Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang sat down with Thomas Lo, culinary director of Spy C Cuisine, to discuss what the city could do to support minority entrepreneurship.
Part of Yang’s approach is establishing a people’s bank of New York. The proposal would ensure that every New Yorker can access basic financial products and services, like checking accounts, but also support small business lending in underserved communities by guaranteeing loans and loan portfolios.
Spy C Cuisine is one of two Michelin-recognized restaurants in Forest Hills, and is located on Austin Street alongside many other small stores and eateries. It’s an area of Queens where the economic impact of COVID has resulted in numerous vacant storefronts.
“When I see a closed storefront, I see a family that invested years and years of blood, sweat and tears into trying to make that business work,” he said. “I’m very passionate about trying to be a true partner to small business owners and trying to make sure that as many small businesses can survive and reopen their doors as is possible.”
The bank would work closely with small business lenders and existing financial institutions that specialize in community development. By guaranteeing a level of losses, the bank would assume the risk that these institutions face in lending and incentivize them to be more inclusive.
“We have a two-year window to try and get this recovery right before the federal money runs out,” Yang said. To me, small business investment is a very effective way to go.”
Lo was born in Queens and has lived in Forest Hills for five years. In 2000, he was sleeping on his grandmother’s couch when he deferred from medical school to pursue his culinary passion instead.
Two decades later, Lo is a board-certified anesthesiologist, a former “Iron Chef America” contestant, and part-owner of one of Forest Hill’s most distinctive restaurants. He’s built his life around balance and describes himself as a “doctor by day and chef by night.”
“It’s always been my goal to introduce New York to how good Chinese cuisine is,” said Lo. “There’s more to it than beef and broccoli, and we love showing people how delicate and balanced our flavors are.”