Councilman Peter Koo said his office has received numerous complaints about a variety of issues, including complying with new sanitation regulations, outdoor dining and street vending.
“The COVID pandemic has pulled the rug out from under too many mom-and-pop businesses,” he said. “As New York City reopens, we need to ensure these businesses are given guidance on how to succeed in a post-COVID economy, not burdened by fines and overregulation.”
State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, whose office also helped organize the town hall, said she wants to see businesses return, though she warned that many will not.
“It hurts me when I drive down Main Street or Union Street to see stores that are closed,” Stavisky said. “We’ve got to make sure we help them reopen.”
Representatives from the Department of Transportation, Department of Sanitation, Department of Consumer and Worker Protection and the Police Department attended the virtual event.
Jonnel Doris, commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), described the myriad services his agency has provided for mom-and-pop shops, including no-cost consultations, legal assistance and a restart hotline that has already received over 35,000 calls.
SBS has also hosted weekly webinars on reopening in multiple languages and inter-agency resource fairs, and has given out more than 7.5 million free face coverings to small business owners in partnership with 80 chambers of commerce and business improvement districts.
The city’s Open Restaurants program has nearly 10,000 participants signed up, and has been extended to October 30. Starting on September 30, indoor dining will restart at restaurants at 25 percent capacity.
“At every phase, we gave a significant amount of support to small businesses to be compliant and aligned with the new regulatory environment,” Doris said.
In addition to questions and concerns about indoor dining, street congestion and lack of sanitation, small business leaders said a large issue in Downtown Flushing is the amount of vendors.
“When you walk down Main Street, you see hundreds of vendors selling everything under the sun,” Koo said. “It not only hurts pedestrian traffic, but also normal business owners.”
Koo said that storefront owners pay rent, taxes and for employees, putting them at a disadvantage compared to street vendors.
“This is one of the biggest complaints when I walk down the street,” he added. “I hope this is something the city takes the initiative to do.”
Deputy Inspector Keith Shine, commanding officer of the 109th Precinct, said one issue law enforcement has faced is the lack of resources to address illegal vending.
“We have done the educational and awareness part of the mayor’s task force,” he said.