New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Outdoor Dining Would Get Easier for Small Business with Temporary Permits for Lapsed Licenses and New Owners Proposed by Kallos Cumbersome Bureaucratic Sidewalk Café Permit Re-Applications Would Be Replaced with Easy Temporary Renewal Process for Cash St

New York, NY - Mom and pop stores are the small businesses that make New York City great that have remained inaccessible to 1 million residents, and 7 million tourists with disabilities would receive government assistance to retrofit for accessibility and indoor safety during the pandemic. Toady Council Members Ben Kallos introduced legislation to provide grants and low-interest loans of up to $250,000 along with education for small businesses in storefronts to make accessibility and public health improvements, coupled with securing long sought after rent reductions from landlords.
“The blight of empty storefronts has only gotten worse since the pandemic and we need to do everything we can to help them retrofit for accessibility and public health to welcome more customers with disabilities while securing lower rents. It’s a win-win-win for small business owners, customers susceptible to coronavirus or with disabilities, and even landlords,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Victor Calise Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities for working with us on this program since I was elected, together we can open up the best parts of our city for everyone.”
Mom and pop storefronts have been the target of American with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits filed growing year over year, both nationally and locally. Recent reporting shows that the number of such cases in New York surged more than 300 percent from 543 in 2016 to 2,338 last year. A number of these cases are filed by “frequent flyer” serial litigants who specialize in these types of “drive by” lawsuits. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to these types of suits because they have less income to spend making ADA alterations to their spaces and less to spend on legal counsel. The worst part is that many of these lawsuits are settled costing mom and pop owners the money they could’ve spent staying open or making the accessibility improvements that are rarely required by these settlements or ever happen.
Introduction by 2097-2020 by Council Member Kallos would create an accessibility fund for small businesses. The fund would make grants and loans of up to $250,000 available to any small business (100 employees or less), for the purpose of renovating existing storefronts to become ADA compliant. The grants or low-interests would be made available to either the building owner or the storefront lessee. In either case, the Commissioner could require an agreement between the landlord and tenant to a decrease in rent, in proportion to the size of the grant, in return for these permanent improvements. 
“As our city’s restaurants and bars fight for survival, providing them with government support to retrofit their businesses so they are more accessible to people with disabilities and allow greater indoor safety during the pandemic is an important policy. We thank Council Member Kallos for their support and leadership on these important issues,” said Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the New York Hospitality Alliance.
“We look forward to seeing permanent improvement to the accessibility of local small businesses. We believe that people with disabilities would love to support small businesses in their community and look forward to an equal opportunity to do just that,” said Susan Dooha, Executive Director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled of New York.
“We are thankful that Council Member Kallos has realized the precarious financial position many small businesses find themselves in and is taking active steps to aid in a growing expense for many,” said Melissa Fleischut, President & CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association. “Accessibility changes are often incredibly cost-prohibitive, especially when alterations need to be made to older buildings. This program will allow for important capital to be put towards these needed changes, allowing these businesses to more easily accommodate all customers and meet all current safety standards.” 

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