Local BIDs, officials hail Open Storefronts program

October 28, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Local BIDs, officials hail Open Storefronts program
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On the heels of the success of outdoor dining in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Oct. 28 announced the Open Storefronts program. So far, the response from Brooklyn business organizations and elected officials has been positive.

Starting Friday, Oct. 30, the program will allow storefront businesses to use a portion of their sidewalk to display merchandise, sell goods, complete transactions and provide areas for customers to line up. The program is slated to end on Dec. 31.

The program is a part of an effort to increase outdoor activities, which are thought to be less vulnerable to people spreading coronavirus than those that go on indoors. It also advances the mayor’s recovery agenda, which he says is centered on public health and social justice.

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“Rebuilding a fairer, better New York City means maximizing use of our outdoor space, helping businesses keep their employees, and giving New Yorkers more reasons than ever to shop local and enjoy their communities. Open Storefronts does all three,” said de Blasio.

There are several guidelines that stores must follow to be part of the program. Objects placed on sidewalks must be up against the wall of the business or as close as possible, and sidewalk objects and activities may not exceed business frontage and must leave an 8-foot clear path for pedestrians.”

Local businesses are relieved that help is on the way.

“Having extra space to use during the holiday season is critical for small businesses,” said Mark Caserta, executive director of the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District (BID). “It gives them a chance to survive during these difficult times while maintaining a safe, socially distanced shopping experience that protects their customers and staff, alike.”

“NYC is offering some small help to retail storefronts similar to what was offered to restaurants way back in July,” wrote the Sunset Park Fifth Avenue BID on Facebook. “Some outdoor uses on the sidewalk will now be allowed.  Sure, we’re glad this finally arrived. But it’s hard not to point out that the season is turning, and we should have been helping small retail stores long, long ago.”

The BID’s Facebook post also explained to readers how stores can legally display and conduct transactions on the sidewalk legally if they leave enough space for safe passage by pedestrians, avoid certain restrictions and bring everything inside each night.

“You can also more effectively use sidewalk space for customer lines and social distancing,” the BID added.

Local elected officials also say that the plan is a positive one.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our neighborhoods, and I applaud the mayor for the Open Storefronts initiative,” said Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus (D-Coney Island-Brighton Beach-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights).

“We need to be creative, flexible and patient as we find new ways to help our businesses through this crisis. Rebuilding New York means protecting the jobs and businesses that sustain our communities,” Frontus said.

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