Downtown Alliance Expands Aid to Lower Manhattan Small Businesses
A row on storefronts on Hanover Square is emblematic of the shifting ground in Lower Manhattan, where small businesses face ruin in the current economic slowdown — distress compounded by higher fixed costs (such as rent) than in many other communities and the fact that many of the 1,000-plus shops and restaurants below Chambers Street are dependent on tourism and business travel for their livelihood. Both of these customer bases have largely disappeared for the foreseeable future.
The Downtown Alliance is broadening the criteria for its Small Business Rental Assistance Grant, which aims to give away $800,000 in grants to help to local shops struggling with the economic contraction triggered by the pandemic coronavirus. Originally launched in April, the Grant program is funded with contributions from Brookfield Properties, Silverstein Properties and the Howard Hughes Corporation, as well as $250,000 from the Alliance itself.
The expanded criteria for this second phase of the program include eligible businesses with gross annual revenues of up to $3 million, and which employ up to 30 employees. (The first round was capped at $1.5 million and 20 employees.) It will now also accept applications from storefronts within an expanded geographic catchment, covering everywhere south of Chambers Street. This is notable in that is exceeds the boundaries of the Business Improvement District (BID) that the Alliance oversees (roughly from City Hall to the Battery, between West Street and the East River), and to which it usually confines its initiatives.
“The Alliance is committed to supporting our local retailers during this difficult time,” says Jessica Lappin, who serves as the organization’s president. “The initial round of awards prioritized the smallest and most vulnerable businesses in our district. This round will expand eligibility in an effort to help slightly larger independent storefront businesses that are serving Lower Manhattan.”
Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance: “The initial round of awards prioritized the smallest and most vulnerable businesses in our district. This round will expand eligibility in an effort to help slightly larger independent storefront businesses that are serving Lower Manhattan.”
The individual grants will offer $10,000 each to small businesses as a single direct payment to be applied to April or May rent. Businesses must provide appropriate documentation and must be:
• Currently open and providing an “essential” service as defined by Governor Andrew Cuomo in the PAUSE order of March 22
• Located on the ground floor within the expanded boundary (below Chambers Street)
• An independent business with five or fewer locations in New York City, and fewer than 30 employees as of March 1, 2020
• Have gross annual revenue below $3 million
• Have a lease at their current location through December 31, 2020
• Able to provide proof of rent payment for April or May 2020 — or potentially for later months if the landlord has given approval for rent deferral
Applications for the expanded Small Business Rental Assistance Grant program will available starting tomorrow (Thursday, May 21) at 9:00 am, on a first-come, first-served basis, through June 4 at 11:59 pm (or until funding has been exhausted).
Required documentation includes the business’s federal tax return (IRS form 941) for the fourth quarter of 2019, the main pages from the business’s most recent IRS business tax return (showing its annual gross revenues), and relevant pages from the store’s lease.
This iconic array of small shops on Fulton Street evokes the changing retail landscape Downtown, where small businesses have been buffeted by rising rents and cut-throat competition from e-commerce giants, along with a succession of cataclysms — from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, and the floodwaters of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The Small Business Rental Assistance Grant is just one part of broader effort by the Alliance to support businesses that have been adversely impacted by the health crisis, and economic slowdown it has triggered. The Alliance is also actively working to help Lower Manhattan’s business community survive the shut-down by educating local business owners about available funding opportunities, convening working groups, communicating to residents which businesses are open, and spotlighting essential workers who are making a difference. The Alliance plans to continue these efforts throughout the recovery phase, with dedicated marketing programs and initiatives to help turn the lights back on across the neighborhood.
“The Alliance has long worked to nurture the growth of local retail, and that focus will continue to drive our recovery efforts,” observes Ms. Lappin. “There is not one storefront business in New York City that has been spared by COVID-19. Every one of them is struggling. We are stepping up to do what we can to help our stores keep their lights on. We know there are a number of landlords trying to work with tenants, and we hope all property owners will be as flexible and creative as they can be at this challenging time.”
As Downtown Businesses Ponder Reopening, Questions Arise about Getting Here
The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) recently announced that it would begin partially reopening on May 26, but that it would bar from its headquarters any employees who used mass transit to get to the Exchange’s iconic building, on Broad Street. (The NYSE closed in March, when several employees were found to be infected with the pandemic coronavirus.)
Pursuant to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive orders 202.17 and 202.18, all people in New York are required to wear masks or face coverings in public, including when taking public or private transportation or riding in for-hire vehicles.
Check Your Screen to Get Screened
State Launches Online Map Showing Local Testing Facilities
On Sunday afternoon, the State Department of Health launched on online map specifying the locations of more than 700 facilities throughout New York where testing for exposure to the pandemic coronavirus is available. These testing sites can process up to 40,000 patients per day, and are currently operating well below their capacity.
2) Metropolitan Transportation Authority Subway Cleaning Program – Presentation by Leah Flax, Government and Community Relations, MTA New York City Transit
3) Water Street Reconstruction (Postponed Indefinitely by The City of New York)
4) COVID-19 Update – Presentation by Pauline Ferrante, Office of External Affairs, Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
Downtown Connection Bus Still Operating,
The Downtown Alliance’s Downtown Connection bus is New York City’s only free circulator bus service, and it’s still running every day during the New York City pause. Serving 36 stops around the perimeter of Lower Manhattan, the Downtown Connection runs in both directions between Battery Park City and the Seaport District. The bus will return to its normal route along Warren Street when construction is completed in June.
To adhere to social distancing guidelines, all bus capacities have been reduced 50% and all passengers are required to wear face masks to board. The bus is being kept extra clean with deep cleanings at night and regular wipe-downs during the day. Downtown Connection Driver Carlisle Gibson (pictured) takes pride in helping riders take care of their needs during a difficult time. “You see a lot of folks fending for themselves,” he noted. “They appreciate us.”
If you need to get out of the house to run necessary errands, the free bus — which you can spot easily with its bright red color — is here to help. Hop on and off as often as you’d like — just remember to wear your mask. Buses run from 10a to 7:30p, with an average of 10-minute intervals on weekdays and 15-minute intervals on weekends. To see the route, click here.
Eyes to the Sky
May 18 – 31, 2020
Summer stars rise as winter stars set. Venus and Mercury meet this week
Summer Triangle rising with the Milky Way, pictured here as a red band., Deneb, in the northeast, marks the left corner. May 19 at 10:45 p.m.
Diagram Judy Isacoff/Starry Night
One month before summer solstice, which occurs on June 20, we find two of summer’s brightest stars rising above the east-northeast skyline as twilight deepens. Foretelling the summer season, Vega, third brightest star in northern skies at 0.00 magnitude, rises in the northeast while less bright Deneb, 1.25 m, appears to the lower left of the blue-white beacon. (The brighter the star, the smaller the number.) Deneb is the furthest star from Earth visible with the unaided eye.* About two and a half hours after sunset, Altair, 0.75 m, rises in the east, joining Vega and Deneb to complete the Summer Triangle, one of the most prominent star patterns in northern skies.
Today, May 18, sunset is at 8:10. The sun sets about a minute later every evening for the rest of the month. Civil twilight begins about half an hour after sundown; nightfall, or astronomical twilight, two hours after sunset.
As the Summer Triangle rises in the east-northeast, the last of the great stars of the Winter Circle set in the west-northwest. Most prominent among them, Procyon, 0.37 m, sets before midnight and Capella 0.06 m, after midnight this week. The Gemini Twins, Castor, 1.56 m, and brighter Pollux 1.15 m, are poised above and between Procyon and Capella.
With the naked eye or the aid of binoculars, forty-five minutes to one hour after sunset. Diagram courtesy EarthSky.org
Now, to the fleeting drama that is the piece de resistance of all celestial events this week. Dazzling planet Venus, -4.31 m, and comparatively dim planet Mercury, -0.86 m, are celebrities among the bright stars of the Winter Circle all week. But both planets are following close to the setting sun, so locating little Mercury low to the west-northwest skyline might require the aid of binoculars. A clear view to the western horizon is of the essence.
Capella, not shown, is located to the right and above Mercury. Bring binoculars to aid in search for Mercury. Diagram courtesy EarthSky.org
This Thursday, the 21st, Venus and Mercury coincide in closest approach to each other, an exciting event known as conjunction. Be aware that sunset is at 8:12 on the 21st; Mercury sets at 9:49 and Venus at 9:56. Study the diagrams to guide your enjoyment of Venus’ final days as Evening Star in spring 2020.
Rate of Infection Among Lower Manhattan Residents Continues to Decline
A total of 723 residents of Lower Manhattan (among 2,891 who have been tested) are confirmed to have been infected by the pandemic coronavirus, according to statistics released by the City’s Department of Health (DOH). These numbers are current as of Thursday afternoon (May 14).
Downtown Nonprofit Leader Fears for Future of Vital Sector
In the recession that has been triggered by the pandemic coronavirus, and is likely to linger long after the disease has been subdued, one vital sector of the economy is likely to suffer especially hard, according to a local expert with a front-line perspective.
“Nonprofits and community-based organizations are already being impacted negatively,” predicts Katie Leonberger, president and chief executive officer of Community Resource Exchange (CRE), a nonprofit based in Lower Manhattan that has advised clients like Girls Educational & Mentoring Services, Riis Settlement, Grace Outreach, and the Brooklyn Public Library on strategy and organizational questions that lead to greater effectiveness as their clients work to reduce poverty, promote equity, increase opportunity, improve people’s lives, and drive social change.
“Money for nonprofits almost always comes with strings attached,” she explains.
Click here to watch the new family of Falcons living high above 55 Water Street.
We took a look in the late afternoon, around 5:30, and watched as dinner was served. (On the menu appeared to be a tiny rodent.)
Don’t Stand So Close… Or Else
Social Distancing No Longer Dependent Upon Voluntary Compliance
Over the weekend, two areas of the Hudson River Park became laboratories for an experiment in how to enforce the social distancing measures that public officials believe are necessary to help contain the spread of the pandemic coronavirus.
At a Friday press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Piers 45 and 46 (located along the Hudson River waterfront, near Christopher and Charles Streets, respectively) would be patrolled by NYPD officers, with orders to limit crowd sizes, and authority to issue summonses or make arrests, if they deemed necessary.
“Why are we doing this? Because it saves lives,” Mr. de Blasio explained.
A Widely Admired Community Leader Recalls Her Life-and-Death Battle with COVID-19
Daisy Paez, a Lower East side activist who has served for years as a local District Leader, is a universally revered matriarch among Downtown’s political and community family. She recently returned from more than a month of hospitalization, during which she nearly died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the pandemic coronavirus.
“It felt like somebody just snatched me from my life and threw me into this horrifying ordeal,” she recalls. “In the beginning, I remember hearing how people would get really ill, and that if you had a cough or a high fever, you needed to see a doctor. But I was fine. Then, in the last week of March, I started feeling sick. I went to the CityMD urgent care facility on Delancey Street, and they gave me a flu test, which came back negative. They also gave me a test for COVID-19, and told me the results would be available in about five days.”