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East Harlem Businesses At Risk of Closing in Explosion Aftermath

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TWC News: East Harlem Businesses At Risk of Closing in Explosion Aftermath
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The East Harlem community is still feeling the effects of the devastating explosion that killed eight people and left dozens homeless earlier this month, and now, many businesses in the area are saying that they might have to shut down if they don't get help rebuilding. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

The 116 Park Deli is only feet from where two buildings collapsed in East Harlem a little less than two weeks ago. Inside the shop, it still looks as if it happened yesterday.

Owner Qasem Alrousan was in the store that morning. He says he has no idea how he will resurrect his business.

"It's full damage in there. There's no store at all," he said.

In the immediate area of the explosion, Park Avenue and a corner of 116th Street are still closed. Just down the block, Domingo Fernandez's Fish and Meat Market is closed, too. They're still wiping debris from the shelves weeks later. He says that repairs, lost inventory and lost business, have put him on the brink of closing.

"I lose almost $75,000," he said.

Making matters worse, Fernandez showed NY1 his Con Ed bill for more than $1,600. He wants the utility, which many blame for the explosion, to waive the fee.

Mustafa Nahshal is asking the same. He owns Greenvalley Grocery, where he says that business is down 80 percent. Foot traffic is noticeably down and with people still displaced from their homes, it's unclear when some of the most reliable customers in the area will return, if ever.

"We have to pay rent, we have employees, and Con Edison still wants the bill to be paid," Nahshal said.

Con Edison said in a statement that it's provided aid to businesses and that it's working with the city, but didn't address the fact that these businesses are still being asked to pay thousands in utility bills.

The city's small business services agency has offered a host of services, but money for repairs and customers returning is what they say they need. They want answers from public officials.

"We depend on our jobs to pay our bills, and it's only right that we get the answers to the questions that we have," said Odalys Guzman, the owner of NY Glamour Styles.

To help these still struggling businesses unite there will be a meeting at 87 East 116th Street on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. There will be legal experts present to help these businesses work their way through all the red tape.

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