City Council Speaker Gifford Miller unveiled a package of new rules and services last Wednesday aimed at protecting the city’s small business owners. Last year 15,000 city stores closed and another 10,000 will likely disappear this year, due to rising real estate costs and competition from larger stores, according to the Small Business Congress. The package contains several measures designed to ease the burden of running a small business, such as eliminating the fine for washing a sidewalk or for reconfiguring tables at a sidewalk cafe. When violations are issued, independent Administrative Law judges will hear appeals from business owners instead of officers hired by the Environmental Control Board (ECB). Each borough will have a small business assistance office to help out with licenses, and more information will be put on the web. “Small business is the backbone of the New York City economy,” said Councilmember Michael Nelson, chair of the council’s Small Business Committee. This “will help turn the dreams of many into reality.” (E. Holmgren) [08/29/05]