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City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) personally distributed the nearly $72,000 in grant money to 14 small businesses at his district office. The grants, which are part of a $400,000 account set aside by the owners of the Pathmark supermarket on Merrick Boulevard and Springfield Boulevard, will be used to help the businesses improve the exterior looks of their stories and offices."The Pathmark Corporation has been a good neighbor and they have aided the community in its growth," he said.Each of the 14 businesses, which included restaurants, art shops, beauty salons and others, received up to $7,000 each and many of the owners said they would use it to make their stores more appealing for new customers. Dr. Alison Risko, who owns Agape Vision, a private eye care office located at 206-13 Jamaica Ave., said she would use the grant to get new gates and storefront signs."Sometimes you can be the best business or service, but if you don't have an appearance that's palpable, they'll go somewhere else," she said.Sanders said the distribution of the grants was the culmination of a long process that began when the Pathmark store opened in 1995. In a controversial move, former City Councilwoman Juanita Watkins asked the owners of the supermarket to set aside $400,000 to help businesses remain competitive.The deal was stalled as many elected officials saw the grant as unfair and the money stayed in an account. In 2001, Sanders revitalized the plan after Pathmark expressed interest in opening a Far Rockaway store.Over the next couple of years, the councilman worked with the Queens Economic Development Corporation to work out a plan to properly distribute the money to the small business owners."I want to pay homage to those who helped make this day happen. I was not the visionary," he said. Queens Economic Development Corporation developed a thorough application process for the entrepreneurs. Up to $7,000 would be distributed to businesses located within a three-mile-radius of the Pathmark store and the grant was only to be used for making improvements to exteriors.Business owners, who began applying last year, had to submit a proposal for the work they were going do with the money, a signed approval and three estimates of how much their proposed projects would cost."We chose the most feasible projects and those who had the most need," said Ricardi Calixte of the Queens EDC.Sanders said there was a lot more money to be given out and encouraged eligible entrepreneurs to apply."I want to get the money out to the businesses as fast as possible," he said. "If you know any legitimate businesses that need help, get out the word."For more information on the Pathmark grant call 718-263-0546.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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