Asking for Help
From Hoy
August 18, 2003

By Maxy Sosa

The bodega and supermarket owners of upper Manhattan want to know: Who is going to help them recuperate the thousands of dollars in damages caused by the blackout on Thursday?.

Yesterday, a group of negotiators, accompanied by the councilmember for District 10, Miguel Martinez, sent a clear message to the federal, state, and local authorities: "Don't leave us in the dark at the moment we need your help the most, to get out of the economic crisis that the blackout created."

A living example of the critical situation in which small businesses find themselves, is illustrated by Jacinto Abreu, owner of the supermarket Super Extra located on the corner of Broadway and 160th Street, who said that the losses for his business will be around $20,000.

It is not likely that the businesses will try to get the insurance companies to compensate them for their losses since blackouts are not covered by insurance policies.

"The businesses are already in a very difficult situation and this blackout knocked us to the ground," said Abreu, while he watched some customers choosing fresh products for sale.

According to the retailer, much of the merchandise damaged by the lack of refrigeration was gathered by the city garbage trucks, while the chicken and ground meat was taken by a company that collects greasy products.

The list of the losses for Abreu's business is long and includes more than 50 milk boxes that had to be poured down the sewer, the juice, yogurt, and cheese, and bananas, which with the excessive heat and the lack of refrigeration, turned so black that nobody would buy them.

Abreu said, "What we hope is that the government does something, I hope that, for example, president George W. Bush says who is going to resolve this."

Councilmember Martinez referred to $800 million in losses from the blackout that the city estimates, and emphasized that "we must be careful not to leave the side of small business owners who have been strongly effected by this situation."

The politician made a call to the federal, state, and local government agencies to ask for assistance for the merchants in the form of subventions and low interest.

"Since the federal government had to intervene and to declare a state of emergency, we want the federal government to act through the agency FEMA to assist the small retailers," indicated Martinez

Quenia Abreu, president of the New York Women's Commercial Committee (NYWCC), who also participated in the conference yesterday, signaled that the group she represents also faces a difficult situation.

"We are communicating with the office of the mayor, and they told us that first they have to see where the problem came from in order to determine what it is that they can do in terms of aid for businesses and for residents," said Abreu.

The president of the NYWCC added that her organization is offering information to merchants, whether or not they are members, about the steps that should be taken to solicite aid from the Small Business Association.

Those interested should contact the Committee at 212-721-1280.

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Translated from Spanish by Charlotte Triggs

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