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By JOSH ROGERS | Mayor Bill de Blasio last week put Downtown’s Julie Menin in charge of one of his signature priorities — providing paid sick leave to small business workers — when he tapped her to be the city’s next Consumer Affairs commissioner.
Menin, 46, the former chairperson of Community Board 1 and candidate for borough president, told Downtown Express Tuesday that there will be a massive outreach campaign to workers and owners so they understand the rights and responsibilities of the new law, which covers businesses of more than five employees.
Currently the Dept. of Consumer Affairs has info on the law in eight languages, and that will soon expand to Arabic, Bengali and then “many more,” Menin added.
Although shop owners and other businesses ultimately will be subject to fines for violating the law, Menin said “we hope to not get to that point….
“The mayor has made it very clear that fines not be punitive. We will be extremely collaborative with small businesses so they understand the regulations to all D.C.A. rules.”
In making the announcement April 24, de Blasio repeated his criticism that under Mayor Bloomberg, “some real boundaries were overstepped in the name of revenue production. Many small businesses were treated unfairly.”
De Blasio, naturally was effusive in his praise for Menin, but it seemed to be more glowing than average for his hiring announcements.
He said after 9/11, “there was a desperate need for people to step forward and innovate and come up with solutions. Julie was one of the people who did that — and won tremendous acclaim for her ingenuity, her energy, her sense of optimism…”
After the attack, Menin created Wall Street Rising, a non-profit advocacy group, which held events to drive more foot traffic Downtown and help small businesses. At the time, she owned Vine restaurant in the Financial District —one of the businesses unable to survive the added security measures around the New York Stock Exchange.
Menin later joined C.B. 1, where as the mayor pointed out, she received high marks for finding consensus over divisive high-profile neighborhood issues like Occupy Wall Street and the Islamic center near the World Trade Center, a.k.a. “the Ground Zero mosque.”
Menin officially starts work supervising a staff of 328 this Monday. The sick leave law, which the mayor signed in March, provides the agency with money to hire 17 people to implement.
A second priority for Menin will be to use the department’s Office of Financial Empowerment to help as many as “835,000 unbanked New Yorkers” get their first bank accounts.