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How Is Economic Growth in Brooklyn Affecting the Little Guy?

This morning the city gave an update on all the new developments taking place throughout the borough that aim to induce economic growth.

Among the projects discussed was City Point, a new mall opening in downtown Brooklyn in early 2016. It and other developments have businesses across the borough worried. Alistair Gardiner reports.


When City Point opens, there will be a large food mall inside that with about 45 restaurants. Just across the street, on the corner, is a small food stall run by a man who gave his name as Immanuel. He said he’s been doing this for a long time.

IMMANUEL: Twenty Three years.

GARDINER: In this spot?

IMMANUEL: In this spot.

GARDINER: Twenty three years in this spot?

IMMANUEL: Yeah same spot.

He says, when City Point opens with its 45 restaurants, of course it’s going to affect business for him.

IMMANUEL: Any business open next to you, serving food and drinks, maybe they bother you. They gonna bother you no matter what. You can’t stop anybody from doing anything they want. Maybe I don’t like it. Maybe I don’t like it, but I can’t stop anybody.

At that morning’s conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall, Michael Lambert, the executive director of the Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District acknowledged this issue. He explained that smaller businesses all over the borough are going to have to adapt or die, in other words they need to start thinking like realtors.

LAMBERT: So that basically they aren’t priced out. And also to look for opportunities in terms of how can they become more viable as either long-term tenants or acquiring property themselves so they can become their own landlords.

The problem is, many of these businesses don’t have the wherewithal to do this.

But there are places that can help. like the Brooklyn Small Business Development Center. The agency’s Director Michael Madias the advice they give works.

MADIAS: Small business owners that seek help from governmental agencies like ours or SPS or Score,  they are 60 percent more likely to be successful.

He agrees with Michael Lambert of Bed-Stuy that this is all about property. People call it gentrification he says, but what it really means is everyone has to start thinking like a landlord.

MADIAS: Everybody wants to take down three or four buildings which house small businesses and put up a hotel. You know, leases are expiring and the smaller people are being sort of forced out. They gotta find new neighborhoods and of course if you’re a small business owner you rely on foot-traffic and brand loyalty. If all of a sudden you’ve got to move, that’s a problem.

The food cart operator named Immanuel doesn’t have this option. And he’s not quite sure how he’s going to adjust his business plan, when City Point opens.

GARDINER: What happens if you’re forced to move. Will you move to a different place?

IMMANUEL: Like a whole different place? No I don’t think so.

GARDINER: You’ll stay here? Stick it out?

IMMANUEL:  This is my station. I can’t move.

He has until early next year to figure it out. Alistair Gardiner, Columbia Radio News.


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