City Agencies Continue to Flood Boro Park with Citations, Some Without Specific Violations

By Yehudit Garmaise

Repeating the strangely draconian scenario of yesterday, once again today, many Boro Park business owners who have carefully put into place the health protocols that are known to them, are being given citations that list as their crime: “Failure to comply with the governor’s executive orders,” however Yanky Mayer, the owner of UpSide Craft Burger on 13th Ave., said he was not informed by letter, e-mail, or text, of any additional health protocols or COVID guidelines, before he was smacked on Monday with a fine that could be anywhere from $1,000 to $15,000 for "failing to take reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of customers."

   Mayer said that not only could the inspector not verbally express what the safety violations were that warranted a citation, but the inspector never entered the restaurant to actually conduct an inspection.

     Among the health protocols Mayer had in place are floor markers that show customers where to stand so as to remain socially distanced, an always masked kitchen staff, and logs that record his kitchen staff’s daily temperatures.

      Despite all those efforts, yesterday, at 3pm, Mayer was preparing to open UpSide Craft Burger, which for two years has been located at 4621 13th Ave., when an inspector, without identification or a badge, appeared at the store, said he was from the Department of Buildings (DOB) and he was giving out fines. Although the inspector was given many opportunities, he could not explain any particular violations, as recorded on video.

    “The inspector came by at 3pm, two hours before we were opened, so he couldn’t have really seen from the outside what we do and not have in place,” said Mayer, who unfortunately, had to permanently close his flagship location in Kensington after being shut down on March 15. “The inspector was very rude to my kitchen staff, and he said, ‘If the owner doesn’t come here in five minutes, I am going to give you a violation.’ My kitchen staff was all wearing masks. They all had their temperatures checked. The store has marks on the floor for customers to remain socially distanced. But the only thing the inspector really could have seen was during his brief encounter with my kitchen staff was that they were all wearing masks.”

   Mayer goes on to say that the DOB worker could not possibly have conducted an actual investigation of the UpSide Craft Burger because he never actually entered the restaurant. 

   “When I repeatedly asked what was the reason for the violation, the inspector couldn’t answer, and then called his supervisor, who then told me that I could ‘Fight it in court,” said Mayer, who said that the inspector wrote on the ticket a court date that has long passed: February 2020.

    “They were clearly clueless.”

    After Mayer asked the inspector repeatedly how he could help him, the inspector asked Mayer to see his log of the staff’s daily temperatures, which Mayer told him he could see at 5pm when the restaurant opened.

  I told him, “We weren’t open for business,” but Mayer also said that the inspector “didn’t give him a chance to hand over the required paperwork, which he said he had available and posted where necessary. “I said we were closed, but the inspector didn't insist [again] that I give him anything.”

   So, the inspector said, “OK, well, I’ll just give a violation,” which he left on the door.

  Then the inspector said that Mayer did not provide the temperature logs and did not post safety plans and required signage, but Mayer, who did not let him in, also said that the inspector had never entered the restaurant to see those things.

   City Councilman Kalman Yeger, who has remained a strong advocate of Boro Park residents said, “This multitude of city workers from various agencies, so many of whom have zero experience with enforcing these regulations, are causing continued chaos.

   “The conflicting advice and opinions from these workers and the way they treat similar businesses very differently is exactly why our community feels we are being unfairly targeted by the city and state.”

     Mayer added that he feels like Mayor De Blasio told a variety of city agencies to flood Boro Park with citations, which inspectors are now doing randomly.

   "They are giving out these health violation citations like they are parking tickets," said Mayer, who added that the number of city workers flooding Boro Park with vague accusations and citations “is a disgrace.”

    “It is impossible to survive [as business owners] as is, and it is extremely frustrating that the mayor, the governor, and these city workers have so much power. No one ever educated us about any new regulations, yet we were trying to be fully compliant.”

   This morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked about the Boro Park’s bombardment of citations, some of which contradicted or failed to express specific violations Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order last week, which in all of New York’s red zones, closed public and private schools, restricted houses of worship to 10 people each, closed non-essential business, and switched all restaurants back to take-out only.

   “I appreciate the question, and… [with input], we will trace them back and make sure we exactly understand what happened and if any modifications are needed,” said Mayor De Blasio, acknowledging that some of the city’s agencies may be giving out warrants mistakenly.

   “I did say there would be a lot of different city agencies out because we do need a lot of enforcement, We [still] need to do a lot of outreach and education. So, you will see a wide variety of agencies out, but I take your question [about potentially mistaken citations being given] to heart.

   “The agencies all need to be working from the same set of rules, and if there is ever any example where that didn’t happen, we have to address that.”

    De Blasio did, however, remind reporters that he has been saying for at least two weeks that a real danger of a COVID second wave has been apparent from  the growing numbers and from “the data that we are seeing.”

   “We have been warning the community that there is a problem, and we have been engaging community leaders,” the mayor said. “But then [the increases in positivity rates unfortunately,] got to the point where that danger manifested, and we had to call for the restrictions that the state ultimately did."

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