The City Must Step Up on Sandy Business Recovery
By Linda Baran, President, Staten Island Chamber of Commerce
The following entry is part of The Small Business Corner, a collaboration between Gotham Gazette and GoBizNYC:
At a recent a press conference on the City's Sandy recovery progress, Mayor Bill de Blasio noted: "Relief can't come fast enough for homeowners and small business owners who have already waited too long." We cannot agree more. Twenty-one months after the storm, so much more remains to be done. The City needs to expedite programs, provide grants—even retroactively—and implement a better approach to resiliency planning in neighborhoods ravished by Sandy.
Revamping the "Build It Back" program is essential and has been a step in the right direction. Recently, NYC Housing Recovery reached out to our organization, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, for assistance in bringing local contractors to the table to learn how they can provide services through the program. In addition, the City is improving the onerous procurement process for contractors so that they will get paid for their services in a timely fashion. This is encouraging.
That being said, the City needs to better coordinate with Federal and State agencies and comprehensively address the difficulties businesses have had when dealing with various layers of government.
For instance, the business recovery process needs to be streamlined so that allocated Community Block Development Grant (CBDG) funds actually get into the hands of businesses, which have struggled to recover on their own for almost two years. It is a real disgrace that of the $293 million dollars allocated for business recovery in New York City (as of April 1, 2014), only $3.5 million has been distributed to businesses. Bureaucratic bottlenecks must be resolved. In addition, an inventory needs to be done to assess how many impacted businesses did not come back or are teetering to stay afloat as well as where vacancies lie and opportunities exist.
Given that small businesses are the backbone of our economy, adjusting bureaucracy to meet the realities of small business capacity and accelerate business recovery should be a top priority for this administration. Such efforts will only make our local economy more resilient to future disasters.
The Staten Island community, through its strength, determination, and pride, has taken up the task of bringing back our neighborhood economies, one business at a time. But we can't do this on our own. We need this administration to step up with us and take a holistic approach to rebuilding and resiliency planning – not only on Staten Island, but in all of New York City.
Linda M. Baran is the President of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, the largest business organization on Staten Island. The Chamber is comprised of over 700 businesses, 80% of which are small businesses with fewer than ten employees.
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The Small Business Corner is a bi-weekly column featuring the opinions and perspectives of small business owners and advocates from the GoBizNYC network on the range of issues that concern the city's small businesses.
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