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Local News April 11, 2013  RSS feed

MAKING RECOVERY SAFER, AFFORDABLE

Mayor Signs Home, Biz Rebuilding Bills
by Robert Pozarycki

Seeking to make it easier and safer for the victims of Hurricane Sandy to recover, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed two bills last Tuesday, Apr. 2, which waive certain fees for small businesses and institute regulations for property owners who are elevating their structures.

The mayor also penned his signature on legislation increasing the penalties against individuals who commit crimes amid declared states of emergency.

Bloomberg first signed Intro. No. 1017, which eliminates certain departmental fees for services sought by business owners affected by last October’s superstorm. Qualified businesses are located in Hurricane Evacuation Zones A and B and were open or operational prior to and/or during the hurricane.

In Queens, those communities include parts of Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, Long Island City, Broad Channel and all of the Rockaways.

“We are all acutely aware of the extensive damage left after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City on Oct. 29, 2012,” Bloomberg said at the public hearing prior to signing the bills. “Thousands of businesses were impacted, causing significant disruption to individuals, families, neighborhoods and the city’s economy. Restoring these businesses and the jobs they create is a critical part of the city’s overall recovery from Sandy.”

The items to be waived under the new law include the following:

• Department of Buildings permit and inspection fees for construction, demolition, scaffolds, boilers, pluming, electrical work, signs, limited alterations and after-hours work.

• Fire Department fees for inspection of fire protection and gas station fuel dispensing systems, as well as plan review and examination fees for the installation of such devices.

• Department of Transportation permit fees for opening the street, debris containers, sidewalk construction, vaults and canopies.

• Department of Small Business Services fees for permits for water construction, equipment use, mooring and fill work, and fees for work notices and certificates of completion.

• Department of Environmental Protection fees for fuel-burning incinerator fees and certificates of instruction in the use and operation of the devices.

• Department of Consumer Affairs licensing fees for salvage and liquidation sales of goods and licensing inspection fees for tow trucks and pedicabs.

• Taxi and Limousine Commission fees for the licensing of vehicles, replacing medallions, transferring licenses and for-hire vehicle inspections.

• Landmarks Preservation Commission fees for obtaining certificates of no affect or of appropriateness.

Any business owner which has paid any of the fees previously will be eligible for a refund.

The bill was sponsored by City Council Members Diana Reyna, Leroy Comrie, Daniel Halloran, Peter Koo, Karen Koslowitz, Eric Ulrich and Peter Vallone Jr., among others.

The second bill Bloomberg signed was Intro. No. 1007, which institutes regulations and requirements for property owners, contractors and architects planning to elevate homes and other structures.

As previously reported, the bill was drafted with the intent of avoiding construction accidents similar to those which occurred in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Building elevation in the Louisiana city was not regulated at the time.

“In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, one method for protecting a home and complying with insurance requirements is to elevate the home to a desired flood elevation, and it is incumbent upon the city to ensure that this important work gets done properly,” Bloomberg added.

The new law requires that all architects indicate on plans submitted to the Department of Buildings if the structure is being elevated. Contractors must also notify the Buildings Department within 48 hours of beginning work in order to allow the agency to dispatch inspectors, if necessary.

All completed elevation work must also be inspected by a certified individual authorized by the Buildings Department to conduct such investigations. The Department of Consumer Affairs will also commence a public education campaign to advise property owners of the new regulations.

The local sponsors of the bill were City Council Members Comrie, Halloran, Koo, Ulrich and Ruben Wills.

Finally, the mayor signed Intro. No. 1016, which increases the prison sentences and fines for individuals convicted of committing a felony or misdemeanor in an area designated as a mandatory evacuation zone during a state of emergency, as declared by the mayor.

“The city’s experience during Hurricane Sandy brought to light the need to address the fear that many home and business owners feel when directed to evacuate their premises— the fear that criminals will exploit the situation,” Bloomberg said. “While we saw a reduction in major crimes committed during the week beginning Oct. 29 compared to the prior year, there were some local spikes in burglaries committed in areas directly affected by the storm. The more widespread and significant danger came from the fear of burglary, leading people to fail to evacuate when they should have.”

“The crimes articulated in the bill are those which would most likely be associated with a state of emergency, and the two-tier system of penalties reserves the most serious punishment for those who commit these acts in a mandatory evacuation area during a mandatory evacuation period,” he added.

Those convicted of committing offenses such as intentionally or recklessly causing physical injury to a person or property, looting, trespassing or fraud in a mandatory evacuation zone during a state of emergency will be subject to a prison sentence of between six months and one year, a fine of between $2,500 and $5,000 and a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

City Council Members Comrie, Halloran, Ulrich and Vallone Jr. were among the local sponsors of the bill.