The bill, which will require that 60 percent of words on a business sign be written in English, is intended to clarify a state provision that the lawmakers said contains too many “problematic loopholes.”
The proposed piece of legislation will complement a separate city bill introduced last month that seeks to transfer enforcement of signage laws from the police department to the Department of Consumer Affairs.
“Our bills will allow immigrant businesses and communities to keep their ethnic character while complying with the law,” said Koo. They'll “help local businesses expand their customer base, increase revenues and be more consumer-friendly.”
The bill would have a broad impact in Downtown Flushing, a center of thriving businesses, many of them owned by Chinese and Korean immigrants. Store owners there reacted with mixed feelings to news of the proposed legislation.
In American “people need” signs in English, said Nam Kim, the owner of PC Valley, whose storefront does not feature any Korean characters.
Kim, who supports the proposal, said ethnic signage attracts fewer customers.
Juan Iona, the storeowner of J. Clipz Barber Shop, agreed.
“I think it’s really fair because it’s for everybody, not just for one group of people,” Iona said. “I think it would be better.”
But some remain unconvinced.
“Many Chinese immigrants come to our shop now, few non-Chinese,” said Jing Sun, an employee at Everyday Beauty, which only sells Asian products.
She said English signage would not grow its customer base, as backers suggest, or change businesses' mindset. “As long as Flushing primarily serves the Chinese community, our shop will surely do the same,” Sun said.