Sept. 14, 2012 By Christian Murray
The city council is drafting legislation that would reduce fines levied by the health department under the city’s restaurant-grading system, said councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
Van Bramer, who spoke at the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday night, said that many restaurants and cafes are being hit with hefty fines that don’t even involve food preparation—such as broken tiles or dented cans. “Many businesses are being preyed upon by the Health Department,” he said.
One Sunnyside bar owner told the SunnysidePost that he had budgeted $5,000 in 2012 in anticipation of Health Department fines. He claimed that the department is able to find any infraction– no matter how small.
“I have met with a lot of businesses and there is a real need to enact legislation,” Van Bramer said.”In many ways they [the Health Dept.] are extorting money.” He said that the fines have become a revenue source for the city.
According to reports, the city is expected to raise $48 million in restaurant fines this fiscal year—a 50% increase from the amount collected in 2009.
However, Mayor Michael Bloomberg disagrees with the city council over this issue. He claimed on a recent radio show that as long as restaurants “get rid of the mice and the cockroaches and the open containers [and] follow the rules, they won’t have any fines.”