Bronx businesses pay more fines, report says
By Adam Wisnieski
Riverdale and Kingsbridge businesses are inspected more often and pay more in fines than the citywide average, according to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office.
Mr. de Blasio issued a report in February, titled “Borough Bias,” with data showing outer borough businesses are being targeted by city agencies with an increasing number of low-level fines.
In Fiscal Year 2012, businesses in zip code 10471 paid an average $567 in fines and businesses in zip code 10463 paid an average $510, compared to the citywide average of $447.25, according to data the public advocate’s office obtained from the Department of Consumer Affairs. Businesses in local zip codes were also inspected more often and issued more violations than the citywide average in 2012.
Mr. de Blasio charges that the Bloomberg administration is targeting the outer boroughs with low-level offenses to raise the revenue. Compared to the citywide average, Mr. de Blasio determined Bronx businesses are inspected by Consumer Affairs 8 percent more frequently, the highest rate of any borough.
Since the city created the restaurant letter grading system in 2010, local restaurant owners have complained about fines for small offenses and a pattern of aggressive inspection.
In Riverdale and Kingsbridge, heads of local merchants groups said that they haven’t noticed local businesses getting an unfair share of fines or violations, but that many restaurant owners complain about the city’s crackdown on food codes.
Ellyn Kaplan, owner of Cafeccino on West 231st Street, said city inspectors look for ways to fine restaurants, even if they are awarded an A grade. She said she received a $700 fine for a bruised tomato last year.
“This is absolutely a way for them to make money because I can still get an A, but I will get fined for stupid things. They’re just making money,” Ms. Kaplan said.
Mr. de Blasio’s report determined the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which inspects restaurants, generated $52 million in fines in Fiscal Year 2012, an increase from $27.8 million in fines three years earlier. The approximately 27,000 food service establishments paid an average of $1,925 in fines in 2012.
“The farther you get from City Hall, the more likely your business is to get inspected and fined. That’s no way to balance a budget and it’s no way to spur hiring in the boroughs that need it most,” Mr. de Blasio said in a press release.
“These fines are a $50 million hidden tax that was levied on small businesses without warning or debate. The Mayor can’t keep burdening outer borough neighborhoods with frivolous fines to balance the city’s books.”