Chinatown Business Grants Try To Get Neighborhood Past Sandy Slump
Some 79 businesses in Chinatown still coping with Hurricane Sandy's aftermath are now getting help to get back to full strength, thanks to fundraising by the Chinatown Partnership and the local business improvement district. Manhattan Borough reporter Jon Weinstein filed the following report.
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When Hurricane Sandy wiped out power to Lower Manhattan, businesses in Chinatown were hit hard.
For more than a week, workers at the Ajisen Ramen noodle restaurant on Mott Street could not get into the restaurant because there was no way to lift the electric gate covering the front door. Thousands of dollars' worth of food spoiled.
"No power, no electricity, I cannot open," said Issac Liang of Ajisen Ramen.
It was much the same at the West New Malaysian restaurant on Bowery, where owner Andy Chong said staying closed cost him thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
"The business is going down 35 percent to 40 percent," Chong said.
The Chinatown Partnership and the Chinatown Business Improvement District recognized how badly the neighborhood suffered, so they started up a drive and collected enough to give 79 businesses more than $1,000 each.
"It shows them that there is an organization that wants to help them," said Chinatown BID member David Louie.
While the grants do not come close to covering all the costs, as Wallace Lai of Hong Kong Station Restaurant said, "Of course money helps, all the time."
Besides offering financial assistance, part of the idea behind the grants is to foster a sense of community in the neighborhood.
"It's a gesture that you care, so it was really gratifying to see everybody come together," Manhattan Councilwoman Margaret Chin said.
"We are in it with you. We are neighbors willing to support you," said Wellington Chen of the Chinatown Partnership. "Mind you, some of the donors, the ice cream factory, the Haagen Dazs ice cream, his ice cream all melted and he didn't apply. Not only did he not apply, he donated."
Business owners said the area is still struggling.
"We need things to attract more people, more tourists come to Chinatown. We need the tourists here," Lai said.
The partnership hopes this weekend will signal the start of a revival, with tourists coming in for the annual Lunar New Year parade. This is, after all, the Year of the Snake, symbolizing a time of prosperity and abundance.