He was accompanied by Councilman Robert Holden, Bronx Councilman Mark Gjonaj, chair of the City Council’s Committee on Small Business, Queens Chamber president and CEO Tom Grech and Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID).
The group visited nearly a dozen businesses along Fresh Pond Road, including a shoe repair store, barbershop, several restaurants and an antique store. They concluded their tour by eating at Rosa’s Pizza near Metropolitan Avenue.
Doris said he’s been participating in commercial corridor tours since the city started reopening back in June. He’s visited close to 30 different neighborhoods to give out information and hear from small business owners.
“A lot of the policies we’ve changed in the city have been because we’ve been on these tours listening to small business owners, I think it’s critical,” Doris said. “We have to rebuild their trust too, that’s why we’re out here.”
Holden noted that the business owners they’ve spoken to are concerned and nervous about getting fined. Recently, the councilman signed off on a letter to the mayor asking his agencies to “back off a little” from fining mom-and-pop shops amid the pandemic.
“I don’t like when the government descends on businesses that were closed for so long,” Holden said, “and then they start fining them instead of warning them.”
Gjonaj went further to criticize the city for hearing about the issues, but not truly listening and addressing the concerns of business owners.
He noted that they still have to pay real estate taxes, as well as water and sewer bills, at 100 percent. He said the minimal amount of grants and loans that the city has given out is “laughable.”
“It was bad before,” he said. “Now it’s worse.
Gjonaj added that the only reason why some small businesses are still open is becuase they’re not paying their rent.
“What we’re seeing now on the surface is not really the reality,” he said. “We’re not doing anything more than making sure that we help them shutter their doors forever.”
During the tour, Renz, who runs the BID along nearby Myrtle Avenue, said he got a call from one of his landlords. He said the Burger King on Myrtle Avenue will be closing.
“I was shocked,” he said.
Grech warned that if the government doesn’t act swiftly enough to help local small businesses and commercial corridors, “there will be nothing left to reopen come January.”
“It’s incredible how many places are closed,” he said. “Just as many places we walked by that were open, with a minimal amount of activity, an equal amount were closed.”