Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced today the creation of Business Recovery Zones and new initiatives to help small businesses in areas most impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Business Recovery Zone leaders will identify neighborhood-specific needs, coordinate action plans and follow-up, organize City resources, and provide a central point of contact for businesses and agencies. These zones include Lower Manhattan/South Street Seaport, Brooklyn Harbor Waterfront/Newtown Creek (DUMBO, Greenpoint/Newtown Creek, Red Hook, Gowanus, Sunset Park), South Brooklyn (Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Gerritsen Beach), South Queens (Howard Beach and The Rockaways), and the South Shore of Staten Island. Captains of each area will convene local steering committees of elected officials, community organizations, non-profit organizations, Local Development Corporations, Business Improvement Districts, small business owners, and other community representatives, to help find and implement solutions in each impacted Zone. The Mayor also announced the creation of Recovery Business Acceleration Teams: modeled after the City’s New Business Acceleration Team, which helps businesses open faster by streamlining and expediting City agency processes, Restoration Business Acceleration Teams will help expedite inspections and allow businesses to open their doors faster. Impacted businesses in zones will have access to Restoration Business Acceleration Teams, the City’s Emergency Loan Fund and matching grant, and other small business assistance services available.
“So many of our city’s small businesses – the companies that make up the backbone of our economy – were hit hard by Sandy,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Getting them back to work is an important part of our city’s recovery. Workers need to get back to their jobs and residents need local services. These businesses should know that the City is here to help them get back on their feet.
“Business recovery is a critical component of Mayor Bloomberg’s overall recovery strategy, and with the programs we’re announcing today we are committing to do all that we can to help small businesses re-open as fast and efficiently as possible,” Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel said. “Local small businesses not only provide jobs to local residents – they also provide vital services and products that rebuilding communities rely on.”
“Just as the Rapid Repairs program has already returned power, heat and hot water to over 800 housing units affected by Hurricane Sandy, the Recovery Business Zone’s and Recovery Business Acceleration Teams will provide critical support to the engine of our City’s economy – small businesses,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway. “RBAT will cut red tape and bureaucracy to safely open businesses faster than before.”
“Neighborhoods across the City were impacted differently by Hurricane Sandy, and to best respond to businesses that are still working to recover, we need to take each Zone and its needs into account,” said Chief Business Officer Tokumbo Shobowale. “Business Recovery Zones will allow us to work directly with communities, stakeholders, and individual small business owners, to help meet their specific needs whether it’s through RBAT, low interest loans and matching grants, or other services.”
“With over 13,000 businesses impacted by Sandy, it is critical for the City to help these establishments get back to serving local residents and visitors as quickly as possible,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Both the Business Recovery Zones and accompanying expansion to NBAT announced today will increase access to necessary services and decrease the amount of time it takes for these businesses to reopen their doors.”
“We have been out with the Mayor visiting businesses in neighborhoods across the City that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy to see how we can help, and NYC Business Solutions has already connected 74 businesses to low interest loans totaling nearly $1.7 million, matching grants, and other assistance services,” said Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “Business Recovery Zones will allow us to target small businesses in the hardest hit neighborhoods around the City, and specifically address their individual needs and challenges.”
“Under Mayor Bloomberg's leadership, we remain committed to supporting small businesses across the five boroughs that are recovering from Hurricane Sandy,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky. “Building upon our programs offering various forms of financial assistance, space and services, these new Business Recovery Zones will allow us to provide assistance that is more specifically tailored to the needs of businesses in the hardest-hit areas, enabling them to get back on their feet and ensuring that our economy continues to grow.”
“The most significant impact to the City's economy from the hurricane was the damage done to more than 13,000 of our locally-owned, often family run small businesses,” said Council Member Diana Reyna, Chair of the Committee on Small Business. “The Business Recovery Zones will expand upon the well tested New Business Acceleration Team model to provide greater and faster access to business assistance. I look forward to working with the Department of Small Business Services, Mayor Bloomberg and Council Speaker Quinn to ensure that any hurricane-affected business is able to receive aid from the City.”
“Small businesses are key to New York City’s economy and we must do everything we can to assist them in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz, Chair of the Economic Development Committee.
“It is a natural extension for us to take the services we use to help business cut red tape and open faster and do the very same to help them re-open faster,” said Robinson Hernandez, Executive Director of the New Business Acceleration Team. “If anything, the need for speed is even great for businesses closed after Sandy.”
The City’s Department of Small Business Services and Economic Development Corporation have conducted an initial study evaluating conditions, gathering economic data, and documenting damage in each zone, which will guide planning for short- and long-term revitalization. In total, there are approximately 13,200 businesses in these areas with more than 143,000 employees. The City will continue tracking assistance services provided to the businesses in these areas. The City is also publishing a customized “re-starter” guide for businesses hit hard by Sandy, with step-by-step instructions for getting back on their feet.
In addition to the new initiatives announced to help small businesses recover from Hurricane Sandy, impacted businesses will continue to have access to assistance services provided days after the storm. The City’s Emergency Loan Fund and matching grant provides businesses with up to $25,000 through a low-interest loan, and up to $10,000 in a matching grant. The loan is free for the first six months, and 1% interest for the following 24 months, and is available for small businesses that experienced direct damage through flooding or power outages with capital to cover working capital, repairs and equipment replacement, among other things. The Emergency Loan Fund has already made significant progress with 74 approvals across all five boroughs, totaling nearly $1.7 million. Businesses approved for the loan can also qualify for a matching grant if they were displaced for three weeks or more and have experienced direct damage through flooding or power outages as a result of Hurricane Sandy. There is currently $15 million available through the Emergency Loan Fund, with $5 million each contributed by NYCEDC, Goldman Sachs, and the New York Bankers Association. The $5.5 million matching grant is funded by $5 million from the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, and $500,000 from the Partnership for New York City. The New York Business Development Corporation is administering both the loan and matching grant.
Emergency sales tax letters from New York City Industrial Development Authority (IDA) are also available offering a waiver of up to $100,000 in New York City and New York State sales taxes to businesses on materials purchased for recovery efforts. This program is available to a maximum of 250 businesses for reconstruction projects costing $500,000 or more. IDA will also waive all fees and, while following State law, look to streamline its normal procedure. Altogether, the grants, loans, and sales tax waivers available will total nearly $50 million for New York City businesses to access in order to get back on their feet following the storm.
NYCEDC has also secured more than 250,000 square feet of additional temporary office space across the five boroughs, as well as donated services, for displaced businesses. For a list of available space, supplies, or other services available through generous donations, visit www.nycedc.com/donations.
Federal assistance is available to small businesses in need of up to $2 million. These affected businesses can apply for a Disaster Assistance Loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA Business Recovery Centers are stationed, among other locations, at NYC Business Solutions Centers, to help connect small businesses to applications. NYC Business Solutions staff can also help with technical assistance for loan applications. SBA representatives are currently at the NYC Business Solutions Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan Centers and are working on locating in other Centers, as well. For more information on SBA Disaster Assistance Loans, go to www.sba.gov.
For employers with workers who lost their jobs or have reduced hours due to the hurricane, the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) is offering Disaster Unemployment Assistance, supplementing New York’s existing unemployment insurance system and expanding eligibility to include individuals who might otherwise not be covered. Coverage includes employees and self-employed people such as small business owners, independent taxi drivers, and vendors unemployed due to hurricane-caused injury, damaged workplace, lack of transportation, and more.
The SBS Business Outreach Team’s Emergency Response Unit (BOT/ERU) has also been assessing damages in severely impacted areas in order to best respond to needs. BOT/ERU helps businesses recover after an emergency by offering services including: expediting re-inspection, application, and permit processes; replacing lost or damaged City permits or paperwork; resolving issues with insurance by working with the New York State Insurance Department; accessing free legal services; and connecting businesses to tax abatements for reconstruction, utility rebates, and other incentives.
All businesses in need of assistance due to Hurricane Sandy should contact NYC Business Solutions by filling out a Contact an Account Manager form at www.nyc.gov/nycbusiness, calling 311 and asking for “NYC Business Solutions” or visiting one of the City’s Restoration Centers.