By Maria Rocha-Buschel
City Councilmember Carlina Rivera joined neighborhood organizations outside vacant storefronts on East 9th Street on Tuesday, July 30 to announce new initiatives to help small businesses in the East Village, including an app that connects residents to local businesses in the neighborhood.
Renaissance EDC, Asian Americans for Equality, Village Alliance, Cooper Square Committee, East Village Community Coalition and the East Village Independent Merchants Association joined Rivera for the announcement that the East Village Revitalization Loan Fund will be offering East Village business owners the opportunity to borrow up to $50,000 with fixed interest rates lower than what small business owners would be able to secure through a normal loan provider. Renaissance EDC is an affiliate of Asian Americans for Equality.
The loans can be used for restocking inventory, purchasing new equipment or furniture, payroll, storefront improvements or renovations, marketing and other typical high-cost capital needs.
“Community-based organizations such as the East Village Community Coalition have long had to shoulder the burden of conducting storefront surveys, in order to provide the data our communities need to make informed decisions. We are grateful that the City Council has taken the lead on storefront data collection, so that we may devote our energies to providing needed programming to our community,” said Laura Sewell, executive director of East Village Community Coalition. “Lack of access to affordable capital is an insurmountable hurdle to many small business owners who want to open or take their businesses to the next level. The East Village Community Coalition relies on Renaissance EDC for their expertise in small business lending, and welcomes the opportunity to work with them on the East Village Revitalization Loan Fund. While we have much to celebrate today, the vacant storefronts that plague our neighborhoods illustrate the impact of predatory equity on our community, and the need for greater commercial tenant protections and anti-harassment measures.”
Cooper Square Committee, East Village Community Coalition and the East Village Independent Merchants Association will work together to perform outreach to small businesses who might benefit from these loans.
“We know that high rents and a changing marketplace are making it incredibly difficult for our immigrant small businesses to survive and grow,” said Jennifer Sun, co-executive director of Asian Americans for Equality. “The East Village Revitalization Loan Fund is designed to address concerns we heard from local small business owners during a series of outreach events in 2018. This fund and our multilingual counseling services will help sustain this vibrant neighborhood’s treasured mom-and-pop businesses.”
The “Village Access” app connects residents to exclusive sales, opportunities and information about local small businesses in the East Village. The app is a new digital platform for Village Alliance’s “Village Access” card. It can be downloaded from the iOS app store now.
“We are always seeking new ways to raise the profile of our local merchants within the broader community,” said William Kelley, executive director of Village Alliance. “The Village Access Card and new mobile app are easy and effective tools for neighbors to learn about discounts and patronize Village businesses.”
The announcement follows a push from Rivera at the end of July for a package of legislation that will require the Department of Small Business Services to assess each neighborhood’s small business economy, determine the number of vacant storefronts citywide and provide a training and education program for small businesses related to marketing, business operations and regulatory compliance.
“Small businesses are essential parts of what make neighborhoods in New York City unique. When a small business closes, it is not only a loss for their neighborhood’s local economy, but also for its vibrancy and character,” Rivera said. “That is why I’m so proud we recently passed legislation to address these issues, and that our partners in the community are working with us to protect and empower New York’s small business community with new these tools.”