Small businesses in Brooklyn are struggling to recover from the floodwaters that inundated New York late last week, which posed long-term problems with few solutions in sight.
When the rain passed, the scene across Brooklyn was abysmal. With what seemed like a months’ worth of rain falling in the course of 24 hours, some neighborhoods were left with overflowing sewer drains, severe damage to buildings, and dirt and debris everywhere.
According to Randy Peers, President & CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, more than 130 businesses have documented flood damage in areas ranging from Park Slope and Gowanus to Coney Island and Brighton Beach.
Peers, along with members of his team, were deployed across Brooklyn last Friday to perform assessments of flood damage. Starting at approximately 9:30 a.m., the Chamber of Commerce team worked quickly to activate emergency monitoring and assessment procedures to help provide aid and guidance more efficiently.
“We were out most of Friday evening and all day Saturday doing in-person assessments. The conversations run the spectrum from talk about how ‘resilient’ the businesses have become, to the overwhelming sense of frustration having gone through COVID, Hurricane Ida, and now another crisis. It builds up after a while, and [businesses] never seem to catch a break,” said Peers.
The Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, a non-profit that aims to beautify Fifth Avenue and advocate for local businesses, said the area it presides over was hit hard.
“Over 30 businesses were directly affected by the flooding on Fifth Avenue, Park Slope,” said Joanna Tallantire, Executive Director of the Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID. “Up to 6 feet of water flooded basements. The water knocked over and destroyed the equipment and produce in many of the restaurants and bars. Additionally, a number of small businesses lost stock.”
Countless businesses within the district experienced unprecedented damage including overturned produce bins, piles or garbage bags overflowing on street corners, and equipment floating in several inches of murky water.
“The cost of the damage will take time to assess as basements are still drying out, but it will range in th thousands plus the loss of business on a Friday. We have not as yet heard from the city as to how they intend on supporting the recovery,” said Tallantire.
Looking towards the future, Brooklynites fear the possibility of more floods — many homes and businesses were badly damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Ida in 2021, and some locals said they hope the severe weather will spur efforts for a greener earth and better infrastructure.
“It’s easy to say this is simply going to continue to happen due to climate change, but for much of Brooklyn, our sewer systems are inadequate for this type of deluge. We need a massive investment in our combined sewer overflow system to prevent much of the damage in the future,” Peers said.
For now, the Chamber of Commerce is at the forefront of making efforts to prevent future flooding disasters like this. They recommend being proactive in flood prevention protocols, encouraging businesses and residents to try and address issues such as leaking roofs before storms hit.
The chamber has taken steps to bring financial aid and support to affected businesses across Brooklyn through advocacy and their network of fundraising campaigns.
“We know whatever resources provided will be inadequate and will take time to access,” said Randy Peers. “Businesses need help now. We are asking our corporate partners to consider donating to a small business recovery fund that Brooklyn Alliance Capital, our CDFI lending partner, would administer, just as we have done in the past. If you have interest in partnering with us on this, please contact me directly. In addition, we are reactivating our Bring Back Brooklyn Fund, which crowdfunded effectively during COVID.”