L.E.S. BID weathers the storm, looks forward to loans | East Villager & Lower East Sider

L.E.S. BID weathers the storm, looks forward to loans

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  Amid the extensive flooding and other damage caused by Hurricane Sandy within Downtown Manhattan, the Lower East Side Business Improvement District has weathered the storm.

Bob Zuckerman, the BID’s executive director, told this newspaper on Thursday that initial assessments of the district’s businesses showed that they’ve suffered very little, if any, property damage.

“It’s very fortunate,” Zuckerman said, “but there’s still a tremendous human toll, in terms of the effects on these people’s livelihoods because their stores have had to stay closed this whole time.”

The L.E.S. BID includes around 400 businesses, covering an area that stretches the length of Orchard and Allen Sts., as well as a few blocks on Delancey, Broome and Grand Sts., as far east as Clinton St. And while its easternmost blocks sit along the edge of Zone C, an area classified by the city a potential flood zone, the rest lies far enough inland to be out of the reach of any flooding danger.

But, like virtually everything else in the surrounding area, the BID’s businesses are all still without power. Con Edison has stated, most recently on Thursday, that power to Downtown Manhattan will be restored by Saturday.

Zuckerman explained that the next step for him and his staff will be to work with business owners to deal with that “human toll,” as they struggle to recover financially from losses by incurred by the inability to open over the past week.

The key aspect of that process, for owners, will be applying for business loans offered by the city, state and federal government.

“We’ve already been in contact with our businesses, and we’ll be assisting as much as possible in order to be their conduit to obtaining any available loans,” Zuckerman said. “It’s just a matter of counteracting the cash flow issues they’re facing now, in terms of paying salaries and other normal costs once they open up again.”

A major source of relief for businesses within the BID — as well as others throughout the city — will likely be the small- to mid-sized business emergency loan program offered jointly through the city’s Department of Small Business Services and the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

A total of $5 million will be made available through that program, and an individual business can apply for up to $10,000. Rather than dealing with property damage and rebuilding purposes, the loans are specifically offered to counteract the effect of business interruption.

N.Y.C. Business Solutions, a division of S.B.S., will be the main point of contact for those emergency loans. It will also coordinate with community-based-organizations in severely affected areas to help businesses with the application process, according to an S.B.S. release.

Another likely option, on the federal side, will be the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program run by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The important element for many Downtown Manhattan businesses not directly affected by flooding or high winds is the fact that, as with the S.B.S and E.D.C. loans, owners do not need to have suffered any property damage to apply for a loan.

There is a July 31, 2013 filing deadline for any business owner applying for economic injury loans through the S.B.A., according to the federal agency’s latest release.

Information about loans specifically for larger businesses or those that have suffered property damage can be found on the websites of S.B.S. (www.nyc.gov/html/sbs) and S.B.A. (www.sba.gov).

Unfortunately, the massive impact of Hurricane Sandy has also led the L.E.S. BID to make the decision to cancel its beloved Lower East Side Pickle Day event.

Pickle Day — originally scheduled for Oct. 28 — was postponed to Nov. 4 several days in advance of the hurricane, and the subsequent decision to cancel it was made on Oct. 31, two days after the storm struck.

“It’s certainly a shame, but we really didn’t have any other choice,” Zuckerman said. “The vendors aren’t ready, and there’s still no power right now, so it would be such a monumental task to try and put this together. I think that, for this week, people should be focused on getting their own lives back in order.”

But Zuckerman added that he and the BID’s staff will do some brainstorming over the course of this week, to see if some other event can be arranged in the near future to fill the void left by Pickle Day.

“Maybe we’ll be able to set up some kind of ‘Lower East Side Is Back’ event,” he said, “to help our businesses out and celebrate everyone’s resilience through all of this.”