Various city agencies and representatives were present to give small business owners guidance on how to prevent and handle summonses.
“We understand in a city this large that there are a lot of complicated rules and complicated procedures and sometimes it’s hard to navigate them,” said OATH Commissioner Fidel Del Valle.
OATH consists of two divisions, a trials division and hearings division. Formed in 1979, OATH is continuously evolving to accommodate the needs of business owners.
“The previous processes did not lend itself to fair hearings and, more disturbingly, I could not find anyone that believed they got a fair hearing,” Del Valle said.
Recent changes include exceptions to hearing dates if it conflicts with the owner’s birthday, vacation or various other reasons that would make it inconvenient.
“We’ll coordinate with which agency gave the summons and find a new date,” said Del Valle.
Other improvements include services that allow business owners to settle summonses over the phone or online, although specific agencies require the person to be present for the hearing.
Additionally, the agency’s goal is for business owners to be able to walk in to any of the hearing centers and deal with their summons on the spot. Currently, there is one hearing center in each borough.
Despite the agency receiving 850,000 summonses last year, only 310,000 of those were challenged in court. Out of last year’s summonses, the Department of Sanitation gave out 400,000.
“The Sanitation and Health departments are the primary agencies that my clients get summonses from,” said Harlan Kahn, an accountant from Bayside who was in attendance for both himself and his clients.
Recently, the Department of Buildings (DOB) has started giving out summonses to local business owners that is much different than the typical violations.
“Business signs and awnings are a big deal for business owners right now, so I’m here to figure out what we can do about that,” said Orlando Arango, a consultant for small business owners.
Arango said the DOB summonses have recently increased despite the signs being pivotal to many businesses’ success.
Representatives from the Health Department, Department of Small Business Services, Department of Environmental Protection, FDNY and Queens Chamber of Commerce also booths set up to provide information and answer questions to the 30 business owners that attended.
“Just because you get the ticket doesn’t mean it’s the end, bring your ticket to OATH and we can work on it with you,” said Scott Sieber, deputy chief of staff for Councilman Peter Koo. “We want your business to succeed.”