Brooklyn small businesses face another devastating blow from floods

Gentle Perch in East Williamsburg was one of many Brooklyn businesses damaged by heavy flooding during the storm on Sept. 1.
Connie Choi

The torrential downpour that submerged large swaths of New York City on Wednesday night has left small businesses, already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, in a state of flux.

At least nine New Yorkers lost their lives in the storm, which shattered rainfall records and sent the city into chaos — with parked cars floating down streets, most subway lines halted, and countless homes severely damaged. 

Local leaders took drastic action, as both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a state of emergency for their jurisdictions, and city authorities implemented a non-essential travel ban. Meanwhile, hundreds of straphangers were stuck aboard stalled trains as first responders worked to get people out of the underground tunnels. 

A remnant of Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana earlier this week, the storm’s intensity was unanticipated, especially after Hurricane Henri had a far more muted impact on the city last week than was expected.

Gov. Hochul said in Queens on Thursday morning that she had spoken with President Joe Biden, who noted the feds would offer any assistance needed by the city and state.

Randy Peers, the president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said that the business-boosting organization had dispatched “business recovery teams” to neighborhoods like Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Bushwick, Coney Island, and Sheepshead Bay — and that more teams will be deployed to other areas tomorrow. 

With so many businesses facing devastating flooding, the city could potentially be looking at billions of dollars in damages, he said.

A message for the borough’s small businesses from the Brooklyn Chamber of CommerceCourtesy of Randy Peers

Frank Morales, who owns F&M Bagels on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, said that his entire basement was underwater, including a brand new boiler that he’d installed about six months ago.

“I just put in a brand new boiler in not even six months ago,” Morales said. “Everything’s underwater. Everything.”

Morales says replacing the boiler could put him out between $15-20,000. On top of that, he also needs to get his basement pumped, and any damage left in the water’s wake.

“It’s just a mess,” he said.

F&M Bagels, Red Hook.Frank Morales

Connie Choi, who owns the Korean restaurant Gentle Perch in East Williamsburg, said that she is assessing the damage to her establishment, which experienced flooding, likely from the city’s sewage line. She’s still cleaning up the mess, but a distinct possibility could be much of her inventory spoiling.

“We had to turn off our walk-in cooler, because of electrical hazards. And our freezer,” said Choi, who estimated she could be out thousands of dollars from the storm. “Thankfully, a lot of our dry storage is ok, our restaurant floor is ok.”

Businesses already reeling from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic could be pushed over the edge by the storm. Peers urged the government to move expeditiously to support affected small businesses.

“While it’s still too early to appreciate Hurricane Ida’s full impacts, small businesses that were damaged or flooded from the storm are sure to wonder if their misery will ever end,” Peers said. “Between Covid-19, business shutdowns, the Delta variant, worker shortages, and now Ida’s unprecedented rainfall — how much more can small businesses take without throwing in the towel? For many hanging on by the tips of their fingers, any damage sustained may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  All levels of government need to respond with immediate support if we are to save our beloved neighborhood establishments.”

In the immediate short-term, Peers says that damaged businesses should:

  1. Take lots of photos and inventory damages and loss of product
  2. Clean up water damage and hire professional help if needed
  3. Contact their insurance provider if they plan to file a claim
  4. Contact the Brooklyn Chamber at [email protected], or through the Small Business Resource Network

If you’re a Brooklyn business owner affected by the storm, we would love to hear from you. Email Ben Brachfeld at [email protected].