By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday tapped former restaurant owner and corporate attorney Julie Menin to be New York City’s new Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs. As Commissioner, Menin’s role encompasses both protecting consumers and advocating for small businesses.
Menin pledged to ease the “punitive” fines that have plagued small business, and make sure consumer complaints are handled quickly and efficiently.
Under Mayor Bloomberg, small businesses complained they were harried with an increasing number of fines. De Blasio, when public advocate, issued a report that found that Consumer Affairs had increased its fines to small businesses by 102 percent from 2009 to 2011.
“Julie understands that small businesses are the key to economic growth in our city—and I know she will apply regulations with public safety, not city revenues, in mind,” Mayor de Blasio said. Under the previous administration, “Many small businesses were treated unfairly,” he said. “We want to move away from that approach. We want to create an approach where we work with small business, we educate, we explain, we answer questions. When we fine it’s because we know we’ve tried everything else short of fining.”
“I became a lawyer decades ago to protect consumers and help businesses comply with the law—and I’m thrilled to lead an agency that pursues this goal across all five boroughs,” Menin said.
She said that as the child of immigrants, she would reach out to immigrant communities “and make sure that we’re protecting their consumer rights and ensure that immigrant small businesses know the rules and regulations and that we’re offering them technical assistance, not just arbitrary and capricious fines.”
Menin said the department would also protect New Yorkers “from scams and deceptions designed to take advantage of the innocent.”
The Mayor added that in the coming weeks, his administration would be looking to revamp outdated and conflicting regulations
Menin worked as a senior regulatory attorney at Colgate-Palmolive in New York City beginning in 1995, specializing in consumer protection law and product safety regulations. In 1999, she opened and operated Vine, a restaurant, market and catering operation in lower Manhattan.
After September 11, Menin founded the non-profit Wall Street Rising to help small businesses in lower Manhattan recover. Beginning in 2005, she served as Chairperson for Community Board 1, where she served for three consecutive terms. She also created, hosted and produced NBC’s “Give & Take,” interview show. Menin ran unsuccessfully for Manhattan Borough President in 2013.
“From running her own business to stewarding the return of lower Manhattan to vibrancy, Julie knows what it takes to get the job done. As commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, I know Julie is going to be a tireless advocate for small businesses in every borough and will ensure their growth,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez in a statement.
Carlos Scissura, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement, “As a former small business owner and a leading community activist, Julie will fight to protect small businesses by ensuring the enforcement process is fair and the laws are better understood by business owners across every neighborhood in New York City.”