Quinn announces plan to ensure non-English speaking small businesses can receive inspections in their own language

Today, Christine Quinn announced that as mayor she would ensure all non-English speaking small business owners throughout the city receive inspections in their own language through a combination of hiring multilingual inspectors and providing translation services. Quinn noted how immigrants make up nearly 50 percent of the city’s small business owners but many face serious challenges including fines due to miscommunications that could have been prevented. She was joined at today’s announcement by Maria Lanauze, the owner of Wycoff 99 Cent and Hardware Store, who been fined by the City on three separate occasions for the same violation because she could not understand the inspector’s instructions. 

“As small business owners are the backbone of our city’s economy, we need to make sure we’re not burdening them with unnecessary fines, especially as a result of miscommunication. That’s why as mayor, I will ensure that all non-English speaking business owners receive inspections in their own language. We are the most diverse city in the world and no one should ever be fined because they could not understand their inspector.”

There are approximately 69,000 small businesses in New York City owned by immigrants, making up half of all small businesses in the City. Quinn’s plan is part of a series of proposals she has unveiled to help small business owners throughout the city including creating an immigrant business incubator, providing a single point of contact for businesses interacting with the city, bringing more small business services directly to communities and creating an NYC worker cooperative center. These proposals build on Quinn’s record in the area which includes creating a penalty relief period for outstanding fines, saving businesses and individuals $33 million in penalties and interest, ending double taxation for many of the city’s smallest business owners through an Unincorporated Business Tax Credit and passing a law requiring city agencies to issue a warning instead of a fine for many rule violations. 

The Department of Consumer Affairs and other related agencies would do inspections. Quinn’s proposal would expand on existing city contracts to ensure interpreters are available, meaning issues like Lanauze experienced do not happen, and at a minimal cost to the city. Quinn also pointed out that some of the cost of these services could be covered through a CUNY reduced tuition program she unveiled last week that would reduce a student’s tuition by half if they participated in a work-study program with the City, providing translation services.