Thursday, December 15, 2005

Noisome Bill and the Sounds of Silence

It now appears that the City Council, at the request of the Speaker's last will and testament, is poised to move Intro 397-A, the controversial noise code bill, at the final Stated Council meeting next week. This, while not surprising considering the anti-small business record of this Council, is nonetheless disappointing.

Put simply, this legislation is being forwarded with no proper oversight by the Council. The extent of its financial impact on the business community is frankly unknown, but the final bill could be in the hundred millions of dollars. Just the cost of retrofitting all of the air conditioners that will now be out-of-code is astronomical.

Then there are the ongoing costs to business from the "license to summons" nature of the standards being created by this law. The idea of a "plainly audible" noise criteria, to be enforced by the discretion of the cop on the beat, is blatantly arbitrary and capricious. In addition, the arbitrary standards will then be sent to the city's notorious ECB kangaroo courts where the initial violation affront will be exacerbated by a lack of due process.

And then there is the issue of Mr. Softee. While we certainly don't begrudge any business getting special dispensation that relieves them from a regulatory burden, we question whether the nickel-and-dime ice cream trucks deserve to be favored over night clubs and cabarets that generate over a billion dollars a year to the city's economy.

This is certainly a fitting culmination to the reign of the current speaker who began his service by enacting the largest tax increase in the city's history and imposing it-on bodegas and newsstands!-New York's smallest and most vulnerable retailers. For the life of us we can't remember anything significant that Gifford Miller has ever initiated that could be considered pro-business.

The litany of Bloomberg initiated anti-business measures-the commercial real estate tax, the bodega tax, the carting rate increases, the street furniture bill-have all been supported by this Council leadership. We can only hope that the incoming leadership will be fairer to neighborhood retailers and small entrepreneurs and more aware of their importance to the city's economy.

What this all means is that the Council should reject Intro 397-A as an ill-considered piece of legislation that is, in addition, special pleading (for one business) at its worst. There is no need to play follow the lame duck leader on this one.