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Business Owners Fear City's Order To Take Down Signage Could Affect Their Bottom Line

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Dozens of store owners in Queens say the city is cutting into their bottom line.

They're being forced to take down their outdoor signs that they say are vital to their business.

Frank Castelli has owned Beat the Clock Printing on Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven for more than 30 years, but judging from its exterior you wouldn't know what the shop is.

"The city has been giving tickets all over the city because of the signs, without warning," Castelli tells CBS2.

Castelli paid a licensed professional to take down his signage, fearing the city would fine him since he didn't have a permit for it.

"I would think they mayor would give us a six-month leeway where they can correct the problem," he said.

Nearly 30 store fronts along Jamaica Avenue have torn down their signage. Hardware Store Owner Jack Moy runs one of them.

"It's so bare," he said. "Everything is off and terrible."

The Department of Buildings has been giving out $5,000 fines to local businesses for not having a permit for their sign or awning, or the signage wasn't up to code. At least 12 business were given a summons, including a deli that to pay $11,000 in total to keep their sign up.

"Without the signs, how are you supposed to know what's what?" said Woodhaven resident Susan Gallagher.

A DOB spokesperson says they've received anonymous complaints about area businesses, and have to inspect once that happens. In a statement, the spokesperson said the department isn't specifically targeting Woodhaven.

Local leaders aren't satisfied.

"They weren't aware they had to have a permit when the sign was put up," Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-38th) said. "Now they're being penalized for it."

Miller is trying to find a compromise with the city. He's hoping they can set up an amnesty period for business owners.

"Give businesses 60 days to cure any violations for signs or such unless there's an immediate danger of it falling," Miller said.

Store owners say the only thing falling will be their bottom line since as things currently stand, they have no way of advertising their business. Many say they bought their shop with the awning or sign already up, thinking everything was already up to code.

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