Political Potpourri: ‘End Assault on Small Businesses!’

By Paula Katinas

Charging that the city is unfair to owners of mom-and-pop businesses, Councilman Vincent Gentile said he will work to put a stop to what he called an “assault on small businesses.”

Addressing the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Gentile said he is sponsoring several pieces of legislation to help business owners.
“As many of you know, my district office in Bay Ridge is a storefront on Third Avenue. I am surrounded by restaurants, small retail stores, and other mom-and-pop businesses. I hear what they’re going through with city agencies and they are not happy,” he said.
A major part of the problem is overzealous enforcement on the part of city agencies, according to Gentile. 
“There’s a place for enforcement of consumer rights and health standards, but there is absolutely no place to turn enforcement responsibilities into revenue collection responsibilities,” Gentile said. “I am very concerned that the departments of health and sanitation have become little more than extra tentacles for the city’s revenue collection. We cannot squeeze small businesses to create revenue for the city.” 
Gentile also blasted the city’s letter-grading system for restaurants. He said that while the system in general is fair, he was concerned with a wave of complaints he has received from restaurant owners, even those who had received A grades, about the unfairness and inconsistencies of the grading process.
“Enforcement cannot vary depending on the whim of the inspector. There needs to be a set standard,” he said.
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Speaking of Gentile, he and another local lawmakers who have a history of being at odds engaged in a battle of press releases this week in which they each took credit for convincing the New York City Department of Transportation to replace one-hour parking meters on Third and Fifth avenues with two-hour meters.
State Sen. Martin Golden and Gentile waged the battle with dueling releases. 
Golden was first out of the box with a press release Monday afternoon announcing that the new, longer meters would be installed. Not to be outdone, Gentile had his press secretary, Justin Brannan, call the Bay Ridge Eagle later that afternoon to invite the newspaper to a photo op in front of a meter on Fifth Avenue and 79th Street. Gentile made plans to pose for a picture in front of a meter.
A short time after that, Brannan emailed a press release containing a copy of a letter Gentile sent to Brooklyn Transportation Commissioner Joseph Palmieri on Nov. 22 requesting the two-hour meters. And a short time after that, another email arrived in this reporter’s inbox. It was from Golden’s office and it contained a letter the senator wrote to New York City Transportation Commissioner Jeanette Sadik-Khan on Oct. 7.
We’re sure shoppers who can now park for longer periods of time on Third and Fifth avenues are grateful to both the senator and the councilman!
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The Metrocard bus is coming!
State Sen. Marty Golden has arranged for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to bring its Metrocard bus to his district office at 7408 Fifth Ave. on Monday, Feb. 6, from 1 to 3 p.m.
Residents will be able to buy Metrocards, add money to their cards, apply for reduced-fare cards and take care of other Metrocard needs.
For information, call Golden’s office at (718) 238-6044.
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Sen. Golden has been busy in his home district in Brooklyn and up in Albany in recent weeks. When the legislature’s session began, Golden introduced a bill that would allow religious institutions to use public school buildings for worship services during non-school hours.
His bill passed unanimously in the Senate Education Committee.
Golden introduced the legislation in response to a decision by the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to ban churches from holding religious services in public schools.
“Organizations based on faith deserve the same rights as all other groups and, because of their beliefs, should not be held to a different standard,” Golden said. “This legislation will give religious institutions the right to worship without interfering with the separation of church and state. These groups will now have the right to meet when school is not in session, and this gives a home back to many religious groups who were kicked out of facilities that they have used for over a decade.”
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said she supports the bill and called the DOE ruling hypocritical.
“The education department is unfairly targeting religious institutions that have the same right to rent public spaces as any other group,” Malliotakis said. “To exclude these groups is just plain wrong. These organizations contribute to the fabric of our community through their acts of volunteerism and charity. Their mistreatment by the city is unjust and an affront to our nation’s basic principle of freedom of religion.”
More than 60 houses of worship hold services in public schools around the city. The DOE ban is set to take effect on Feb. 12.
Malliotakis is urging her Assembly colleagues to pass the bill.
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Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr., chairman of the Council’s Finance Committee, presented written testimony to a state legislative committee on the impact of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget.
“In general, we are pleased with the governor’s budget proposals as they affect our own budgetary situation. As you heard from Mayor Bloomberg, the city faces a $2 billion gap for next year,” Recchia testified. “I want to highlight two actions in the state budget that have significant benefits for the city for which we are thankful. The first is the 2.9 percent increase in school aid for the city. The second action that I want to highlight is the governor’s proposal for the state to assume the cost of growth in the local share of Medicaid spending over the next few years. Although we will not see significant savings until our fiscal year 2014, this provides relief from a tremendous burden on the city budget, and properly places the burden for cost growth containment at the state level.”
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Assemblyman Dov Hikind is outraged over a recent series of attacks on residents by wild pit bulls in Borough Park and Midwood.
Hikind called on the New York Police Department and New York City Animal Care and Control to do more about the terrifying situation.
The city has received six complaints about the dogs since April, according to Hikind, who said a 70-year-old Borough Park woman was attacked by a pit bull on the street. The dog tore through her winter coat and left her with two dozen stitches in her arm, the assemblyman said.
The pit bulls attack people as well as other dogs, Hikind said. 
They are responsible for the death of at least one dog and the mauling of another, he said.
Hikind said police should shoot a dangerous pit bull on sight. 
“The police have a responsibility to ensure public safety. If budget cuts prevent Animal Care and Control from coming out and collaring these nasty pit bulls, then at the very least, the police should respond immediately and shoot these dogs on sight to prevent any further attacks. By the time police actually show up, these dogs are probably halfway to Mexico,” Hikind said.
Hikind said the dogs seem to congregate near the railroad tracks on Avenue I and Foster Avenue. There are many holes in the fence surrounding the railroad tracks, according to Hikind, who said he has heard from constituents that homeless people living near the tracks have been feeding the vicious animals.
February 2, 2012 - 3:31pm



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