Tag Archives: Health Commissioner Thomas Farley

City agrees to reduce restaurant fines


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Zachary Kraehling

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a deal to reduce restaurant fines that may make the grade with owners.

The City Council and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) said the joint agreement will reduce fines generated by violations of the city’s inspection system by $10 million per year.

“Restaurant letter grading was never supposed to be a way to generate additional fine revenue, especially since the Health Department discovered long ago that higher fines don’t by themselves result in better sanitary conditions,” Quinn said.

Fines will be set in specific amounts for each violation under the new deal.

Approximately 60 percent of violations will be set to the minimum $200 fine, including low-level violations such as not properly storing sanitized utensils, which was an average of $295.

Formerly, any violation could result in a fine of $200 to $2,000, depending on the inspector’s discretion.

“Every [inspector] has their own opinion on it,” said Pasquale Fabiano, manager of Il Vesuvio restaurant in Bayside. “They should come in and tell you what’s wrong and if you don’t fix it, they should fine you.”

Fines for the two highest levels of critical violations will be reduced from $349 and $420 to $300 and $350, respectively.

Also, fines for basic operating errors, such as operating without a permit, interrupting a health inspector or failing to post the grading card will set owners back $1,000.

An eatery will not have to pay a fine if it received a violation for a structural irregularity, such as a sink, but can prove that it had never been cited as a problem before. However, the irregularity must be fixed.

“Fantastic,” said Ellen Laperna, manager of Bourbon Street restaurant in Bayside. “They’re doing their jobs, but of course you want the fines to be lower.”

Councilmembers will also introduce five bills to improve the inspection system.

The bills will develop an inspection code of conduct, require publication of detailed data on the restaurant inspection process, have DOHMH establish a consultative inspection process, establish a Food Service Establishment Advisory Board and create an Ombudsman office within the DOHMH to tend to comments and complaints to the inspection system.

“At this point, moving to fixed fines will help give the system more predictability, and even with reduced fines, the grading system will continue to encourage restaurant managers to prepare food safely,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

Additional reporting by Zachary Kraehling

 

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21 restaurants, food companies meet sodium reduction targets


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Credit by Spencer T Tucker

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

Some of the city’s restaurants are saying so long to high sodium.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced the results of a national initiative to reduce the amount of sodium in pre-packaged and restaurant foods.

Twenty-one food companies and restaurants – including Subway, Goya, Heinz, Au Bon Pan, Kraft and Starbucks – met or exceeded the standards set by the Mayor’s Office to reduce the amount of sodium in their food products.

The companies and restaurants participated in a voluntary partnership with the Mayor’s Office  known as the National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI). The program was started in 2008 and was the first nationwide program of its kind, according to the mayor.

“Prior to our National Salt Reduction Initiative, there was no comprehensive approach to lowering sodium in foods, and many questioned whether companies would step up to meet a voluntary pledge,” Bloomberg said. “These companies have demonstrated their commitment to removing excess sodium from their products and to working with public health authorities toward a shared goal – helping their customers lead longer, healthier lives.”

According to the mayor’s office, close to 90 percent of Americans consume too much sodium, resulting in high blood pressure, heart disease and increasing the possibility of having a stroke.

“Nearly 80 percent [of sodium intake] comes from packaged or restaurant foods, not table salt or home cooking, making it challenging for any individual to monitor sodium intake, and choose to decrease sodium intake,” the mayor’s office said.

A study cited by the mayor’s office said a reduction of 1,200 milligrams of sodium a day can save the city $24 billion in health care costs every year and prevent up to 92,000 deaths.

“I congratulate these companies for taking steps to make it easier for their customers to eat products with healthier levels of sodium,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. “We set a high bar in New York City and I’m pleased to recognize these food company leaders that met or exceeded the NSRI targets.”

The NSRI has set new sodium target levels for 2014 and is still looking for companies to join the initiative. For more information, visit nyc.gov.

 

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NYC life expectancy reaches record high


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Life expectancy in New York City has hit an all-time high of 80.9 years, surpassing the national average by 2.2 years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today.

Between 2001 and 2010, the life span of a child born in NYC  increased by three years. During the same period, the nation’s life expectancy only went up by about 1.8 years.

Bloomberg and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said that health interventions, such as smoking prevention programs, expanded HIV testing and treatment, and improved cared for those with high blood pressure and cholesterol, are contributing to greater life expectancy.

“Not only are New Yorkers living longer, but our improvements continue to outpace the gains in the rest of the nation,” said Bloomberg. “Our willingness to invest in health care and bold interventions is paying off in improved health outcomes, decreased infant mortality and increased life expectancy.”

The death rate from HIV is decreasing by a faster rate than other mortality causes in New York City, down from 53 percent from 2001 to 2010.

The infant mortality rate and death rates for heart disease and cancer also experienced significant declines.

In 2011, the infant mortality rate reached an all-time low of 4.7 deaths per 1,000 live births, a 23 percent drop since 2011 and almost double the national average improvement during the same period.

From 2001 t0 2010, heart disease deaths dropped by 27.1 percent and cancer rates decreased by 6.5 percent.

In addition to improved care for people with high blood pressure and cholesterol, and heart problems, those declines can be attributed to the 30 percent decrease in the city’s smokers since 2002 when the Smoke-Free Air Act went into effect.

Watch Mayor Bloomberg dance to Lady Gaga in State of the City intro video


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Bloom

Before Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his way to the podium for his 11th State of the City speech, he was introduced by a short, entertaining video chronicling his “journey” to get to this year’s speech.  Along the way he poked fun at himself — he danced to Lady Gaga who helped him ring in the new year with a kiss — and issues he has fought for over the years, including bike lanes and taxis in the outer boroughs.  Numerous city officials were featured in the video — Chancellor Dennis Walcott, press secretary Stu Loeser, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan all made appearances.  The scene stealer, though, was former Mayor Ed Koch standing at the entrance of the former Queensboro Bridge shouting at drivers welcoming them to “his” bridge.  Watch the full video below.  What do you think of the video?