PHOTO: The Environmental Control Board’s Queens office is in this building in Jamaica. Photo Courtesy of Altanova Building Solutions
By Forum Staff
Finance Committee Chairwomen Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) and the New York City Council recently approved a 90-day amnesty program to help relieve property owners from their outstanding Environmental Control Board judgments. A report released in November 2015 by the Department of Finance showed the City was owed $1.58 billion in unpaid ECB fines of which $386 million was interest, $709 million were penalty fees, and approximately 75 percent was more than two and a half years old.
“The goal of this amnesty program is not only to ensure faster resolution of ECB debt, but to give property owners and small businesses an opportunity to resolve their debt and prevent tougher enforcement,” said Ferreras-Copeland. “I thank Council Member Ben Kallos and my colleagues for their support in passing this bill. The Council’s Finance Committee will continue to track the Department of Finance’s effort and find new avenues for collecting the $1.58 billion it is owed.”
During the 90-day amnesty program, which will be administered by the DOF later this year, respondents who have default ECB judgments will be able to resolve their debt by paying the base penalty and have additional penalties and accrued interest waived.
Respondents who have judgments against them as a result of being found in violation after an ECB hearing would be able to resolve their debt by paying 75 percent of the imposed penalty and have the accrued interest waived. In addition, respondents with conditions to correct will be allowed six months to comply.
The amnesty program will give property owners and small businesses an opportunity to pay before tougher enforcement is implemented, which may include income execution, wage garnishment, and sale of personal and real property.
In order to encourage greater participation, the program will be paired with an outreach plan targeting those areas with a high concentration of property owners with ECB judgments. Upon the conclusion of the 90-day program, the Department of Finance will no longer offer reductions to base penalties nor full waivers to penalties and interest.
“Local independent supermarkets play an active role in the small business economy and fill a necessary void in neighborhoods starved of healthy food options,” said National Supermarket Association President Rudy Fuertes. “Our members need support and resources, not onerous fees and fines. We support any initiative that will curtail overhead and help our businesses grow and hire – and this legislation will accomplish exactly that. I’d like to thank Council Member Ferreras for her leadership on this issue and continued efforts supporting New York City’s vibrant small business community.”
Last year, in an effort to bring about more transparency in the ECB debt collection process, the Council passed Local Law 11 that required an annual report from the Department of Finance detailing the amount of outstanding ECB judgments and the success of DOF’s collection efforts. The Committee on Finance has since continued to work with the Department of Finance to help find new ways of recuperating some of the debt.