Tag Archives: businesses

Willets Point business owners expect to reopen

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Nearly one dozen Willets Point business owners who had their auto shops abruptly shut down by the city two weeks ago said they expect to reopen in a few days.

“We all have families,” said Wais Mohibi, owner of Discount Muffler in the Iron Triangle. “Don’t just come in without warning, without anything, and just shut us down.”

The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) issued partial vacate orders two weeks ago to five businesses at 38-01 126th Street for “illegal, unsafe construction,” according to a department spokesperson.

About five other shops at 37-11 126th Street were also shut down. Vacate orders had been in effect at those locations since 2009, the DOB said.

The businesses were hit with violations for working without permits and for having improper lightweight steel, called C-joist, installed at their sites, according to the department.

The DOB said C-joist construction without proper shoring affects the structural stability of buildings and can cause collapse. Such conditions led to the death of one Brooklyn construction workers last year, the department said.

Most of the business owners dealing with vacate orders are working out deals with the city to sell their property. However, they said they did not expect to be forced out of their jobs so quickly. They added that the vacates left them with nothing.

“All our equipment is inside. We can’t do anything,” Mohibi said. “That’s not fair at all. We’re basically going to be in the street.”

Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee, said business owners expect their stores will temporarily reopen by Monday, June 3.

He said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras’s office has been in touch with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which will handle repairs to the stores.

According to an HPD spokesperson, the repairs will be funded by the city and will begin in the next few days. The spokesperson added that there is no timeline yet for the project’s completion.

Ferreras said those owners should be able to return next week at the very latest.

“The city has to treat us as human beings,” Neira said. “I know they want this land. They can have this land, but not in this way.”

According to the DOB, business owners have to submit new design drawings, obtain permits and install proper shoring before their shops can reopen.

The establishments are located at the heart a $3 billion city project to transform the area into a major commercial hub.

“This is obviously harassment by the city of New York because this area is slated for redevelopment,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “It’s death by a thousand cuts.”



Businesses recovering after Sandy

| tcullen@queenscourier.com


When Sandy’s wrath started to hit Howard Beach, the channel — one of the main links of the community — started to flood. Pockets of low-lying areas of Cross Bay Boulevard became pools of icy water.

The result was catastrophic damage to area homes and to the string of small businesses that characterize the neighborhood.

Several forums and information sessions have been held to help businesses get back on their feet. Many have been able to get grants or loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which is a federal office to help businesses nationwide. Some loans are at low rates and have repayment periods that stretch as far as 30 years.

And while some shops on the west side of the bay only suffered damage to property or lost some supplies, some east side stores have had to rip out everything and start from scratch.

One landmark eatery that took the brunt of flooding was Lenny’s Clam Bar, which had prepared for the storm with sandbags and other measures. When the water turned Cross Bay Boulevard into a canal, the valet booth was pushed, floating, into the street.

A decent amount of equipment was damaged by the storm, owner Joe De Candia said, and some walls were damaged from the salt water. The floors, for the most part, remained intact. Destroyed or damaged equipment ranged from computers to ovens to stoves.

The Tuesday after the storm, as strong winds were still gusting through the waterside neighborhood, De Candia and the Lenny’s staff got back to work repairing walls and getting new machinery.

“I wanted to get open as soon as the power was on,” he said. “We did a lot of work in the three weeks [since the storm].”

By Friday, November 16, the Clam Bar was back open serving foodies in Howard Beach.

De Candia said he did not go through any kind of insurance, rather, opting to pay out of pocket. But even with an insurance policy, it would not have ensured Lenny’s would be open as fast as it did. While he could not estimate how much total repair would end up costing, De Candia said so far rebuilding has cost an upward of $200,000.

And although business is not as busy as normal for this time of year, the restaurant is up and running and De Candia’s staff is back at work.

“We’re definitely off from our normal flow of business,” he said, “but we’re up, we’re open and my employees are back to work.”

While many businesses are still reeling from the loss of property and economic activity, other Howard Beach services were drastically damaged by Sandy.

A brand new facility of the New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC) in Howard Beach was set to open two weeks after Sandy struck. The larger facility on Cross Bay Boulevard was set to expand the services of the organization.

The building took on four-and-a-half feet of water to the first floor, ruining the sheet rock, floors and furniture, according to NYFAC CEO Andrew Baumann. The building’s elevator system was severely damaged by the storm, and the entire electrical system for the lift has to be replaced, Baumann said.

“I had to replace sheetrock,” Baumann said. “I had to replace floors, desks, computers. We were two weeks from opening. We had furniture that came in that got ruined. We took a big hit.”

But while there is no time frame for the facility’s delayed opening, originally intended to by November 16, Baumann said construction was pushed back at least six to eight weeks while the elevator system is repaired and then inspected.

The cost of repair came out to about $165,000, Baumann said, adding he’s not sure where these funds will come from. Baumann said the facility was not insured for flooding so the organization is essentially on its own to finance repairs. The nonprofit has been looking into loan programs, particularly from SBA, but repayment is the problem.

“I have no problem finding the money,” he said. “I can borrow the money from a million different places. Where do you get the money to pay it back? That’s the problem.”

Baumann said the NYFAC board will hold an emergency meeting to figure out fundraising methods to ease the cost of repairs. One way is the annual NYFAC dinner dance, which will be held on February 28.

“We’re going to see what we can come up with, some kind of innovative idea. I don’t know what we’re going to come up with,” said Baumann.