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The Civic Scene: Korean-American biz feels economic pinch

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Federal, state and city officials presented proclamations of congratulations for the many worthwhile activities of the organization. It was interesting to hear the Korean national anthem played just as I had heard the Canadian anthem played at a Knicks game a few days earlier.There are approximately 185,000 small business in New York City, which includes 9,500 Korean-American businesses. KASBSC is concerned because about 13,000 small business have closed their doors since last year. They worry that the city is using the small businesses as a cash cow through fees, licenses and fines. It seems that large corporations receive tax rebates and exemptions, but small businesses have nothing but costs. The mayor did not mentioned small businesses in his State of the City address.KASBSC has worked with the many agencies that regular small businesses so the owners, many foreign-born, can cope with the laws, regulation, and codes they must obey. They have given their members seminars on the retail food sanitary codes, food safety education, water codes, taxation, health codes, and rent stabilization. They also translate city codes and regulations concerning Sanitation, the comptroller's office, NYS Dept. Of Agriculture & Markets, USDA., food stamps and publish a Merchants' Guide to Crime Prevention, a monthly Food Business Newsletter for Korean Americans. In addition the organization has petitioned government agencies, pressed for five-foot vinyl awnings for winter months, and protested increases in cigarette and trade waste removal fees. I don't know why there can't be found an ecological use for all the bio-mass produced by green grocers daily.The Queens Civic Congress started working with KASBSC several years ago when there were proposals to build big box stores in the residential neighborhoods of New York City. It is the small merchants who operate the stores that serve the communities of Queens. A healthy strip mall is necessary to the residents of any community. The merchants and the homeowners and tenants have a symbiotic relationship in any neighborhood.At the dinner Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) spoke of a Small Business Preservation Act, which would prevent huge rent increases for small businesses. There was such a law, but it was phased out several years ago and never renewed. Why? This is one reason why 13,000 small businesses went out of business in the past year. Just look around your neighborhood.Council Member Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) spoke about the proliferation of banks which drive up rents in a neighborhood. Council Member Tony Avella (D-Bayside) expressed his concern about the loss of many small businesses.There were complaints that there are too many speculators in the real estate market. High prices for buildings mean higher rents, which means that the small business person is forced to either hire illegal workers or not pay taxes or raise prices or go underground. This is why there are vacant stores on some blocks where once there were a vibrant stores.Inspectors often find things wrong and issue a fine without a warning. If the businessman goes to court to fight the fine, it costs a day's work. It can be very hard to run a small business. Some things, like sloppy pedestrians, are beyond the control of a merchant. We should appreciate what it takes to operate a small store.State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) presented a proclamation as did Borough President Helen Marshall and representatives of Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr.Some speakers were Bob Harris, Queens Civic Congress; Lois Marback, Queens Coalition for Political Alternatives; and Bryan Pu-Folkes, New Immigrant Community Empowerment. Other guests were from the city Department of Sanitation, USDA, city Dept. Immigration Affairs, city Dept. of Small Business Services, the Korean Consul General, Community Boards 2 and 7 and the Fire Department plus representative from supermarket associations, the Coalition for Fair Rents, Latino Restaurant Association, LeFrak Merchant Associations and civic and business groups from all over New York City.Recently a young Muslim man from Bangladesh, Hassan Askari, went to the aid of four young Jewish men who had wished a group of people a happy Hanukkah on a subway train in Jackson Heights. Ashari suffered two black eyes for his actions, but he has been honored by the Bagladeshi community, local legislators, City Hall and the White House. It goes to show!

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