As this is written, it is just over three months since Superstorm Sandy changed the business landscape — both literally and figuratively — on Staten Island. The huge amount of restoration work done in that time has only managed to bring into sharp relief the enormity of what remains to be done.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, most governmental and institutional energy was focused — and rightly so — on assisting those who were left with uninhabitable homes and, in many cases, with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Affected businesses received some small measure of assistance — mostly in the form of low-interest loans — to help, but were largely left on their own to try to salvage their livelihood and that of their employees.
As time passes, however, it has become apparent that the Staten Island economy is feeling the repercussions of the loss of these businesses in the form of lost services, lost paychecks and lost purchasing power. It’s a trickle-down effect that impacts the entire community.
Thankfully, we are starting to see some substantive attention being paid to this situation. In recent days, there have been several announcements that bring hope. Among them are that the NYC Dept. of Small Business Services is now offering grants to small businesses for structural and equipment repairs and the purchase of replacement equipment needed for business recovery. Since many small business operators are unable, or rightfully hesitant, to add to their debt load through loans, these grants may mean the difference between survival and closing down. And the 5-Boro Chamber Alliance announced that Midland Beach and South Beach will be among the recipients of a series of programs that include providing direct commercial revitalization services to shopping districts.
We hope these are just the start of many more efforts to restore, retain and expand businesses that are at the heart of the Staten Island economy. Their destiny matters to us all.