Comments made last week by Mayor Bill de Blasio have Councilman Mark Gjonaj steaming.
Gjonaj, chair of the small business committee, has worked hard to help the ailing small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, on May 22, the mayor made light of the current state of small businesses while appearing on WNYC.
On Friday, a man named Cassius from Brooklyn called the Brian Lehrer show and asked if the city was going to let every small business that isn’t a supermarket or bodega get shut down.
“We have to get all businesses back open,” Cassisus said. “We’re on the precipice of, you know, destroying the whole city, basically.”
According to Reggie Johnson, Gjonaj’s chief of staff, de Blasio’s response was a stunner and seemed out of touch.
“I’ve talked to lots and lots of business leaders that especially the smallest businesses are very worried about their futures, understandably, but they also are hanging on and they know that could be a matter of months that they’ll be back in action, and there’s going to be a lot of pent up demand,” the mayor said. “A lot of people who are going to be buying local, and as I talked to people in sort of medium and bigger businesses, they fully intend to come back.
“So I don’t buy — I’m not saying your question isn’t heartfelt, but there’s been a kind of doom-saying tendency in some places lately, but the history of New York City shows the ability of New York City and its businesses to come back very strong. Look at the fiscal crisis, look at 9/11, look at Sandy. Over and over again you see people coming back strong.”
While the mayor predicted that things will start to resume in June, Gjonaj is definitely not on the same page with him.
“Mark was more than surprised,” Johnson told the Bronx Times. “He was just kind of disappointed that the person who is in charge of protecting small businesses doesn’t seem to get the hurt and plight that businesses are facing during this crisis.”
As only 1 percent of COVID-19 relief loans from the city went to small businesses in the Bronx, Gjonaj could not believe the mayor felt so confident about the revival of small businesses.
On Tuesday, the mayor approved four COVID-19 relief bills sponsored by Gjonaj that will help small businesses, but Johnson stressed more needs to be done. According to Johnson, Gjonaj wants an additional $100 million for small businesses, but it must be divided equally amongst the boroughs.
“We need to do more to protect small businesses as a city,” Johnson said.
With the eviction moratorium for the state up in August, Johnson stressed that the city needs to help small businesses now. As the NYT said 75 percent of small business in the city won’t survive, it is quite evident the mayor’s comments are off-base, Johnson said.
“Time is of the essence,” Johnson said. “Leaders need to lead. “The fact that he [de Blasio] was so tone deaf during this WNYC interview only underscores the fact that more needs to be done.”