Bronx small businesses drained in city fines

Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, a mayoral candidate, unveils a chart detailing a rise in the number of fines aimed at small businesses in the Bronx.
Photo by David Cruz

One of the worst kept secrets has been confirmed – Bronx small businesses have been getting socked with hefty fines for at least a decade.

In a detailed report compiled by the Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio’s office, the city has used every law in its books to squeeze thousands of dollars out of businesses in the borough.

Often with a blend of arbitration and impunity, small mom and pop ventures have been fearful of Sanitation, Consumer Affairs and Health Department inspectors stopping by to issue summonses, particularly in Morrisania, where the city Department of Consumer Affairs issued the most violations/inspections citywide.

The courts ordered six agencies to open their books in April 2012 at the rquest of the Public Advocate’s Office, which received a flurry of complaints from small businesses throughout the Bloomberg years.

The health department and consumer affairs both had the most impact on small business, according to the report.

It found the ratio of DCA inspections to Bronx small businesses eight percent higher when compared to Manhattan, with 14% fewer inspections.

When it came to summonses, the Bronx small businesses had seven percent more DCA fines than Manhattan, which saw an 18% drop of small business fines.

Citywide, of ten neighborhoods most inspected, fined and issued violations by DCA in 2012, five were in the Bronx.

Working poor Morrisania, with 191 retailers, ranked first citywide, with 1,295 inspections and 483 violations in 2012. It ranked seventh for DCA fines, totalling $351,000.

“It seems the government we have now is not interested in small businesses’ plight,” said Medina Sadiq, executive director of the Southern Boulevard Business Improvement District, covering parts of Morrisania.

Accountant Ubaldo Santos bore the brunt of fines and violations by the Department of Sanitation after a corner trash bin near his business overflowed.

“There’s no such a thing as a warning,” said Santos, part of a group of businesses along 183rd Street aiming to form a business improvement district.

As for the Department of Health, where inspectors make surprise visits to local eateries, the report showed the Bronx ranked very low in the number of inspections when compared to other boroughs.

Still, DeBlasio, a mayoral candidate, believes the Bronx is being run through the mill with “gotcha fines” he calls a hidden tax.

“The City of New York is treating small business owners like an ATM,” he said, announcing his findings in front of Que Sabrosura Restaurant in Fordham Heights March 22.

He called the rush to hand out tickets to the Bronx over Manhattan an example of “Boroughism,” a term he coined.

“The pattern of bias is abundantly clear,” said DeBlasio, who recommends agencies educate first and fine later.

He said his office will shortly release findings on Sanitation, Transportation, Buildings and Finance.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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