Weiner Slams Bloomberg on Business Fines But Falls Flat With Audience

Anthony Weiner speaking in front of the Columbus Avenue BID.

Anthony Weiner speaking at a Columbus Avenue BID breakfast Tuesday morning.

Anthony Weiner slammed Mayor Michael Bloomberg for slapping small businesses with too many fines–but what was touted as the ex-Congressman’s first major policy speech fell flat with some in the Upper West Side audience, who walked away unimpressed earlier today.

Mr. Weiner’s address focused on complaints about the uptick in fines and summonses levied by the Bloomberg administration against small businesses, arguing the city should be making it easier–not harder–for small businesses to thrive. The issue of fines has been frequently touted by other candidates, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who has made the issue a signature piece of his campaign.

“We have made it not easier, but more difficult, for the people in this room to their work,” Mr. Weiner told attendees at the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District’s annual breakfast meeting, held at the rustic new Corvo Bianco Restaurant on Columbus Avenue.

Mr. Weiner pointed to Mr. Blooomberg’s recent remarks on John Gambling’s WOR radio show, in which Mr. Bloomberg argued that fines are just replacements for tax revenue–but are better because they only punish those who break the rules.

“Fines are supposed to be an enforcement mechanism to make sure that people comply, not a revenue raiser,” contested Mr. Weiner, holding up a copy of the Daily News, which has been running a series focusing on fines. “I don’t believe that raising revenue this way is constructive. I don’t think it’s fair. And frankly, what it really is is a job killer.”

Mr. Weiner then repeated several of his already-released policy proposals, inducing mobile adjudication vans that settle fines in neighborhoods, making it easier to create new BIDs and helping people shopping online purchase locally.

While he commended Mr. Bloomberg for being “innovative,” and “forward-thinking,” he said, “I think that we would want leadership at City Hall that understands–understands the challenges [small businesses] face.”

But despite his reputation as an energetic speaker, the breakfast audience seemed unengaged and bored as Mr. Weiner gave his short remarks. Mr. Weiner arrived more than 15 minutes late, forcing organizers to engage in awkward banter in front of the audience of local business leaders and elected officials, many of whom walked away unimpressed.

“I thought it was a little light in content,” said one long-time community member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering anyone in the room. He added that Mr. Weiner seemed unprepared compared to other candidates he’s heard speak. “First of all, he  was late–significantly–and … he didn’t really pull people. It wasn’t a terrific performance.”

“I’ve heard better,” agreed another attendee, who said he had high expectations given Mr. Weiner’s usually powerful presence and his pledge to focus on ideas. “I feel like he wasn’t connecting to his audience.”