Today’s news:

Council OKs bill to ban city store security gates

City store owners will need to begin to replace roll-down metal gates in front of their shops within two years after the City Council voted this week to approve a bill advocated by City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) to ban the security structures.

The Council voted 45-0 Monday to eliminate the gates in an effort to fight graffiti on city storefronts. Under the bill, store owners who are replacing their gates will be forced to replace metal roll-down gates with ones that allow for at least 70 percent of the covered area to be visible by July 1, 2011.

The bill applies to banks, beauty salons, copy shops, retail stores, department stores and drug stores.

All of these businesses would be forced to comply with the new visibility requirements by July 1, 2026.

“This bill not only helps first responders when they are called to protect our businesses, but it carries the additional benefit of beautifying our city’s landscape,” said Vallone, the Council Public Safety Committee chairman. “Currently, many of our vibrant blocks quickly transform into dark, graffiti-strewn metal alleyways when solid security gates are rolled down at night. We are now giving business owners a new tool to improve their communities at their own pace.”

A violation of the law would carry a $250 penalty for the first offense and a $1,000 fine for each subsequent offense, Vallone said.

Between 2011 and 2026, business owners can avoid being penalized for non-conforming gates if they correct the violation within 90 days or prove that the gate was installed prior to July 1, 2011.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), who first introduced a bill as a Council member in 1996 that would require all new gates to provide at least 50 percent visibility, said the new law was “better late than never.”

“The City Council passed a bill that will change the way we look at our commercial shopping areas for the better,” he said. “The outdated graffiti gates that currently line our streets scare away both shoppers and businesses from our neighborhood shopping strips.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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