Sunset Park

Despite zero coronavirus cases in the city, Sunset Park is suffering

February 20, 2020 John Alexander
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Despite zero cases of coronavirus having been detected in the city, fear of the virus appears to be keeping customers away from some popular Asian eateries and shops in Sunset Park. Community leaders banded together on Wednesday to discuss the dire situation for the area’s small businesses.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer met with Brooklyn Asian-American Civilian Observation Patrol chair Louie Liu, Brooklyn Community Improvement Association member Rosita Chan, Ray Acevedo of the Village of Sunset Park and other community leaders at Park Asia restaurant on Eighth Avenue to discuss ways to handle the apparent panic keeping diners and shoppers away from restaurants and retail shops in the neighborhood. 

“My understanding is that people are scared and are staying at home. This is a good time to get the people out and to educate them about the virus,” said Liu.

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Stringer agreed. “We need to impart more education and more understanding of what is actually going on,” said Stringer. 

Liu said that a number of restaurants have been forced to close during the week due to a lack of customers. In fact, the normally popular Park Asia had only a few patrons at dinner time. Liu was also concerned about seafood markets in the neighborhood losing customers, particularly from cancelled orders from restaurants they would normally supply. 

City Comptroller Scott Stringer (left) met with Sunset Park community leaders Louie Liu and Rosita Chan on Wednesday. Photo: Arthur De Gaeta/Brooklyn Eagle

“Not only are the restaurants suffering, but the delivery people who deliver goods are suffering. And it’s not only the Asian businesses, it’s the entire community. Everyone is just afraid of coming into the neighborhood,” said Liu.

“Look around you. This restaurant should be packed with diners … A restaurant two blocks away that seats 700 people is closed,” said Liu.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the possibility of coronavirus in New York City a “question of when, not if” during a press conference late last month. Since then, the city’s hospitals and health officials have been scrambling to prepare for the possibility of a local outbreak and state lawmakers have urged the federal government to guarantee New York City will be reimbursed for expenses related to prevention and containment of the virus, which some say could total $1 million a day.

The civic leaders said they’re exploring the possibility of securing low-interest loans or grants for the small businesses that are suffering. “I’ll take your suggestions back to the small business administration and the de Blasio administration depending on how long this is going on,” said Stringer. “We can’t lose our businesses and people still have to pay rent,” he added.

Stringer called the issue a small business crisis. “We need to educate people and let them know that they should be out and be part of the community like they always have,” Stringers said. “And the reason I’m here today with my friend Louie Liu and activists in the community is because we want to support our small businesses. This is a time of crisis for them.”

The normally busy Park Asia restaurant on Eighth Avenue was nearly empty on Wednesday. Photo: Arthur De Gaeta/Brooklyn Eagle

The latest statistics as of early February show tens of thousands of people worldwide have been infected with the new strain of coronavirus. Many international experts are predicting that the disease will continue to spread globally. 

As of Thursday, China reported 349 new cases of the virus, the lowest number of new infections reported in China in weeks. The cumulative total worldwide is 75,780 individuals infected. At least 2,130 have died from the virus.

Furthermore, 634 cases of the virus were reported from passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan. Two elderly passengers had died as of Thursday.

Fifteen coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S., none in New York. 

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