Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Agency quota puts squeeze on local stores

By Sarina Trangle
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Winston Soriano puts the finishing touches on a flower arrangement at Flowers by Zenda at 5217 Broadway on Monday.

Business people in the Riverdale/Kingsbridge area say they’re not surprised by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s announcement that the Department of Consumer Affairs uses a quota system to encourage inspectors to issue more violations.

But, they say, the requirement to issue at least one violation for every four inspections hasn’t made for more effective enforcement.

At Doloma Convenience Store, Inc. on Broadway just south of West 231st Street, an employee said inspectors were too mired in bureaucracy to notice serious violations — such as his competitors’ sales of single cigarettes and untaxed packs. 

“We’re doing the right stuff, following the laws. But when they’re not, how am I going to pay rent?” said the employee who asked to remain anonymous because the owner wasn’t present. “They should be more vigilant.”

Just around the corner on West 231st Street, Omar Abdullah, whose family owns Broadway Candy, complained that the agency’s zealousness saddled small businesses with staggering fines.

“They’re supposed to help out, give a warning, but they don’t,” said Mr. Abdullah, noting that his bodega received four-figure fines for selling flavored tobacco because his family didn’t know it had been recently outlawed. “They just give tickets.” 

Mr. de Blasio announced last month his staff had determined Consumer Affairs flagged inspectors who fail to meet a 25 percent threshold, meaning they scrutinize staff who don’t issue at least one ticket per every four inspections. The mayoral candidate also said his office’s review of the department data and interviews with employees indicated Consumers Affairs pressured administrative judges to rule against businesses’ appeals.

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