Quinn, Walsh Look To Help Small Biz
In a show of concern for small businesses in Rockaway which took a severe hit as a result of Sandy, New York’s city council speaker and small business services commissioner met with local representatives last week.
At a meeting in Councilman Donovan Richards’ office on May 24th, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Small Business Services Commissioner Robert Walsh listened as local small business owners and community leaders talked about the needs of Rockaway’s businesses.
“Most of the merchants we have in Rockaway are very small business merchants,” said Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14. “What government has truly failed in is making more grants than loans available…. They need money. They need grants. Loans for small businesses don’t help.”
LaVida Jervis would normally have rented out 150 tuxedoes for proms by this time, instead she has only rented three.
“Most of the kids have not moved back into Rockaway,” said Jervis, the president of the Rockaway East Merchants Association.
Linda Plummer, the board president of the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation, is in real estate.
“As a broker, the real estate business out here…died a horrible death after the storm,” said Plummer.
Cindy and Sid Itzkowitz employ 40 people at Cinderella Sweets, which is located at 49-15 Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Salt water got into all their machinery. Cindy Itzkowitz said they haven’t received any help despite the fact that she says, “I’ve called everywhere the last six months.”
Kevin Alexander, the executive director of RDRC, explained some of the problems it faced after the storm.
Alexander said that RDRC did four community-wide canvases but ran into difficulty with cell service limited and with a small staff visiting businesses personally was a challenge.
He told Quinn that teams sent to help must be ready with all information available at the time of a canvas.
“No going back,” said Alexander. He added, “It can’t be off the peninsula. If the problem is on the peninsula, this is where [the help] has got to be.”
Before leaving, Quinn asked that a listing or survey of businesses be done to determine where they are at in getting back on their feet and what specific help is needed.
“We may not have hit every need,” said Quinn.
She also addressed the problem of getting grants not tied to loans, which Quinn called a regional problem. At a recent meeting in the mayor’s office, Quinn and representatives from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut met with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.
“We asked the feds for more money that isn’t tied to loans,” said Quinn. “I think that is still a challenge…. We have to put more pressure on the federal government.”
After the meeting, Walsh joined Richards on a tour of some of the business areas in the councilman’s district. Following a stop at the Far Rockaway Shopping Center on Mott Avenue they proceeded to Beach 88th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. It is that stretch that Alexander described as the area hit worse by the effects of Sandy.
Standing along Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Walsh envisioned changing the layout of the area by putting in a median, adding planting, better lighting, and just making it friendlier. “If I can get money together this is where I want to do it,” said Walsh.