City Launches New Program to Help Small Businesses

In the Arepa Lady restaurant, from left, Alejandro Osorio, City Council members Julissa Ferreras and Daniel Dromm, SBS Commissioner María Torres-Springer and MOIA Commissioner Nisha Agarwal. (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

In the Arepa Lady restaurant, from left, Alejandro Osorio, City Council members Julissa Ferreras and Daniel Dromm, SBS Commissioner María Torres-Springer and MOIA Commissioner Nisha Agarwal. (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

At Arepa Lady restaurant on 77th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, María Torres-Springer, commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS), spoke about the city’s new initiative to help small businesses.

“We have to radically change how the city works with small businesses and the community of immigrant entrepreneurs,” said Torres.

The action includes ideas that come from community organizations, with the aim of transforming the [municipal] government’s current infrastructure and treating small businesses as partners.

“There are language barriers, distrust in the city, little access to information, and a lack of legal services,” Torres added. “One of our goals is to streamline procedures so that entrepreneurs can open their businesses more quickly and at a lower cost.”

More information can be found on the SBS website, or by calling 311.

In New York City, new immigrants own 37 percent of businesses. In Queens, immigrants run 50 percent of businesses, and in Jackson Heights, that figure is 62 percent. The initiative is funded with a quarter of a million dollars from Citi Community Development and comprises various NYC agencies.

One of these agencies is the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA).

“One out of every three New Yorkers is an immigrant, and they play a huge part in the city’s economy,” said MOIA commissioner Nisha Agarwal.

“I’ve gotten a lot of help from SBS, in addition to legal and financial advice,” said Alejandro Osorio, who owns Arepa Lady, which opened a month ago. He pays $3,300 in monthly rent.

“The main problem for us small business owners is that we don’t know what to do, and we pay a very high price for it.” It took Osorio a year to open his restaurant because of delays.

“These kinds of partnerships are very important, especially for such diverse communities like Jackson Heights,” said City Council member Daniel Dromm. He mentioned the difference between the previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who favored large corporations, and the current mayor, who “tries to help small businesses.”

City Council member Julissa Ferreras underscored the partnership between different city agencies to mitigate the burden shouldered by small businesses.

“This [measure has] a new vision, and I feel proud to be part of this initiative to help my community,” said Ferreras. “When income falls, the city should intervene to help small businesses.”

During the gathering at Arepa Lady, Commissioner Torres also discussed the possibility of expanding the 82nd Street BID (Business Improvement District) along Roosevelt Avenue.

“We’re now getting feedback and from the community, their suggestions, and afterwards we’ll assess their opinions to examine the BID’s viability along Roosevelt Avenue.”

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