NY Bill: Business Signs Must Be in English

Lawmakers say English signs will bring in new customers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 5, 2011 9:10 AM CDT
In this Tuesday, June 14, 2011 photo, signs primarily in languages other than English are displayed in the Flushing, Queens section of New York.   (Seth Wenig)
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(Newser) – The teeming streets of Flushing, Queens, can feel like a different country. A booming Chinese population exists alongside a longtime Korean enclave. Sidewalks are jammed with shoppers browsing and haggling in stores offering everything from iPhones to herbal remedies to fragrant dumplings. But to some, the area can feel a little too foreign: Two city councilmen are drafting legislation that would require store signs in the city to be mostly in English. They say police officers and firefighters need to be able to quickly identify stores.

The change also would protect consumers, while allowing local shops to expand outside their traditional customer base, the council members argue. But merchants say it would be an unnecessary and costly burden on small businesses and would homogenize diverse pockets of the city that cater mostly to immigrant residents. The first bill would allow inspectors to enforce a little-known state law that requires businesses to display their names in English; the second stipulates that the sign should be at least 60% English.

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