A survey conducted by U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) last month of 10 popular shopping hotspots in Queens has revealed that an average of 12 percent of all storefronts are either closed or closing.
Small businesses are the backbone of the city’s economy and have borne the brunt of our nation’s recent downturn. As a matter of economic and national policy, helping small business owners get back on their feet should be a high priority.
This plan should complement efforts to save homeowners from foreclosure. Apart from the safety, environmental and unsightliness shuttered businesses and foreclosed homes cause, each reflects a painful horror story of blood, sweat and tears gone awash in the pursuit of the American Dream. We have to encourage small business owners to remain in New York because they are the engines that drive our local economy.
Recently, after surveying shopping strips in the Rockaways, Rego Park, Flushing, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Forest Hills, Jamaica, Sunnyside, Astoria, Glendale, Bayside and other areas, Weiner’s study shows that Richmond Hill had the highest vacancy rate at 20 percent, Flushing had the lowest at 7 percent and a total of 206 storefronts were closed, averaging 20 closed stores per shopping strip. One stretch of stores on Jamaica Avenue revealed 73 vacant storefronts, more than one in every five stores.
To help small business owners who may be struggling, Weiner laid out a five-point plan, some of which has been put in motion by Congress. It includes tax breaks for small businesses that offer health insurance and hire unemployed workers, greater access to small business loans, a longer grace period for parking shoppers and permit and adjudication vans that would bring city agencies to businesses.
The lifeblood of our local economies here in Queens is our small businesses, not the skyscrapers of Wall Street. Weiner is right. We must throw them a lifeline.
©2010 Community News Group
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