Council Approves Crucial Bills on 311, Small Businesses, and Empty Storefronts

Council Approves Crucial Bills on 311, Small Businesses, and Empty Storefronts

Photo Courtesy of Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit

The City Council voted on several pieces of legislation on Thursday.

By Michael V. Cusenza

The City Council on Thursday voted in favor of legislation to increase 311 transparency and accessibility, support small businesses, and create more accurate empty storefront registry.

The bills are:

Introduction 206-A, sponsored by Councilwoman Sandra Ung (D-Flushing), seeks to increase transparency regarding the wait times experienced by individuals who request an interpreter during their calls to the 311 Customer Service Center. It would require the Commissioner of DOITT to compile and make publicly available a monthly dataset including the wait times (in number of seconds) experienced by individuals who request an interpreter during their calls to the 311 Customer Service Center.

Introduction 296-A, also sponsored by Ung, would require the development and updating of a protocol for identifying the languages spoken by callers to 311 in order to better facilitate requests for interpretation services. The bill would also require this protocol, and any subsequent updates to the protocol, to be posted to the 311 Customer Service Center website within 7 days after implementation and updating, respectively. The 311 Customer Service Center would additionally be required to report on the implementation of and updates to the protocol.

Introduction 240-A, sponsored by Councilwoman Jennifer GutiƩrrez (D-Brooklyn), would require, that within 30 days of the effective date of a local law that an agency head determines would allow someone to request a new service from the agency, the agency head notify 311 of the possible need to add or update a service request category on the 311 platforms. This bill would also require reporting on such additions and updates, and would require 311 to create a publicly available dataset including information on submission of correspondence from the public requesting the addition to, or updating of, 311 service request categories.

In addition, the council approved the following legislation addressing storefront vacancies and supporting small businesses in the post-pandemic era. The below legislation would alleviate obstacles small businesses face when engaging with City agencies by creating a business online portal and making more timely updates to a registry of current vacant storefronts.

Introduction 116-A, sponsored by Councilwoman Julie Menin (D-Manhattan), would require the Department of Small Business Services to create an online portal that includes all permit and license applications, as well as related applicable information, needed to open and operate a small business of any kind in New York City. The portal, which would be required to be available in English as well as ten languages commonly spoken by New Yorkers with limited English proficiency, would also allow business owners to track the status of their permit and license application(s), and allow (or include a link that allows) business owners to settle or pay outstanding balances on notices of violation. It would also require a survey of small businesses every three years to determine how the online portal is working effectively and what improvements could be made.

Introduction 383-A, sponsored by Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan), would clarify the dates by which a commercial landlord must notify the City if a space has become vacant before the next submission date. The City would then keep a more up-to-date registry of storefront vacancies that would be made available to the public. This bill serves as a continuation of legislation the council passed at the request of then-Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, which created a citywide commercial premises registry.


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