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Chambers Of Commerce Join Forces To Push Sandy Small Business Recovery

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With many merchants still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy, the chambers of commerce from each of the five boroughs are joining forces in their strategic planning to help push that process along. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

A stream of flags flies high over Randazzo's Restaurant, and a prominently displayed sign reads "we are open". But the 75-year-old Sheepshead Bay institution is still struggling after Hurricane Sandy.

"It's not good," said Eddie Paolillo of Randazzo's. "The whole area is, like, very quiet in the afternoon. Nighttime, there's hardly anybody out in the street. And I don't remember the Bay like this. I'm here all my life, 60 years, and I don't remember it all like this. It's a ghost town at night."

One big reason is that Hurricane Sandy wiped out most of the restaurants that surround Randazzo's. They are still shuttered, both along the once bustling Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road.

Now, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce said it will help revitalize the commercial area by creating a merchants association.

"The neighborhoods that were affected by the storm that had organized merchants' associations really were able to quickly rebound," said Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. "The ones that don't have organized merchants' associations are still suffering."

The chamber announced Wednesday that it's partnering with the chambers from each borough to help organize merchants in underserved neighborhoods and retail strips citywide. TD Bank is helping to kickstart the program with a $200,000 grant.

"This has never been done before," said Robert Walsh, commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services. "We have five chambers from five different boroughs coming together to share best practices and how to serve the more than 600 commercial corridors in this city."

Each chamber president identified at least two areas in their borough to focus on.

"It's boots on the ground, knocking on doors, educating them, technical assistance," said Nancy Ploeger, president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.

"It's really important that we take the time and effort now before we have another emergency to bring these businesses together, to bring these business leaders together, and to teach them the skills they're going to need," said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Shop and restaurant owners in Sheepshead Bay said they welcome any ideas that will help them get back to the business of serving customers.

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce said it's now making assessments in the area and will be providing cash assistance in about a month.

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