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Flushing businesses strong after attack

In the shadow of the World Trade Center, Chinatown in Manhattan has seen a drastic decrease in business since Sept. 11. Many trucks cannot make deliveries to the area due to roadblocks, and tourism has come to a near standstill.

But the scene in downtown Flushing, its sister neighborhood, is much busier, full of pedestrians, shoppers and an influx of street vendors from Chinatown in pursuit of customers who have disappeared from Lower Manhattan.

“All the street vendors which used to be on Canal Street are now here in Flushing,” said Wellington Chen, a member of the Queens Chamber of Commerce and consultant for TDC.

The vendors sell primarily small items, such as socks, flags and CDs, and now photographs and posters of the World Trade Center.

But many in Flushing have given the vendors a cold welcome.

“There are a lot. I can’t even count them all,” said Jason Leu, manager of Eagle’s Eye, an optical store on Main Street. “They try to sell things in front of my store. I tell them they have to go.”

An employee of Pretty Girl, a wholesale and retail clothing store on Roosevelt Avenue, was upset that the vendors were selling World Trade Center merchandise. “It’s like you’re trying to benefit from the deaths,” she said. “I think it’s in poor taste.”

“It’s causing a bit of a problem,” Chen said. “The sidewalks are crowded as it is. It’s something we have to address.”

But the vendors, although a nuisance in the eyes of some, have a relatively small impact on Flushing’s economy. They play more of a symbolic role in which Flushing may become a refuge for many people and businesses leaving downtown Manhattan.

How the economy of Flushing has been affected in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks depends on whom you ask.

Fred Fu, president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, said he thought business in Flushing has been hurt. “It’s down. All all of the city is down,” he said.

Fu pointed out that the massive traffic in Queens has prevented many delivery trucks from reaching Flushing grocery stores. He also said many Flushing restaurant owners have suffered a 20 percent to 30 percent dropoff in business and travel agents have been hit especially hard.

“Everyone says it’s worse than before,” he said.

But Jack Hogan, co-president of the Flushing Chamber of Commerce and Flushing Business Association, said “business doesn’t seem to be affected. There seems to be just as many crowds and traffic patterns.”

With the arrival of national retailer Old Navy Sept. 10 and the expected opening of the Flushing Mall around Thanksgiving, some have actually noticed an increase in commerce in the downtown area.

“Two weeks after it happened, people started shopping again as a catharsis, I guess,” said the Pretty Girl employee, who noted that business at Pretty Girl was higher compared to the same time last year.

Although he did not know of any specific businesses that had left Chinatown for Flushing, Chen said Flushing was an attractive option for many.

“There is some fear factor of Manhattan,” he said. “We know of people who have moved here from Manhattan.”

Even though he saw economic activity as down, Fu acknowledged that Flushing business has been relatively strong, even since Sept. 11.

“For the rest of the year, Flushing business is booming,” he said. “It’s better than most of America. The Chinese Bank in Flushing, its volume is higher than average. The immigrants bring money.

“Chinatown is different. In Chinatown, they send back money to their own country. But here it is the opposite.”

Reach Reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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