No one knows who is weaponizing the DOB against small businesses

Over 200 calls about unauthorized signs were made to the city in Brooklyn alone, up from 23 during the same month last year.

TRD New York /
Dec.December 11, 2018 11:00 AM

(Credit: iStock)

It could be an irksome neighbor, or possibly devious and savvy business rivals. Perhaps it’s a developer intent on pushing small retailers out?

No one knows who’s making the calls, but close to 1,900 complaints have been filed for illegal signage this year, and over half of them have been made against Brooklyn businesses, according to a report in the New York Times. Over 200 calls about unauthorized signs were reportedly made to the city in Brooklyn alone last month, up from 23 during the same month last year. Complaints in Queens have doubled.

With fines starting at $6,000, people are using the city’s Department of Buildings to target small businesses who are already facing unprecedented pressures.

“People are afraid,” Zaid Nagi, vice president of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, told the Times. “They are asking, why is New York City pushing the little guy out?”

The complaints center on signs that have not received the required special permits, a requirement of a decades-old city law that was implemented to safeguard against falling signs or block fire escapes.

In a statement, the DOB said it was not “targeting businesses around the city for sign-enforcement efforts” but that its inspectors investigate sign complaints in a neighborhood “when they are in the area for other matters.” [NYT] — David Jeans 

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