punitive enforcement occurs, at this time we cannot comfortably support expanding the organic waste separation mandate to smaller businesses.
Second, we submitted comments on Monday, October 5, 2015, when the city proposed their organic waste source separation law that is in effect for certain large-scale establishments. In that testimony, we raised concerns about the future expansion of the law. It was our understanding that the city would wait to expand the organic separation requirements to additional businesses until it determined there was sufficient capacity and infrastructure to do so. We have not received documentation about how the city concluded that such capacity is available prior to testifying at the public hearing. And since the city is reviewing changing from an open carting system in which a business owner may hire a carting company in the free market, to a zoned system in which they are required to use a specific carting company when located in a geographic area, we believe it is premature and counterproductive to discuss expanding the organic waste source separation to even more businesses, until a review of a zoning system and its impact are better understood.
I hope both of the examples I’ve shared with you provide you with greater insight into the important work of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. If you have any questions or would like to support our efforts please call us at 212-582-2506, email info@theNYCalliance.org or visit www.theNYCalliance.org.