Flushing businesses voice struggles amid reopening
by Benjamin Fang
Jun 17, 2020 | 471 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SBS Commissioner Jonnel Doris gives a bag full of face masks to a small business owner on Main Street.
SBS Commissioner Jonnel Doris gives a bag full of face masks to a small business owner on Main Street.
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Flushing BID’s Dian Yu and the Queens Chamber’s Tom Grech joined SBS Commissioner Doris on a tour of Flushing businesses.
Flushing BID’s Dian Yu and the Queens Chamber’s Tom Grech joined SBS Commissioner Doris on a tour of Flushing businesses.
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Councilman Koo airs his concerns with city government as businesses try to recover from the pandemic.
Councilman Koo airs his concerns with city government as businesses try to recover from the pandemic.
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SBS has handed out two million face masks to local business groups to distribute to their members.
SBS has handed out two million face masks to local business groups to distribute to their members.
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Dian Yu of the Flushing BID talks about how businesses have struggled even before the pandemic began.
Dian Yu of the Flushing BID talks about how businesses have struggled even before the pandemic began.
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When the COVID-19 pandemic struck New York City, business at Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing basically came to a halt.

Ed Staniszewski, the hotel’s general manager, said the outbreak has had a dramatic impact on business. Although the hotel was able to house some workers with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and emergency medical technicians from out of state, he said the crisis has affected long-term business by at least 60 percent.

“We don’t see it recovering for about a year and a half or longer,” he said.

While business is low, the hotel has resumed renovating its lobby and lower level, a project that started prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Staniszewski said most of his focus now is on creating a safe and sanitized experience for hotel guests.

“Once this does start regenerating and recuperating, we’ll be more poised and in a position to better welcome guests,” he said.

For Vivian Liao, program director for the New York Golden Eagle Senior Corporation, an adult day care center in Flushing that serves more than 130 people, the coronavirus pandemic has put the business in jeopardy of closing.

Despite receiving a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan after three applications, Liao said the senior center, which closed on March 19, is “getting squeezed” by insurance companies. Their other concern is the rent, which they have not paid for three months.

“Right now, my worry is we won’t get help with rent,” she said. “If the rent is not forgiven, we are going to go bankrupt.

“It’s really, really hard for us,” Liao added.

Staniszewski and Liao were just two of the several business owners visited last Tuesday by Councilman Peter Koo, Flushing Business Improvement District (BID) executive director Dian Yu, Tom Grech from the Queens Chamber of Commerce and Jonnel Doris, the new commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS).

Doris, whose office has distributed two million face masks to businesses across the city, gave 150,000 to the Flushing BID and another 150,000 to the Queens Chamber. The new SBS commissioner encouraged businesses to give the face masks to customers.

The Queens Chamber president and CEO noted that even before the pandemic struck, there was a falloff in business in Flushing starting in late January.

“We want to make sure the new SBS commissioner sees firsthand what has gone on here for the last 12 weeks,” Grech said, “and get him to offer any assistance that he can.”

Doris also visited a local bar and takeout spot to speak to business owners about their road to recovery.

Prior to the tour of Flushing businesses, Koo told the new SBS commissioner that the Asian community, especially the business community, is “very disappointed” with city government. He said few Asian-American small business owners received city-backed loans, despite paying hefty amounts in property taxes.

“We didn’t get enough attention,” he said. “This is a high property tax area, but in return we don’t get many services.”

Doris responded that when he was the director of the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises, he helped change the law to include Asian-owned businesses.

“I am very much for Asian-Americans, and I want to make sure the Asian community knows that,” he said.

The SBS commissioner added that he hears the concerns of local businesses that want to flourish and need city services to get there.

“We have to do more, and that’s why I’m here, to do more and hear from you,” Doris said. “I want to make sure you know that I’m committed to this.”

After the tour, Doris said he learned that Flushing businesses are resilient, but the city has to help them find a way to thrive.

“We want to do everything that is safe, but we want them to have an opportunity to do business,” he added. “We’re going to do whatever we can to help facilitate that.”
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