Councilman Deutsch Aims To Revitalize Local Shopping Districts

Councilman Deutsch Aims To Revitalize Local Shopping Districts
A collection of stores near the intersection of East 16th Street and Sheepshead Bay Road.
A collection of stores near the intersection of East 16th Street and Sheepshead Bay Road. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

City Councilman Chaim Deutsch is looking to clean up his district’s commercial centers and make them more hospitable to both store owners and shoppers.

Deutsch is behind several initiatives, mostly centered around Sheepshead Bay Road, that will increase the police presence in the area, clean up trash, and lift some of the burdensome fines and penalties the city imposes on small business — many of whom are still struggling to emerge from the devastation brought by Superstorm Sandy.

“We have a handful of vacant storefronts. But even one is enough.” Deutsch said of his effort. “I want to encourage more small businesses to open. So if someone wants to open a business, there shouldn’t be a hassle. I want the city to make it easier for them to open.”

Part of that effort includes a town hall meeting next week with Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Julie Menin, who will field questions about resources provided by the city and offer advice about setting up a small business.

Menin will also describe the department’s plans to be more business friendly, said Deutsch, who wants Consumer Affairs to ease up on petty violations by issuing a warning before slapping a store owner with a fine.

“Where I get a haircut, they received a violation for not posting a sign that says ‘no refunds.’ I can’t remember the last time I had a haircut and asked for a refund,” said Deutsch. “I had a meeting with [Menin] a few weeks ago. We spoke about petty fines, which are not a health hazard. They should agree not to be too hard on our businesses.”

The town hall, which will also bring in officials from Small Business Services, will be held next Wednesday, August 5, in the the Shorefront Y at 3300 Coney Island Avenue. The event was put together by Deutsch and City Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents the neighboring district.

Treyger said he hopes the meeting will be especially informative for business owners looking for help recovering from Sandy.

“One of the things I was disturbed to learn about last year, when I chaired a Sandy recovery hearing on small businesses, was that very few businesses in my district were aware of recovery grants from Superstorm Sandy,” he said. “So whatever I can do to bring government down to my district and have the commissioner and have agencies inform and provide guidance on issues both big and small, I’m all in favor of it.”

Deutsch and his staff have been visiting stores in his district and encouraging the owners to attend the meeting. He is also organizing a community-wide cleanup in some areas and has tasked the Department of Sanitation with doing extra pick ups in his district’s commercial centers. And by increasing the police presence, especially near the Sheepshead Bay subway station, Deutsch hopes to discourage acts like public urination and panhandling.

“I want to make our commercial areas more friendly to people so that businesses can flourish,” he said.


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