BY JAMES FARRELL
The New York City Small Business Services (SBS) has awarded more than $1 million in grant money to two local community groups in Downtown Flushing, the agency announced on Monday.
The two groups—Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and the Downtown Flushing Business Improvement District (BID)—will receive $1.55 million in total grant money to improve downtown Flushing’s commercial corridor.
The grant money was part of a new SBS program known as Neighborhood 360˚, which allotted nearly $9 million in total funding to six commercial neighborhoods, including Downtown Flushing, but also Inwood, East Harlem, Downtown Staten Island, East New York and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. SBS conducted an assessment of these six neighborhoods to identify unique local commercial needs. AAFE and the Flushing BID will be charged with using the grant money to address those needs.
“Strong neighborhoods are the backbone of our city and the nearly $9 million in investments announced today will go a long way towards revitalizing key commercial corridors,” said Gregg Bishop, SBS commissioner. “Working with community partners, we are responding to local needs to support small business growth and build more vibrant neighborhoods for all New Yorkers.”
Neither AAFE nor the Flushing BID responded to requests for interviews to discuss the grant in detail, but SBS provided the Queens Tribune with a list of some of the projects that will be taken up in Downtown Flushing.
That list included several initiatives aimed at supporting and retaining businesses. One such venture is a “Customer Loyalty Reward Program” and a community ad campaign that would focus on supporting businesses impacted by an ongoing sidewalk widening construction project along Main Street. Additionally, the grant money would fund 10 to 15 business support workshops, a resource packet alerting local businesses of support services already available in the district and a business expo.
Other initiatives covered everything from sanitation to marketing. These included extending sanitation services to streets and sidewalks not currently covered by the Flushing Business Improvement District’s boundaries, a “Keep Flushing Clean” education and outreach campaign, the development of a “district-wide marketing strategy,” a “design and visioning competition” for reactivation of the information kiosk in front of Flushing Public Library and 10 shop-local and cultural events.
Additionally, the grant money would go toward the “advance planning and outreach” for expanding the Downtown Flushing BID’s boundaries.
“Flushing BID is looking forward to continuing to promote Flushing businesses and improve the quality of life in downtown Flushing through additional resources provided by this SBS Neighborhood 360˚ grant,” said Tina Lee, chairwoman of the Flushing BID in a statement, issued along with SBS’ announcement on the grant awardees. “We appreciate SBS’ support for our projects that will have a direct benefit on our community.”
A statement from AAFE discussed the importance of preserving businesses as Flushing changes.
“The forces of gentrification are putting incredible pressure on small businesses in minority and immigrant communities like Flushing,” said AAFE Executive Director Christopher Kui. “The survival of these local businesses is critical to a sustainable neighborhood, where mixed-use businesses provide a vital economic and cultural role. AAFE is proud to be a part of SBS’ Neighborhood 360˚ Program, where we will be able to give small businesses a fighting chance by providing them with the tools they need to thrive.”
The Queens Tribune spoke with Dian Yu, of the Flushing BID, in October about its proposal for the Neighborhood 360˚ program. Parts of the list provided by SBS resemble that proposal, such as expanding sanitation services and providing support through a community ad campaign to businesses affected by the Main Street construction. In terms of developing a district-wide marketing campaign, Yu referenced a campaign that he called “Moving Forward Together,” which focused on bringing Flushing into New York City’s orbit as a tourist destination—understanding, Yu said at the time, that Flushing cannot compete with Manhattan’s tourist and cultural attractions, but that it can make itself a must-see stop along the way for new visitors.
“We encourage everybody: Start your New York experience over here,” he said at the time.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.