There is so much valuable information to be shared across networks regarding COVID-19 that I will focus this article on lessons learned on the ground in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and the concerns we all had regarding access to food and services, and how we are putting that experience into practice to assist our local businesses.
When Superstorm Sandy devastated the Rockaways, our business community immediately knew what to do to: 1) Reopen quickly—get power, remove water and damaged equipment, furnishings and inventory, renovate/gut rehab of interior space, purchase of new material, restock and open. Our primary role was to assess all of our commercial corridors from Breezy to Far Rockaway, identify what businesses were open, closed or in the process of re-opening.
2) Identify resources needed to re-open (FEMA, SBA, NYS Economic Development Corporation/Small Business Development Center and NYC Small Business Services) and bring those resources into the Rockaways, by establishing a Small Business and Homeowner Disaster Relief Center at our offices that would connect to Breezy Point, Beach 129th Street, Beach 116th Street and Rockaway Beach Blvd.
3) Communicate with our elected officials, community partners and governmental agencies, to assure, whatever assistance was needed by a business owner to complete applications, retrieve documents, and even deliver loan documents and grant applications to agencies in person on behalf of our business.
Eventually, the determination, grit and ingenuity of our small businesses won out. Many were able to reopen, and in many cases, reinvent their businesses by creating clusters of dynamic food restaurants and other stores along the Rockaway Beach Blvd and Arverne By The Sea commercial corridors. We have seen our boardwalk restaurants create a new excitement that attracts locals, as well as visitors from across NYC and Long Island!
COVID-19 has created a new challenge that we can overcome—for business owners especially smaller restaurants, grocery and household supply stores—how can they use social media and online pick-up and delivery apps to engage new and potential customers? How can we remotely assist them since we are all practicing social distancing and not accepting in-person appointments? These are all just a few of the challenges we are trying to tackle while we continue to figure out what our working model will be.
In the interim, we will continue to work with our partner organizations such as Rockaway Business Alliance, REMA4US, Queens Chamber of Commerce and Queens Economic Development Corporation to promote our local restaurants, shortly, share information and resources, and provide whatever technical assistance we can through webinars, online support chats and telephone calls so that our businesses know we are there for them!
Please feel free to connect with us via Instagram, Twitter (@the_rdrc) and Facebook: Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corporation.
For businesses that have and are being impacted by COVID-19, there are several grant and loan resources that you may be eligible for. Contact us or go online to NYC Small Business Services and/or the Small Business Administration.
We sometimes forget how important the jobs are that make life more convenient for us—just imagine where we would be if our supermarket, pharmacy, restaurant and healthcare workers decided not to show up for work—cashiers, cooks, stock workers, delivery workers, and doctors, nurses, EMTs? Imagine if our bus and train operators, bank employees, sanitation, fire and police decided to not show up for work? THANK YOU ALL!!
By Kevin W. Alexander, MPA
President & CEO
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