2013-03-08 / Editorial/Opinion

We Mean Business

The SIRR is something that just not enough people are aware of. It’s the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) plan that Mayor Bloomberg has in place. This team is supposed to report back to him by end of May. This team is supposed to help Bloomberg achieve his “most important task this year” – rebuilding after Sandy.

They’re starting to hold workshops and are allegedly one of those groups interested in “listening.”

Part of the work of SIRR is the small business component. Part of rebuilding means getting the business community in healthy shape. A place can’t be resilient without a vibrant business community.

The SIRR wants input? Here’s a checklist they might post at their team’s meetings.

Start with 116th Street. Eminent domain should be used to take over buildings on Beach 116th Street (and the Far Rockaway Shopping Center). We hear there’s reluctance because using eminent domain will trigger problems upstate. Well, these are emergency times and the Governor should make the exception. If not, eminent domain – use Community Development Block Grant funding to buy out the hotels on Beach 116th Street (we’d really like to see the whole east side of the street redeveloped including the stretch on the boulevard where the buildings burned—that’s its own editorial).

Extend the ferry service through Labor Day. Run it on weekends beginning in April. Announce it now. Even better, launch a pilot program right now from JFK to the City with a stop at Beach 108th Street.

Expedite street repairs, especially in the Beach 90s. We ride on the Boulevard every day – we see work crews about once a week. Lousy streets hurt businesses. Who wants to break a car axle on the way to a store? Lousy streets sends a message that the area is just plain beat. Get the roads fixed before summer.

Make large, long term interest free loans available. Tie it to the number of employees a business hires. Ease the paperwork. If a place has been open for 5 or more years that should mean as much as whether it showed a loss or not. Let’s get real. Some places pay people off the books. Maybe they’ll put some on the books if they get interest free loans. Point is, if a place has been operating for five years or more, it should eligible for an interest free loan. (If they don’t hire employees, the interest rate could jump thereby giving them incentives to hire people).

Give storeowner grants to erect new storefronts. The City could help beautify entire commercial stretches. Promote “pop up” businesses for empty spaces. This concept requires less cash and regulation and would allow businesses to grow.

Announce plans for a great boardwalk. (After considering entries from the contest now being run by MOMA). An amphitheater; a Broadway at the Beach style destination (see Myrtle Beach); an indoor waterpark resort. Give us something. Make people say, wow, that’s going to be great. Businesses will see the potential and start getting to work on being part of the renaissance.

Alert the Borough President’s office that Rockaway is part of Queens and that Rockaway should be highlighted in all Queens tourism promotions. (See ferry from JFK idea above).

The MTA should have Rockaway ads all over the “A” train as it winds its way through four boroughs.

Give grant money to the Chamber of Commerce. Give the chamber enough money to establish a real office and visitor center.

Hire marketing and PR people to promote Rockaway businesses through traditional channels and social media. Have them work with the Chamber and the Queens Tourism Council.

All doable. Now.

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