The Story on Emmons Avenue

March 22, 2013



Above: Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay during Superstorm Sandy. 

"We lost everything, whatever you see is new. We found our furniture two or three blocks ahead…. My boss couldn't open the front door the next day because there was so much water."

- Gokhan Karakollukcu, manager of Masal Café & Lounge on Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay
(via Brooklyn Bureau)

When we launched the Brooklyn Bureau with City Limits in early 2012, we hoped the news site would tell the personal stories of Brooklynites too often unheard. And when Superstorm Sandy crashed into our coastline last fall, we knew the Bureau’s reporters would get the story right—and stay on it through the months to follow.

In December, the Bureau did an extensive series on life in Brooklyn’s hardest hit neighborhoods: CanarsieGerritsen Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Coney Island, Sea Gate, and Red Hook.

In January, the Bureau posted an update on the continuing struggles of residents still living in far from normal conditions.

And last month, they were the first outlet to report on the mounting threat of foreclosures in Canarsie, where in 2011, nearly 3,000 households received pre-foreclosure notices—the highest of any NYC neighborhood—and after the storm, nearly 7,000 owners registered for FEMA housing aid.

The story on our minds this week is that of the small business owners in Sheepshead Bay. While miles up the coast, nearly every once-shuttered business in Red Hook is now open, and even closer in Coney Island this weekend will mark the return of amusements and Nathan’s Famous, Emmons Avenue is a shadow of what it was.

Above: An Emmons Avenue business the day after Sandy. 
Sheepshead Bay's zip code, 11235, was the hardest hit in New York City, with nearly 15,000 FEMA registrants.

As the Brooklyn Bureau reported on Wednesday, 40% of businesses in Sheepshead Bay remain closed—and many may not reopen.

The neighborhood’s business district is one of the most diverse in Brooklyn, representing Turkey, Russia, Greece, and parts of Southeast Asia. Yet store owners lacked an overarching advocacy body to promote their presence and support them in times of crisis. After Sandy, many business owners feel abandoned.

The Brooklyn Bureau explains that few had flood insurance and SBA loans have been hard to come by. But even with a loan, a business is agreeing to take on more debt, with no guarantee that customers will return.

With the Brooklyn Recovery Fund, we are concentrating our work in Sheepshead Bay to build a neighborhood network of business owners and nonprofits, to expedite and steer a strong local recovery.

Above: Leaders from Brooklyn Community Foundation, American Red Cross in Greater New York, AAFE, and Kings Bay Y discuss recovery strategies in Sheepshead Bay

With the community development organization Asian Americans For Equality (AAFE), we granted $200,000 to launch the Sheepshead Bay Sandy-Impacted Homeowner and Small Business Recovery Initiative. AAFE will work with the Kings Bay Y and the Turkish Cultural Center of Brooklyn to provide low-interest loans, targeted technical assistance, and one-on-one financial counseling to small businesses and homeowners.

And for all small businesses across the borough still struggling after Sandy, the next meeting in our Brooklyn Recovery Fund Convening Series will focus on bringing more resources and determining the best strategies to help them come back.

A full recovery means that our borough’s flooded blocks resume the vibrancy they once had—homes and buildings are safely repaired and protected against future storms, and local businesses are hubs of neighborhood life again, enabling owners to continue their pursuit of the American dream right here in Brooklyn. 

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