Tag Archives: small business

Flushing’s new chamber of commerce kicks off business unification with party

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo by Lea Kim from Dan & Ellie Photography

Flushing’s new chamber of commerce revved up its operations with a launch party Dec. 11 attended by 250 people from all corners of the fourth largest commercial district in New York City.

“We had a lot of excitement and energy in one place,” said John Choe, the executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce. “And we need to channel all of that into a unified force that will be listened to by those in power.”

The launch party, which took place in Flushing Town Hall, was as much a party as it was a chance to bring together the many different players, with all their varied thoughts and interests, into one place. For Choe, the launch party marked the beginning of the long task of gathering the small business owners into one organization with greater clout to City Hall to satisfy the commercial district’s needs, including more city funding for infrastructure.

During the party, Choe said that the new wave of commercial development in Flushing was welcome, but he urged caution when embracing chain stores — like Nike — that are moving into the neighborhood.

“We have to protect the interests of small businesses because they give us economic resilience,” Choe said. “We don’t want to depend on Starbucks and national banks to keep our economy afloat.”

Local politicians and Borough President Melinda Katz also attended the party, showing their support for the chamber.

Choe characterized the work of gaining the support of businesses as a process similar to going door to door from one business to another. But he remained hopeful that Flushing’s various groups could come together for a common goal.

“We have the ability to surpass downtown Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan as the largest commercial districts because we have so much more going for us,” Choe said. “We have to make sure that we support the businesses that have been here for decades and helped make Flushing prosperous in the first place.”


Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Friday: Cloudy with occasional rain showers. High 53. Winds N at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 70%. Friday night: Rain early followed by a mixture of wintry precipitation overnight. Low 37. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Bach & Brew: Dongsok Shin & Leah Nelson

Pianist Dongsok Shin performs on the King Manor Museum’s fortepiano and is joined by violinist Leah Nelson. The program will include works by Johann Christian Bach and Muzio Clementi. Sample craft beer similar to what would have been enjoyed during Rufus King’s lifetime. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

City sues Bell Helicopter for $12.4 million after 2010 splash-land in Jamaica Bay

New York is demanding Bell Helicopter Textron fork over $12.4 million to replace an NYPD aircraft that was destroyed after it splash-landed in Jamaica Bay due to a mechanical defect, according to a new lawsuit. Read more: New York Daily News

Lawsuits filed in connection with Metro-North derailment

The first lawsuits have been filed in the deadly Metro-North derailment as some victims say the tragedy should have been prevented. Read more: CBS New York

Bus shooter’s insanity defense fails; jury convicts

A sociopathic gunman’s insanity defense failed on Thursday when a Queens jury convicted him of shooting three men dead — two on the Q111 bus. Read more: New York Post 

Small-business hiring increases slightly in November

Hiring for small businesses was just so-so in November. Read more: New York Daily News 

Mandela’s influence felt in New York City

When a newly freed Nelson Mandela visited the United States in 1990, his first stop was New York City. From elected officials to everyday New Yorkers, the political giant is remembered fondly for the strength of his character and the power of his example. Read more: AP

Op-Ed: Small biz are engines that drive the economy

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


It has never been easy to run a business in New York City, one of the most taxed and regulated places on the face of the earth. Here in Queens, where small business is the backbone of the economy, this is going to be, to put it mildly, a challenging year.

Payroll taxes have taken a bite out of paychecks and business checkbooks. The cost of Obamacare is kicking in and federal tax rates hit us harder, because it costs more to survive here, whether you’re trying to run a food cart or a factory.

Customers have less to spend and business taxes, expenses and insurance costs keep going up, along with the cost of compliance with every rule and code, no matter how high-handedly administered.

Job creators deserve tax breaks because job opportunities are critical to the future of our borough. A tax deduction for each employee would help small businesses and create more jobs. But you have to be making a profit for a tax break to be meaningful. Too many businesses are struggling to stay afloat. They aren’t hiring.

If they continue to be overtaxed and over-regulated, some businesses with good jobs will leave and others will open shop somewhere less expensive than New York City. Some will close and more will struggle to keep the doors open, leading to even fewer jobs and a more depressed economy.

But for every trickle-down tax break, the government makes a full-scale effort to legislate good jobs, frequently at the urging of people who never made a job that wasn’t paid for by taxpayers or contributors.

Legislation setting a “living wage” and mandating paid sick leave may have been motivated by compassion, but whatever benefits will come at the cost of more than just jobs. We need to take a hard look at that cost because there’s nothing compassionate about more joblessness or small businesses closing their doors for good.

Our small businesses are not ATMs for the government, but the engines that drive our economy. Ask a business owner in Queens and they’ll tell you that they want their business to grow. But you also hear business owners tell you that they aren’t being heard or helped by government as much as tormented and taxed.

We need jobs and it doesn’t make sense to cripple our small businesses with burdensome regulation, punitive enforcement and staggering fines. If a minor violation is discovered by an agency inspector, a reasonable amount of time should be given for the owner to cure the violation, especially if there is no danger to the public or the employees. These fines on small businesses are shortsighted sources of revenue for the government, money that would be better be spent creating better jobs.

What can the small business owner do, besides pay and pay? You can join local business associations like the Queens Chamber of Commerce, where you can get help from people who have been in business and add your voice to theirs in bringing your concerns to the government. You can get in touch with your elected officials and tell them how the laws and rules and taxes and fines are working out.

We’re fighting to make Queens a center of commerce and help build prosperity for ourselves and for future generations. We’re the gateway to the Capital of the World, where people come to seek a better life.

To do those things and help those people, we need jobs. We need to help business do it because the government can’t make enough jobs on its own, even in New York City where we have the federal, state and city government trying. Our small businesses are a big part of the answer and it’s time for the government to stop adding to the problem of creating good jobs.

Every business owner knows that if you overcharge and underserve, you fail.  We need government to get that same message when it comes to promoting business growth – and job creation.  So far, it hasn’t heard it.



$5.5M to help small businesses ‘get back up and running’

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has allocated $5.5 million for small businesses affected by Sandy.

“Getting small businesses back on their feet is key to helping our economy recover from Sandy,” said Bloomberg. “The capital provided through this program will help businesses purchase supplies, make repairs and get back up and running.”

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City has allotted $5 million to the Emergency Loan Fund from local banks through the New York Banker’s Association, and the Partnership for New York City is financing an additional $500,000 to be used for struggling businesses in Lower Manhattan.

“The impact of Sandy continues to take a toll on communities throughout New York,” said Rob Speyer, Mayor’s Fund Advisory Board chair. “Our small businesses are a vitally important part of our city’s lifeblood and economy.”

Grants will be administered by the New York Business Development Corporation, and are designed to provide assistance for these local businesses already seeking low-interest loans through the existing Emergency Loan Fund. Businesses currently can be granted up to $10,000, but the amount may increase based on evaluation of future need and donors interested in contributing. Those who have already begun to apply for a loan will be eligible to receive grants retroactively.

Impacted businesses should list everything that was damaged or lost, take photos, try to assess the value of each lost item, provide invoices or receipts if they are available, and discard perishable or dangerous items. If there is water damage, the mayor’s office suggests using a person to point at a water line, or equipment, to give an accurate representation of how high the water reached during the storm.

Those in need of assistance should contact NYC Business Solutions by filling out a “Contact an Account Manager” form at www.nyc.gov/nycbusiness, calling 3-1-1 and asking for “NYC Business Solutions” or going to a restoration center.

The Mayor’s Fund is also accepting financial donations for relief efforts. Those interested in participating can visit www.nyc.gov/fund or call 3-1-1.

Small businesses have their day

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Melissa Chan

Smack in the middle of two of the biggest retail days of the year, local shops in Bayside celebrated Small Business Saturday.

The Bayside Village Business Improvement District [BID], consisting of over 200 businesses including shoe outfitters, flower shops and bookstores, celebrated its retail diversity on Saturday, November 24 with a block party and gift card raffles.

“If you need something, you can definitely find what you’re looking for on Bell Boulevard,” said Bayside BID executive director Lyle Sclair. “[Small Business Saturday] raises awareness about shopping locally.” Assisted by American Express and the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), the Bayside BID opened up local stores to garner support from the community and inform residents about all the incredible shops right in their backyard.

“It’s important, especially in a place like Bayside where you have a variety of providers but all different kinds of products; it puts them all in one place,” said Sclair.

Karen Serin, owner of Top Drawer on Bell Boulevard, said she was happy to be included in the event. “It was very beneficial,” said Serin, who has been in business for 33 years. “It increased traffic and gave us exposure and a lot of our customers came in and told us they were glad the event was going on.”

State forum helps build small business in Queens

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Cristabelle Tumola

Established and potential small business owners filled the auditorium of the Flushing Library with pens and paper in hand (and a few laptops), ready to jot down information on ways to help their small businesses.

Around 250 people attended the August 22 event, which was the last in a series of small business forums that have been held throughout the state since early April.

“This program is all about creating jobs because when small businesses do well, New York does well,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo when the initiative was announced. “It’s so important for us to get out of the office and go into communities to see how we can help anyone who wants to start, grow or improve a business and that’s what this program will do.”

At the forum, representatives from the New York Departments of State, Labor, Taxation and Finance as well as Empire State Development, the State Liquor Authority and the Workers Compensation Board each gave a short presentation. Afterwards, attendees were able to ask the speakers questions.

“What [attendees] should take away from this presentation tonight is that we have resources and services that are available to you free of charge,” said New York State Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights Alphonso David, who introduced the night’s speakers.

In addition to small business grants, programs and online resources, the forum also included important information on laws and taxes that could cost small business owners money or even shut down their businesses.

Though the information discussed is easily available online, for several reasons, people might not know about it because they have limited resources, don’t have time to look online or are recent immigrants and have language barriers, said David.

Home to a large number of small businesses and immigrants, Queens, particularly Flushing, was an appropriate place to end the state’s small businesses forums, he said.

“There’s a large group of people here in Queens that operate small businesses and may not be aware of the services that we have to offer.”

Marc Fox of Fresh Meadows attended the forum because he is considering opening a small business in Queens. After working in the music industry for years, he would like open a music center that has rehearsal space and a store and gives lessons.

He was particularly interested in learning more about grants that could help him start his business, but was disappointed.

“The free money doesn’t sound so free,” he said.

But Fox liked that there are programs in place to help people like him. Although the information can be found online, he said, it was much easier hearing it laid out all at once.

Information for NY state small business owners can be found at www.NYOpenforSmallBusiness.com or www.thenewny.com.


Bill designed to extend tax breaks for small businesses

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Women make up more than half the work force, but are often paid less than their male counterparts. A similar discrepancy exists for women-owned small businesses.

Though it is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, women-owned businesses start with eight times less capital.

For that reason, on August 21, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Assemblymember Grace Meng announced a federal bill designed to extend targeted tax breaks for small businesses at the women-owned Great Bear Auto Repair and Auto Body Shop in Flushing.

“I’ve heard from women in Queens and all across the state. I know women are ready to lead us to a thriving and stable economy, with new, good-paying jobs that can support a family. When we provide the tools that small business leaders need, we can help this economic engine take off,” said Gillibrand.

According to the senator’s office, 10 million firms and 30 percent of all small businesses in the state are women-owned.

Standing alongside the repair shop’s owner, Audra Fordin, Gillibrand and Meng discussed their support for the SUCCESS Act of 2012. If passed, the legislation would extend small business tax benefits that expired at the start of this year, including eliminating capital gains tax on investments in small business and cutting taxes for businesses that invest in new equipment. It also would double existing deductions from $5,000 to $10,000 for new small business start-up costs.

The first woman to run her family’s business, Fordin said the tax extensions would give her needed breathing room, and allow her to upgrade equipment and divert resources towards staff.

The legislation would not only help Fordin’s auto body shop and other women-owned enterprises, but also its entire small-business sector.

“Small businesses have always been the engines of job creation and community development in Queens, and are moving us out of this grinding recession,” said congressional candidate Meng. “We’re already seeing more start-ups, more hiring, and more entrepreneurs striking out on their own. Nowhere is the growth of women-owned businesses more evident than here in New York State, New York City and in Queens.”


Affordable Care Act’s impact on small biz

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

At a recent business workshop local small business owners and employees learned that although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will give them necessary health coverage, it may come at a high price.

Sher Sparano, president of the Benefits Advisory Service, broke down the law’s effects on small businesses to nearly a dozen uncertain and bewildered professionals at the event, which was hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce on July 20.

“Our goal was for people to walk away with a sense of how to prepare,” Sparano said. “They need help and guidance along the way as the law changes.”

Although businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required to provide insurance for their workers, they are still urged to make sure their employees are covered.

To encourage these small businesses to invest in insurance for their companies, those with fewer than 25 full-time employees averaging $50,000 yearly, could apply for a 35 percent tax break. That will increase to 50 percent in 2014.

Unfortunately, only 170,000 out of 4 million possible businesses applied since 2010, and Sparano says that has to change.

“That’s one of the things we told small businesses, to understand that if they were entitled something, get it,” Sparano said. “I don’t care if they’re going to give me back $500. You have to apply to see if you’re going to get this credit.”

In 2014, New York will establish its exchange, or state-run list of insurance options. Small businesses will be able to provide coverage to their employees at lower costs through these lower priced plans.

Business expenses will rise to provide insurance, but it may be an essential step for health care reform.

“There are a lot of small businesses today that don’t give health insurance and that will change,” Sparano said. “If we want the health care act to succeed it has to happen like this.”

Through ACA, a state could choose whether or not to expand its Medicaid system. Governor Andrew Cuomo elected to increase New York State’s system, which will make more people eligible to access Medicare.

Individual Americans who make about $15,000 a year and families of four that earn $30,000, will be able to get Medicaid, up from approximately $9,000 and $15,000 respectively.

Sparano mentioned sections of the law that will go in effect soon, such as insurance carriers expanding no-cost preventive services for women, and companies providing summaries of benefits and coverage and notifying employees about the state-run exchanges.

Also on August 1, customers will receive Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rebates. MLR rebates are distributed when insurance companies spend less than 80 percent of premiums on medical care for plan holders instead of administration, like salaries and marketing.

When businesses get the rebates they will distribute the money proportionally to workers enrolled in company health plans, according to how much their plans cost.

“The most practical information I learned was about the rebates,” said Phil Robinson, an employee for Petracca & Sons construction company in Flushing. “In my mind it was just a check that would arrive at the employee’s house.”

MLR rebates will give nearly 12.8 million Americans more than $1.1 billion this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Towards the end of her presentation, Sparano recommended that smaller businesses that want to provide health insurance and save money adopt wellness programs.

“The healthier the population is the better the experience would be,” Sparano said. “It lowers the premium, and you get better more productive hours out of your staff.”

Small business owners air their concerns

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Restaurateur Herbert Duarte cannot undo the headaches, unwind the hours or take back the thousands of dollars he lost, but he can make sure the city council hears his voice.

Since Duarte opened up Saffron Restaurant on Cross Bay Boulevard a little over two years ago, he said the fire department has visited him over 15 times — pinning him with a $10,000 fine for “having too many seats” back in May.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “When I decided to open my own restaurant, I didn’t realize the big headaches that the city gives you.”

Long an expert in the food industry, Duarte — who previously worked as an executive chef at Marriott Hotels for over 20 years — said he never had to deal with the hassle of city agencies when he worked for a major hotel.

But now, Duarte said he has had to hire a lawyer and cut employee work hours in order to pay for the costs. He said the fine was reduced to about $2,000, but he still had to shell out another grand for the lawyer.

“You’re barely making money as it is,” he said.

From architects and attorneys to plumbers and podiatrists, local small business owners — like Duarte — joined city officials for help with surviving being a small business owner in a struggling economy.

“We are trying our best to help people who have jobs keep their jobs, and to create more jobs for the future to make doing business in New York City just a little bit easier,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who hosted the December 15 event. “We want to make sure we keep people off the welfare roll and keep them on the payroll.”

Council Speaker Christine Quinn addressed the concerns of the area’s business owners, briefing them also on recent business initiatives within the council.

“Our job in government should be to help all of you keep your neighbors working, even though sometimes you think our job in government is to put you out of business,” she said. “It’s infuriating when one agency tells you to do one thing, and when you abide by regulations from that agency, you’re violating another agency’s regulations. It makes no sense. They just seem out to get restaurants, and I just don’t get it. I just think we need to make huge changes when it comes to restaurants.”

In order to address that issue, Quinn said the council has created a regulatory review task force in order to help make the city’s enforcement process clearer and fairer to businesses.

“With this panel, we’re literally going through — and it’s painstaking — the entire administrative code to find contradictory rules, rules that don’t make sense and remove them from the books in the city,” she said.

The task force — now meeting issues in its second round of recommendations — also offers increased education and information to businesses pre-inspection to avoid violations.

During the roundtable event, other business owners expressed concerns about parking meter fees and eliminating the Cross Bay Bridge toll.

For more information on the Council’s business initiatives, visit www.nyc.gov/nycbusiness.

4 more suspects collared in slaying of NYPD cop Peter Figoski

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

4 more suspects collared in slaying of NYPD cop Peter Figoski

The accomplice who fled from cops after his low-life pal shot and killed Officer Peter Figoski has been caught, police said Tuesday. Three other suspects were also taken into custody overnight — two neighbors who live across the street and the alleged getaway driver. The accomplice was arrested at 2 a.m. and will be charged with murder in the slaying of Figoski, a decorated 22-year NYPD veteran and father of four daughters, officials said. Read More: Daily News

Violent ex-con arrested for shooting NYPD cop dead was wanted for shooting in North Carolina in August

The violent ex-con accused of gunning down a hero cop in Brooklyn Monday should have been locked up weeks ago for shooting a man in North Carolina, the Daily News has learned. Despite being arrested twice in New York since September, a series of legal snafus allowed Lamont Pride to roam the streets of the city free to kill. Read More: Daily News

Aqueduct racino set to open exclusive, luxury gaming floor 

The final touches are being put on another floor of gaming at the Aqueduct racino — but you’ll need be a high roller to wager and enjoy the amenities. The media got a sneak peek on Monday at the second floor — set to open Friday — which racino officials hope will lure out-of-state gamblers to the South Ozone Park attraction. Read More: Daily News

Woodside Residents Reach Out To Fire Victims

NY1’s Lisa McDivitt looks into how a Woodside community is helping those affected by a fire that occurred in their neighborhood one month ago. Watch the video: NY1

New Initiative Aids Small Businesses In Flushing

NY1’s Angela Chen looks at some small businesses in Flushing that are getting a helping hand from a new initiative. Watch the video: NY1

Queens graveyard worker sues over alleged abuse  in workplace at Cypress Hills Cemetery

A Queens graveyard worker says he was driven to drink and despair by cruel bosses at the Cypress Hills Cemetery and that his union did nothing to help him. Jozef Klaper, a 63-year-old Polish immigrant, claims in a lawsuit that foreman John Nicastro got into his head by calling him “Eddie Mouser” — the name of a dead cemetery worker. Read more: Daily News