Deputy Mayor of Operations Stephen Goldsmith held an information and listening session with Caribbean community business members as part of outreach sessions his office is having with small business owners citywide–particularly restaurants, bars, bakeries and butcher shops– and merchant associations around the city.
“I want to make it easier to open a small business,” he said touting the New Business Acceleration Team (NBAT), a program of his office that is purpose is to troubleshoot and shorten the licensing and inspection process. NBAT is moving from a pilot to an established program after Labor Day.
The NBAT program is intended to make it possible for entrepreneurs to navigate government agencies and open their doors more quickly. It will help businesses get the answers and services they need.
This particular session focused on businesses in the food industry. City of New York recognizes the importance of businesses in this industry for the economic viability of the city. It is an industry particularly accessible to new and small business; 2,500 new businesses in this industry opened last year and 2,000 additional changed hands.
It is also an industry that employs great numbers, approximately 260,000 people.
NBAT works with qualifying businesses reviewing plans and offering pre-inspections, and helps schedule and coordinate required inspections. These are inspections that may be conducted by the Departments of Fire, Environment Protection, Buildings, Health and Mental Hygiene.
Louis Peters of Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CACCI), a trade organization that has been working with businesses in the community, contributed to the session. “Our business members benefit a lot from education workshops but don’t show up when they’re held out of the neighborhood,” he said. “We have meetings once a month with information they take back. Licensing, approvals and working the process are of concern.”
Kevin Johnson of Chrystal Manor and Chrystal Bar and Grill, also the chairman of the Flatbush/Nostrand Junction Improvement District, said that finding one central place for information would be really helpful. He also said that access to demographic information, looking at other models of economic development plans like Harlem or MetroTech and information on the transition to a BID (Business Improvement District) is of great value.
Johnson is concerned with increasing violence and the need to get involved with local community programs such as the “Y” to offer young people recreation opportunities.
More than one participant voiced the need for access to capital to open a business. It was also noted the annoyance when merchants who put sample items or small racks on the sidewalk in front of their shops regularly get Department of Sanitation tickets.
Steve Hunt who owns a bakery discussed the nit picking by the Department of Health.
Community members at the Mayor’s Office meeting were Steven Hunt, Steven & Son’s, Margaret Saunders and Louis Peters of CACCI, Yves Vilus and Akeno Lopez of Erasmus Neighborhood Federation, and Kevin Johnson of Crystal Manor.
If a business qualifies for the program, an introductory meeting is scheduled at the business site to review permit and license requirements. Building plans can then be submitted to a NBAT Plan Examiner to undergo a review as required by the Department of Buildings (DOB). (Also, outstanding objections from previously disapproved DOB plans can be reviewed.)
NBAT can be contacted to coordinate an inspection. If passed, the business is ready to open. If not, there will be notifications on what issues must be corrected and a re-inspection date assigned.