Beep gives chamber $20K to keep southeast Brooklyn businesses ‘thriving’

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From left: Luc Saint-Preux of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, state Sen. Roxanne Persaud, Borough President Antonio Reynoso, Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse, Chamber President and CEO Randy Peers, Dimitrios Karousis from Nick’s Lobster House, Ana Oliveira Brooklyn Chamber Board Chair, Josephine Bondi of Palermo Bakery, Assemblymember Jaime Williams, and Calvin Sennon of Trini Jam BK Restaurant.
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce on Friday received $20,000 in funding from Borough President Antonio Reynoso, as the organization continues to help buoy businesses big and small through to the other side of the pandemic.

“Small businesses are the lifeline of the borough of Brooklyn and so it’s a priority of my administration to help provide as much funding and support as we can to keep them in business,” the beep said in a statement, stressing that the funding — meant to help the chamber with its ongoing work under the Neighborhood Economic Development Division program — will help countless businesses stay open, two-plus years into COVID.

The Neighborhood Economic Development Division program — complementary to the chamber’s other small business recovery services — supports commercial revitalization activities across commercial corridors that lack representation by an organizing entity such as a Business Improvement District, merchants’ association, or local development corporation, according to the borough’s business-boosting org. Those entities often consist of local stakeholders who help oversee and fund the maintenance, improvement and promotion of commercial districts, and they often have more opportunities for city funding and services.

The borough president’s donation is earmarked specifically for southeast Brooklyn, where a majority of business owners don’t have groups to look to beyond the chamber, and thus have had a more difficult recovery from COVID.

“Twenty thousand dollars in Neighborhood Economic Development Division funding allocated through the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to the southeast Brooklyn community will help support many small businesses, helping them stay open, continue to provide great culture and history to Brooklynites, and keep families thriving,” Reynoso said.

According to Chamber President and CEO Randy Peers, contributions like Reynoso’s are more crucial than ever, as Brooklyn shops, restaurants, bars and more still struggle to get back to pre-pandemic levels of revenue.

“The past two years have been extremely rough for small businesses and we’re not out of the woods yet,” Peers said in a statement. “Funding provided by Borough President Reynoso’s office would allow businesses located in underserved neighborhoods to access the support services, government resources, district marketing, and other Chamber programs that can really make a difference.”

While New York City appears to have made it past the darkest days of the pandemic, many small businesses are not yet past the finish line, due to continuous surges in new COVID variants. During the 2021 holiday — the busiest of some business’ year — 20 percent of owners said they were forced to close their doors to wait out the city’s intense Omicron uptick, and some 77 percent of businesses saw a reduction in their holiday sales as a result, according to surveys conducted by Peers and his team.

On top of that, only 41 percent of businesses reported an increase in year-over-year revenues from 2020 to 2021, according to figures released by the Chamber in March. And though much of the city has reopened, small businesses have not returned to full normalcy as they face labor shortages, supply chain issues, and overdue back rent with the eviction moratorium recently expiring.

For Calvin Sennon, owner of Trini Jam BK on Flatlands Avenue, donations like Reynoso’s mean more overall support from the chamber for his still-growing Caribbean eatery — especially in times of unpredictable crisis.

“Trini Jam BK has been working with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce since we opened in 2020 during the height of the pandemic,” Sennon said in a statement. “They provided us with [personal protective equipment], technical assistance around regulations, and secured us a grant when our basement flooded after Hurricane Ida. We believe the borough president is making the right investment to support similar businesses like ours in southeast Brooklyn.”

A cohort of area pols also commended both the chamber and the beep on Friday for their dedication to serving their constituencies, encompassing neighborhoods like Canarsie, Flatlands, Gerritsen Beach, and Marine Park.

“During the pandemic, as businesses in Brooklyn and citywide were suffering and on the verge of closing, BCC provided crucial support,” said Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse. “Without that support we would have seen an even larger number of businesses, especially mom and pop shops, and immigrant owned businesses and restaurants, permanently closing their doors. These much-needed funds will allow Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to continue the work of helping to sustain our local businesses and entrepreneurs so they can thrive.”

“Locally grown neighborhood businesses and merchants strengthen the fabric of our communities, but the climate has been tough,” said state Sen. Roxanne Persaud. “I am very pleased that Borough President Reynoso will provide neighborhood development funding to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to support businesses in Senate District 19. This funding will help alleviate some of the challenges experienced by small businesses.”

“The past two years have been fraught with tremendous obstacles towards our small businesses,” said Assemblymember Jaime Williams, who called the $20,000 donation “an incredible achievement and a sign that by working hand with private small businesses and government, we can overcome the past challenges and rise to former heights, if not soar higher.”