New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer proposed a plan to support and promote small businesses during the upcoming holiday season as CoViD-19 cases continue to surge. As New York City’s economy slowly recovers and tourism, a significant source of revenue for small businesses, continues to lag, Comptroller Stringer urged the City to launch a coordinated effort to help small businesses navigate the challenges posed by this holiday season and make it as easy as possible for New Yorkers to shop local and support community retail.
Comptroller Stringer’s recommendations include assisting small businesses with digital tools and developing an online presence, ramping up holiday markets and outdoor festivals where New Yorkers can shop outdoors, pedestrianizing neighborhoods, keeping business corridors accessible, easing regulations and prohibitive fees on awnings, and using LinkNYC terminals to promote nearby businesses.
“For so many retail stores and mom-and-pop shops, the holiday season is usually one of the busiest and most profitable times of year,” said Comptroller Stringer. “But this year, lagging tourism, slow economic progress and the threat of a second wave pose big challenges for small businesses already struggling from earlier shutdowns. We need to get creative about how we support and promote our small businesses this holiday season – that means cutting red tape, helping businesses develop a digital footprint, and pedestrianizing our neighborhoods and public spaces so New Yorkers are encouraged to walk, shop, and eat local. There is no economic recovery for New York City without our small businesses. I urge the City to embrace our recommendations to kickstart that recovery.”
Comptroller Stringer’s Save Main Street report found that more than 2,800 small businesses had permanently closed between March 1 and July 10, including at least 1,289 restaurants and 844 retail businesses. Small businesses account for 39 percent of recent job losses. Immigrant New Yorkers and communities of color have been hardest hit; 73 percent of Main Street jobs in New York City are held by people of color, 53 percent by immigrants, and 29 percent by non-citizens. An analysis by Comptroller Stringer estimated that the city would forgo at least $1.5 billion in taxable tourism sales for the next year.
To support small business this holiday season, Comptroller Stringer proposes that the City:
Help Small Businesses Adopt Digital Tools and Develop an Online Presence
- Small Business Services should pilot a NYC Tech Corps to help Main Street businesses develop a web presence, expand online sales, and implement digital payroll, sales, and inventory tools. Rather than offering time-consuming classes and tutorials, the Tech Corp should work directly with business owners to design websites, to help purchase business software, and to set-up these tools.
Go big on Holiday Markets, Food Festivals, Outdoor Events
To encourage New Yorkers to shop local this winter, outdoor holiday shopping will have to be warm, fun, and above all else, extraordinarily safe. Throughout the city, ample room must be carved out for social distancing, coverings, heating, and performances.
- Pedestrianize entire sections of the city –not just one block at a time. The City should look to the Lower East Side, The Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy, Barcelona, and Montreal. This will allow for sufficient room for shoppers at holiday markets and winter food festivals and provide space to safely set up heat lamps along the street.
- Help with funding for heat lamps and warming stations at outdoor markets and also work with the MTA’s “Music Under New York,” Make Music New York, and other existing networks of artists to promote live performances at outdoor markets, both attracting customers, providing entertainment, and helping artists in need.
- Permit food trucks to operate at holiday markets and designate vacant lots around the city for food truck and food festival pop-ups.
Ease Regulations on Awnings and Canopies
As outdoor dining and retail moves into the winter, keeping warm will be a real challenge. Awnings and canopies provide real cover against the rain, snow, wind, and cold. Getting approval for these awnings, however, is an extraordinarily onerous process, requiring various permits, inspections, and annual fees.
- The Department of Transportation and Department of Buildings should work with local awning companies on design and installation standards that can be quickly and easily permitted and set-up in time for the winter.
Work with Designers and NYC Manufacturing Sector to Mass Produce Key Products
During the depths of the pandemic, New York City manufacturers stepped up in a big way. From N95 masks and face shields at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to surgical gowns in Sunset Park to swabs for testing kits in Manhattan and the Bronx, firms throughout the five boroughs shifted production and met the demand at a time of need.
- The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), Industrial Development Corporations (IDCs), manufacturing firms, and design firms should collaborate to step up production on key items like heat lamps, awnings, outdoor furniture and shelter, string lighting, and other products to help businesses.
- EDC and local IDCs should create an inventory of what’s being manufactured at individual firms across the city. This will help buyers who are looking to shop locally and also make it easier for firms to collaborate on new products in times of emergency and shortages.
Create More Accessible Commercial Corridors: Transportation, Snow Removal, and Garbage Removal
New Yorkers will not be able to shop local this winter if its local business corridors are not easily accessible. For residents to eat and shop outside and stores to continue high-volume pick-up and drop off service, the City must keep sidewalks, curbs, and bike and bus lanes clear and keep commercial corridors accessible for New Yorkers of all ages and abilities.
- Make a plan for timely snow removal this winter, prioritizing crosswalks, curb cuts, sidewalks, and bike lanes.
- Work with the MTA to relaxed regulations around heat lamps as an opportunity to keep bus stops warm this winter.
- Restart the City’s “Clear Curbs Program” allowing businesses to place commercial waste at designated spots on the street, rather than piling garbage bags on the sidewalk.
Promote Small Businesses
Throughout the city, Business Improvement Districts, Chambers of Commerce, and other business associations are working with small businesses to put together events and special deals to encourage New Yorkers to shop local. The City should elevate these efforts and expand their reach.
- From LinkNYC terminals to ads on the subway and bus to various websites, to Small Business Services, the City should be leveraging these resources to coordinate with local business associations and promote small businesses.
- Specifically, the City should work to promote NYC & Company’s “All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways” campaign, which offers participating small businesses, museums and other attractions a chance to promote assorted discounts, sales or buy-one-get-one-free offers across the five boroughs.
Allow Businesses a “Cure Period” to Address and Fix Violations
City and State agencies should take a dramatically different approach to inspections and fines, seeking to collaborate with businesses rather than punish them.
- Moving forward, any violations that do not pose an immediate hazard to the public should be granted a 30-Day “cure period” to address and rectify the issue. Rather than taking a punitive approach and issuing a fine, the City should grant all businesses the opportunity to remediate problems.