Small Business First strives to reduce the burden of regulations on small businesses while ensuring compliance with City rules – which keep New Yorkers safe, healthy, and protected. In so doing, Small Business First builds on previous work that City agencies have done as well as current work that agencies are doing, and significantly expands on these efforts to drive dramatic change in the way government interacts with business owners.
The specific initiatives included below outline the City's next steps in making New York friendlier to small businesses. However, making New York City more business-friendly will require ongoing input and feedback from the community – these changes are only the beginning.
Provide Clear Information with Coordinated Services and Support
- Create a Comprehensive Online Business Portal
The portal will allow businesses to access customized information and conduct transactions (e.g., completing applications, making payments, and checking status) at convenient times from one online location.
- Provide an Easy-to-Find Location for Businesses on Each Regulatory Agency Website
Each of the regulatory agencies' websites will be updated to include a uniform "Business" tab that contains all information relevant to a business as well as a link to the Online Business Portal.
- Engage Entrepreneurs in Developing Online Services for Businesses
The City will hold a competition to encourage the private sector to come up with innovative technology solutions to help businesses navigate City regulations.
- Create New One-Stop Business Center
The Center will offer businesses one central location to get information, receive support services, transact with the City and access resources, including client managers to provide one-on-one assistance.
- Provide Individual Support to Business Owners with Client Managers
Client managers will be available upon request to provide one-on-one assistance to any business to help them navigate government requirements and facilitate all interactions with the City.
- Promote the Use of Handheld Devices for Inspections
The City will promote the use of handheld devices for inspections at each agency in order to improve the clarity and flow of information between City agencies and business owners.
- Ensure Agencies Have Plain Language Guides
Easy-to-understand informational materials, without jargon or overly technical terms, will be created to provide guidance on the regulatory process.
- Create Informational Guides for Inter-Agency Processes
Guides with information on processes that involve multiple agencies will be developed so that businesses do not have to search through multiple resources to find the information they need.
Help Businesses Understand and Comply with City Regulations
- Deploy Small Business Compliance Advisors to Help Businesses Follow the Rules
A Small Business Compliance Advisor will be trained in the requirements of multiple agencies and will be available to provide an on-site walkthrough to help businesses understand how to comply with the rules before an inspection occurs and fines are issued.
- Provide Proactive Support to Businesses Needing Education
The City will analyze data from a variety of sources in order to identify neighborhoods that might benefit from additional education and outreach and will target those areas for support.
- Provide Better Customer Service at All Levels
The City will ensure agency personnel who have significant interaction with the public, including inspectors and intake staff, receive extensive customer service training and are evaluated accordingly.
- Create One-Stop Hearing Centers for Business Regulatory Issues
The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings will transform its location in each borough into a One-Stop Hearing Center that can handle any type of case from any agency at one site.
- Provide a More Flexible Adjudication Process by Expanding Alternative Hearing Options
The City will expand the option to have a hearing through a variety of means, including telephone, online, or mail to as many violation categories as possible.
Reduce the Burden Imposed by Complex Regulations and Fines
- Create an Advisory Board to Provide Feedback and Review City Laws
An Advisory Board of representatives from the small business community, agency personnel, and elected officials will meet regularly to provide feedback on the implementation of Small Business First, potential new initiatives, and to weigh in on upcoming City regulatory and process changes.
- Eliminate and Consolidate Licenses and Permits
The City will eliminate outdated or unnecessary licenses and permits, and consolidate overlapping or duplicative licenses and permits from the City Administrative Code and Rules.
- Repeal or Modify Unnecessarily Complex or Obsolete Rules
The City will clean up and simplify the City's laws by repealing or modifying rules and regulations that are not consistent with modern business practices, are overly complex, or are obsolete.
- Make it Easier for Gyms and Health Clubs to Open in New York City
A more appropriate framework for regulating commercial health clubs will be developed in order to make it easier for gyms and health clubs to open in the City.
- Improve Coordination between the Department of Buildings and the Fire Department
Overlapping or interdependent processes that exist between DOB and FDNY will be streamlined.
- Streamline Fire Suppression Plan Review by Removing Department of Buildings' Review
The process, which currently involves reviews by both DOB and FDNY, will be streamlined to make FDNY the sole agency reviewing fire suppression plans.
- Allow Licensed Fire Suppression Contractors to Submit Plans for Commercial Kitchen (Rangehood) Fire Suppression Systems
Small businesses will save money by not having to hire a licensed architect or engineer to submit plans.
- Streamline Department of Buildings' Process for Determinations
DOB will leverage technology solutions to improve the speed of Determinations, decisions on appeals from DOB plan examiners' objections.
- Streamline and Standardize the Process for Obtaining a Department of Buildings' Letter of No Objection
The City will help small businesses to open sooner by improving the process for obtaining a Letter of No Objection, a document required where there is no Certificate of Occupancy or the use of a location must be confirmed.
- Standardize Department of Buildings' Plan Objections
The City will ensure that plan examiners use standard language to describe plan objections to make it easier for business owners to understand and participate in the process.
- Create a Sidewalk Shed Notification System at the Department of Transportation
DOT will create a system that allows small businesses to avoid violations by notifying DOT that the business will be erecting or taking down a legal sidewalk shed.
- Expand the Department of Transportation's Online Permitting System to Include All Permit Types
DOT will make nearly all of its permits available online, creating more convenience and flexibility for business owners.
Ensure Equal Access for All Business Owners
- Train Community Groups to Assist Local Businesses
The City will train neighborhood organizations to assist small business owners, especially immigrants, in finding City information and services in their own communities.
- Support Businesses by Providing Educational Events in Communities
City agencies will hold regular educational events in neighborhoods where business owners can get their questions answered directly from regulatory and business support agency personnel.
- Help Small Business Owners by Connecting Them to Personal Financial Counseling
The Department of Consumer Affairs' Office of Financial Empowerment will increase its efforts to provide financial services to business owners by developing closer relationships with other regulatory agencies.
- Provide Information in Plain English through Staff Training
Training agency staff to write more clearly and less technically will help ensure that business owners are provided with notices and resource materials that are easier to understand.
- Make Key Materials and Services Available in More Languages
Each agency will translate informational materials about, at a minimum, its top three functions (e.g., license application, notice of violation). In addition, inspector training on the use of telephone interpretation services during inspections will be given to help inspectors communicate with non-English speakers.
We will begin implementing these recommendations immediately, holding ourselves accountable by tracking progress against specific and ambitious goals. We will ensure that we are saving business owners time, money, and hassle, as well as increasing their satisfaction with City services.
Through Small Business First, the de Blasio Administration is pursuing a multi-faceted and expansive strategy to ensure City government works harder and more effectively for small businesses. In doing so, the City will lift up entrepreneurs who want to create jobs, strengthen neighborhoods and grow the economy.