THE BRONX — Concerns ranging from broken parking meters to slow agency response to a lack of business knowledge in city government dominated the discussion at Comptroller Scott Stringer’s inaugural Red Tape Commission meeting on Tuesday.
The purpose of the commission is to identify difficulties business owners face that can discourage innovation and prevent commercial growth. It will hold meetings in all five boroughs and kicked off in The Bronx at Hostos Community College.
"The commission is designed to be bottom up," Stringer said at the meeting, "so we want to hear from people who actually are struggling every day trying to run a small business."
Several small businessmen and businesswomen attended the meeting to voice their concerns about being an entrepreneur in New York City.
Lovie Pignata, who had recently opened a pop-up coffee shop in Charlie's Bar and Kitchen, said she was frustrated over the lack of knowledge at city agencies about how to start a small business.
She said she had taken several business classes in New York, including those offered by the city, and often found that the instructors could not answer her questions when the information was not already in their prepared slideshows.
"They tried to lead me somewhere, but nobody really knew the answers, and nobody was fluid enough to direct me the right way," she said. "The most important information I found in every class that I took were the other people in the class that had figured things out that I hadn’t."
Frank Greco, the general manager of Fordham Toyota, discussed the problems he had been having with rooftop parking and the Department of Buildings.
They opened their service center on 154th Street about 10 years ago, and the DOB recently put a vacate notice on the structure because the company did not have a proper seal for parking cars on the roof, he said.
"Rooftop parking consists of about 100 cars," he said. "I’ve spent now about $15,000 a month on little lots around Manhattan, The Bronx and Yonkers to house these 90 cars."
Joe Thompson, executive director of the White Plains Road Business Improvement District, also discussed cars when talking about how businesses in his neighborhood have been struggling.
Several parking meters in the area are frequently broken, which can discourage customers from parking on the street and going in to shop at the stores, he said.
"Any small business person that is on the street, a street that does have meters, realizes that it’s very important that your clientele can pull up somewhere close to your store and go in," he said. "We’re in competition with all the malls, and we need every break we can get."
The comptroller's office is still putting together the schedule for its upcoming red tape meetings but expects the next one to take place in late September.