NYC bill: at least some English for shop signs

May 31, 2011 3:24:06 PM PDT
Concerned with the proliferation of foreign shop signs, two New York City lawmakers are sponsoring a bill that would require that store names and addresses be in English.

Imagine you are a paramedic or a firefighter rushing to an emergency in the ethnic community of Flushing, Queens and you can't find the right address because you can't read the signs.

"Last summer one of our local shops, a fur store, had a robbery going on. Police were unable to identify which storefront in a row was the source of the robbery," City Councilmember Dan Halloran said.

So to make sure that never happens again, Councilmember Halloran and his colleague Peter Koo are sponsoring legislation requiring store signs in English that include the type of business, the name, the address and the phone number.

"English is the national language. Everybody has to do that. (You like it?) Yes, I do," said a Flushing resident.

"If you don't understand Chinese and you've got to go and see somebody and you can't read the signs, it's not good for us. It's not good at all," Halloran said.

The legislators say the proposed bill has other benefits as well.

Business would increase once English-only customers understand what's for sale.

Also, customers could take action should they run into trouble with a retailer.

"If you are not able to identify the business that sold you something, then you are not able to go to Consumer Affairs and apply to them for some relief. You can't file a lawsuit," Halloran said.

The council members say the little negative response they've received from the business community centers on the cost of re-doing all the signs.

For that reason, the proposed bill gives merchants up to four years to make all the changes.