Bronx businesses part of mayoral plan to restart economy

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As the city looks to restart the economy, the mayor created sector advisory councils, including one for small businesses, seven of which are from the Bronx.

On May 6, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed members to the following Sector Advisory Councils: Labor and Workforce, Large Business, Small Business and Arts, Culture and Entertainment. These groups will aid the administration’s efforts to revive the economy and city life.

“For us to have a strong restart and get to the recovery New Yorkers deserve, we have to do this the smart way,” de Blasio said. “These Sector Advisory Councils will provide the insight we need to successfully open our city back up and protect our people.”

The Small Business Sector Advisory Council includes the following individuals:

  • Lourdes Zapata, president and CEO South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation
  • Paul Storch, owner of Summit Appliance
  • Israel Velez, owner of  City Tamale
  • Anthony and Paul Ramirez, founders and co-owners of Bronx Beer Hall
  • Jeffrey Garcia, owner of Mon Amour Coffee and Wine and president of the NYS Latino Restaurant, Bar and Lounge Association
  • Ramona Mejia, president and CEO, Sell-Mar Enterprise and
  • Lisa Sorin, president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m hoping that now since I’m part of this project, that it will help give small businesses some sort of guidance,” Velez said to the Bronx Times.

Velez, 30, who operates his eatery in Hunts Point and Manhattan, said staying afloat during the pandemic has not been easy. Profits are down 30 percent, he cut half his staff and many friends and business owners are hurting.

He hopes that by being on the council he can gain insight to help other businesses recover. The committee has not formally met yet, but will in the near future.

“As a small business you can’t just close,” he said. “If I closed I don’t know if I would have the funds to reopen. For a business, one week can break us easily. We’re trying to remain positive.”

Paul Ramirez looks forward to conversations with fellow business owners on the council. He stressed that in order for places to survive, they must adapt to the changing times. When the economy reopens, the coronavirus likely won’t be gone.

He has been open, but said that people can only purchase alcohol to go and they are not serving food. While he is the number two tourist destination in the borough, he is worried since the Bronx Zoo and Botanical Gardens, which give them heavy traffic, are shuttered until September.

Ramirez explained that he is surrounded by places that have been on Arthur Avenue for decades and may be able to weather the storm but many may not be as lucky in his native south Bronx.

“I know people who are never reopening,” he said. “This is why a council exists, for voices from small businesses like ours.”

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