As the city begins phase one of its reopening, you don’t have to be an economist to walk your empty neighborhood streets and wonder: How many of these corner bars, local cafes and hair salons will be around in six months?
One can debate whether the hundreds of billions in emergency support that Congress has provided for small businesses has been allocated wisely or fairly. But those of us who work with these enterprises, as I do in Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx, understand that money is only part of the solution for a sector that has been battered by challenges long before this pandemic knocked it sideways. And that’s especially true in minority communities.
Many of the businesses we work with in places like Harlem and Washington Heights are engaged in some form of hospitality. These are the mom-and-pop shops and restaurants that give our neighborhoods their distinct character and make street life lively and safe. They still depend on foot traffic. Given the uncertainty of this pandemic, we are advising these firms to prepare for up to two years of social distancing.