The City Council is getting involved in the thorny issue of regulating the use of languages on businesses’ signs.
Councilmen Peter Koo (R-Flushing) and Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) dove headfirst into the debate earlier this month. The pair submitted two bills to Council lawyers aimed at addressing concerns many of their constituents have over the lack of English on many signs in downtown Flushing and throughout the city.
The first bill, which was quickly given the go-ahead by the Council’s attorneys, would simply grant jurisdiction to enforce existing general business law regarding language use on shops’ signage to the city Department of Consumer Affairs.
If the law is passed, it will end the debate over who has the authority to do such enforcement, a point of contention that state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) have said is one reason they have not yet been able to take major steps toward addressing the English signage issue. The two state legislators and Koo are members of an English signage advisory board Meng started last year to begin a discussion on how to address the problem of businesses that do not prominently display their names and addresses in English.
The second bill, the details of which are still being hammered out by Koo, Halloran and the attorneys, would lay out specific signage requirements. Any business’ signs would have to include the name of the establishment, the type of establishment and the address all in English. A full 60 percent of all writing on such signs would be required to be in English. The law would go into effect 120 days after passage for all new businesses, and it would require that all existing businesses adhere to the new rules within four years.
“It would give them a window of time so owners of businesses can bring their signs into compliance. It gives them four years, which I think is a reasonable amount of time,” Halloran said. “Our small businesses are getting hurt as it is and we understand that, and that’s why we’re giving them time. But for public safety purposes we need to have the signs in English.”
But James Trikas, a vocal member of the English signage advisory board who has pressed vigorously for immediate action to force businesses to have English as the predominate language on their signs, said he is glad to see movement on the issue. Nevertheless, he believes the four-year period is excessive. He is also concerned that the new signage requirements are not strict enough and that they would not apply to leased businesses.
“They did what they can do. I totally disagree with the four-year part, but at least it’s an improvement,” Trikas said. “But now we have to change it so it doesn’t only affect owned property but also affects leased property, and also to address the size of fonts and content better, and that’s going to require the state Assembly and the state Senate.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
©2011 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.