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Although many businesses on Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach have reopened after sustaining extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy, at least one national chain has permanently left the strip with others weighing whether to follow suit and some smaller shops saying they still have hurdles to clear.
“We’re still not out of the woods yet,” said Joseph DeCandia, owner of Lenny’s Clam Bar, at 161-03 Cross Bay Blvd.
He said the restaurant lost a lot of its equipment in the surge and five weeks of business when it was shut down. Although he said he is in the process of getting a Small Business Administration loan, ultimately he will have to repay the money.
And as he waits for the funds to come through, he has had to move forward with repairs.
“I couldn’t afford to wait,” he said.
But the restaurant is doing better than other businesses on the Cross Bay commercial strip that are still closed or have had to shut down entirely. Duane Reade has permanently closed and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo said branches of 7-Eleven and Staples may shut their doors along the street.
Anthony Calore, co-owner of Sapienza’s Deli, said some of the chains may have closed their branches because flooding in Howard Beach after Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 made the area seem too risky.
“I think after the second flood they had enough,” he said.
In addition, a handful of smaller businesses are also in danger of pulling the plug on their operations. The Cross Bay Diner was hit particularly hard and a staff member at Addabbo’s office said she believed it was still shuttered as of Wednesday.
But one restaurant, Bruno’s, which was in danger of closing imminently only a few weeks ago, has rebounded.
“We’re getting back on our feet,” owner Bruno Rinaldi said.
Eric Abrams, digital media and membership associate of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said many businesses in Howard Beach were hurt by a lack of flood insurance, which was not required because the neighborhood was deemed at a lower risk of flooding prior to Hurricane Sandy.
He also said that although the SBA offers loans, what many businesses instead need are grants.
“Taking on more debt is something that they’re really not able to absorb right now,” he said.
He said some businesses are not aware of other government assistance that is available, such as a grant administered by the New York Business Development Corp. that matches city emergency loans for businesses up to $10,000.
“The challenge is getting information out there,” he said.
And some business owners say they have had difficulty applying for the better known program: the SBA loan.
“The whole process of filling out paperwork for SBA was rather difficult,” said Jasmine Duarte, daughter of Saffron Restaurant owner Herbert Duarte. “Even contacting them was a major deal.”
She said right after the storm she dutifully called 311 for SBA grant info after hearing Mayor Michael Bloomberg advise people to do so, but she said she had difficulty finding anyone there who knew any details.
“I probably called 311 a hundred times and no one knew anything,” she said.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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