Business PREP helps Small Businesses during future Natural Disasters

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this month a new initiative titled Business PREP, a plan to help small businesses in case of future natural disasters. After Hurricane Sandy, many businesses in low-lying areas were left destroyed, taking many months, or a year to rebuild. The program has now invested $7.5 million to provide resources, assessments and micro-grants to establishments in preparation for the next big storm.

According to the New York City Business Solutions website, workshops were held earlier this months in the Rockaways and Coney Island, areas most hit by Sandy, to explain the new initiative and how businesses can benefit from these services. Later in the month and into December, workshops will be held in Red Hook, Staten Island, and Lower Manhattan.

Crain’s New York Business this week showcased a restaurant by the South Street Seaport that was affected by Sandy, and how the preparation plan will help recovery in case of another storm. I thought this was a great example of how the city is really making an effort to be more resilient to these types of disasters. Though I hope that New York City doesn’t face this type of situation any time in the near future, it is good to know that we will be more prepared with a well-organized effort by de Blasio.

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de Blasio Defends his Plans

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Photo Courtesy of wnyc.org

Mayor de Blasio’s attempts to deal with the housing issue in the city has been widely criticized. Many communities have actively protested against his proposed rezoning plans.

In an interview on the Brian Lehrer radio show last week the Mayor said, “Gentrification is a complicated issue and a double edged sword. Of course it means something good is happening on one level and it often leads to strengthening of neighborhoods…but it also can lead to the displacement of neighborhood residents.”

Listen to the full interview on the WNYC website.

Public Hearing to discuss the Mayor’s Zoning Plan

Taken from NYC Department of Planing

A public hearing will be held at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Nov. 23 to discuss the Mayor’s controversial rezoning plans. The Mayor markets his plan as something that will “strengthen East New York, Cypress Hills, and Ocean Hill as vibrant, inclusive neighborhoods of opportunity with affordable housing, Economic Opportunities, and new community resources.” There has been much opposition to the Mayor’s proposal throughout the five boroughs.

According to published reports, Community Board 8 in the Bronx voted against the plans due to “the lack of community input that went into their formation.” Their complaints included mention of measures in the plan that would allow developers to cram senior citizens in units as small as 250 square feet.

Community Board 15 in Brooklyn also opposed the Mayor’s plans, coming to a unanimous vote in a  meeting last month. The Sheepshead Bay area in Brooklyn is not currently included in the Mayor’s proposed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Plan that promises affordable housing units. The same goes for Community Board 2 and the list goes on and on.

At a meeting held in Brownsville, residents, community leaders, and elected officials gathered last month. Residents were urged not to fall for false promises. “They’re going to tell you it’s affordable — affordable to who?” said Assemblyman Charles Barron at the meeting. “You should reject this plan…Don’t let nobody come in here trying to turn this into Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights.”

Changes are happening all over Brooklyn. Plans are proposed to change things for the better and enrich the neighborhoods. But the unanswered question remains, for who? When the neighborhood becomes better, who will be living there to enjoy it?

Neighborhood Start Fund comes to Brownsville

Rapper Lupe Fiasco announced this past weekend that he is launching the Neighborhood Start Fund, a non-profit to help struggling neighborhoods revamp themselves with new businesses and entrepreneurships. And although Lupe Fiasco is from Chicago, Illinois, the organization is starting its efforts in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Partnering and co-founding with Di-Ann Eisnor of Waze, the Neighborhood Start Fund will launch on November 13th.

The inaugural event will be in Brownsville, at 3 Belmont Street where an idea competition and event pitch will be the main events for the day. The address is the home to the Dream Big Foundation’s entrepreneurship center. The Dream Big Foundation, along with its founder Robert LoCascio and Executive Director Pernell Brice III are sponsors for this initiative.

The non-profit is now accepting ideas for prototypes until October 30th. Finalists that are chosen will then attend the November 13th pitch and competition. Businessmen and women have the chance at $5000 for making their prototype with help from mentors, and free technological development.

The site is not fully developed, but anyone can subscribe to get the latest updates on events and outreach. It will be interesting to see what other events and outreach services the Neighborhood Start Fund will provide.

Microchips and Small Businesses

Local and national retailers are now being pressured to have the most up-to-date payment systems in their stores in order to accommodate E.M.V. microchips.

Standing for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa, the microchip sits on the front of all new charge cards to avoid fraud and liability mishap. According to the New York Times article, “Coming Soon to Checkouts: Microchip-Card Payment Systems,” retailers have until October 2015 to update their systems accordingly. Hardware, like credit card pin pads, and software updates could cost retailers up to $600 per device. For small businesses, this could pose as a problem.

Many retailers are choosing not to, or are reluctantly deciding to update charging systems to accommodate the microchip. According to a Wells-Fargo poll, nearly 70% of merchants were not aware of the Oct. 2015 deadline. Of those, 21% said they are choosing not to switch structures.

I work at Alex and Ani in SoHo where our entire register system was recently updated. It is exciting to have the tools to accept cards with the E.M.V. microchip, ApplePay, and standard forms of payment. However, this expensive system has yet to work at its upmost potential. For two mornings, we could not accept any credit cards and were forced to use the old point-of-sale system that was luckily still connected. It was frustrating to get a first-hand look at what many other retailers are going through in order to be up to date with the latest technology.

It will be a long road before more retailers participate in this technological switch.

Whole Foods Giving Back to Brooklyn

After 10 long years of planning, Whole Foods opened Tuesday in Brooklyn, located on Third and 3rd near the putrid Gowanus canal Brooklyn Whole Foods Market Goes Greenopened. While there has been a some who did not want to see the store open in Brooklyn, Whole Foods started off by giving back to the community in which they opened.

They have started a program called “Fund a Fig,” all purchases of specially designed reusable bags will go to planting fig trees throughout the borough. In addition the first 5% in sales is being donated to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Staying active in the borough that so many have such deep love for is a way to stay part of the community. 

Harlequin Cleared In Royalty Case

Harlequin has been cleared by the courts in a case filed by three authors who claimed the publisher did not pay them all the royalties they were due on e-books covered under contracts signed between 1990 and 2004.

Every time I look into the publishing business, I’m taken back but the number of feuds that tak place in the ndustry. First off, 3-4% royalty on eBook cover prices is freaking robbery and Harlequin should be ashamed of themselves. Statements like “Harlequin prides itself on being a place where over 1,200 authors find opportunities to publish,” make  me really upset, as if Harlequin was doing authors a favor by publishing their books.

The article states that, “The publisher said, in a release about the decision, was dropped after the plaintiffs `failed to state a claim.’ The authors claimed that they were owed a 50% royalty on net receipts of digital editions, and not 3% to 4% of the cover price. Harlequin countered that the authors were being given the correct royalty, as defined in their contracts. Now, that is sick! So, it’s the authors’ fault if they knew the royalty they were going to get was 3-4%? Why are the authors trying to say otherwise?