Wednesday, February 5, 2020
Woodhaven's small businesses frustrated by and are suffering from city's opaque sign regulations
“Jamaica Avenue looks like crap,” said Margie Schmidt, the second-generation owner of Schmidt’s Chocolate in Woodhaven.
The candymaker is not alone in her blunt assessment of the neighborhood’s main shopping street.
Stores along Jamaica have been pulling down their awnings and signs — many of them up for decades — to avoid thousands in potential fines from building inspectors who blitzed the neighborhood three years ago.
On the facades of stores, restaurants and laundromats up and down the boulevard, signs no bigger than a car window are all there is to identify businesses.
For owners, the tiny signs were all they could think of to keep from being written up. Signs less than six-feet square do not require a city permit.
Last week, the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, which represents 317 stores and professional offices on Jamaica Avenue, sponsored the first workshop for business owners since the city declared a moratorium on writing tickets for sign violations last February.
But many of the more than 50 Woodhaven business owners who packed the tables at the Avenue Diner, where the workshop was held, said they still could not get straight answers from representatives of the city’s Department of Buildings about how to comply with the law.
“I wanted to know: How much is a permit?” said Schmidt.
‘‘‘Well,’ they said. ‘I don’t want ‘Well.’ I need the city to tell me. You mean there is no set price?’
“I asked three times,” she said
When a reporter asked Pedro Woss, owner of K&P Realty Services, also on Jamaica Avenue, what information he got from the workshop, he held up two fingers in the familiar shape of a zero.
“They don’t know the answers to questions,” said Woss.