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Queens storefronts to get face-lift funds in hurricane bill

Rubble remains at the former site of several blocks of businesses on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, which was devastated by fire during Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

A Queens state senator is pushing legislation that would give out $10,000 grants to small business owners with shops damaged by Hurricane Sandy in order to help them fix up their storefronts.

Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who introduced the legislation last week, said many businesses in his district, including Howard Beach, Broad Channel and the Rockaways, were ravaged by the superstorm.

He described the devastation along parts of Rockaway Beach Boulevard in the Rockaways, where some storefronts were completely blown out and others burnt to a crisp.

“Storefronts throughout all those neighborhoods were obviously hit hard,” he said.

He said his proposal would give businesses the grants in order to get them back up and running, and signal they are again open for business.

He said they would also restore a more pleasant, cosmetic look to some of the affected neighborhoods and bring them closer to the way they were prior to the storm.

Under the bill, grants from a Hurricane Sandy Storefront Repair Fund would be available for small business owners whose buildings sustained at least $10,000 in damages from the storm. It would only be offered to businesses with 50 or fewer employees, and owners would need to prove that their damages were a direct result of the storm.

Addabbo said that under the legislation as it is now there would be no cap on the number of grants given out to businesses, but he added that there were only so many storefronts that were severely damaged, with most of those in Queens in the Rockaways.

He also said the grant may be a modest amount for some store owners who were still struggling to put their businesses back together.

The senator observed that “$10,000 may really not be enough.”

He said it was not clear yet whether the money for the repair fund would come from the state coffers or out of federal disaster aid New York is already receiving.

But he said he hopes the bill will drive awareness about the needs of the business community and others reeling from Sandy at a time when the state is still finalizing its budget and working out how best to spend the disaster aid.

“My guess is this bill will evolve,” he said.

Addabbo said the idea for the bill came from talking with one of his longtime constituents, Kevin Boyle, editor of the Rockaway Wave newspaper, about the structural devastation many storefronts had sustained.

“He said there should be a quick fix for these storefronts,” he said.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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