Monday, December 05, 2005

Small Business Shortchanged at Ground Zero

In a remarkable investigative story in yesterday's Daily News it is revealed, "How massive fed aid got eaten by waste and lax rules." It also appears that,
"Programs were plagued with so many loopholes that millions more ended up being given to recipients who did not fit the full intent of the particular program"
(Yes we wonder if this report should have been unveiled prior to the past election since the mayor does bear at least some responsibility).

What most concerns the Alliance is the way that well-connected firms and their consultants were aggrandized at the expense of smaller and more vulnerable businesses ("Fat Cats Milked Ground Zero"). As the News reveals,
"Hundreds of million of dollars in federal aid intended to help small downtown businesses that were reeling from the 9/11 attacks often went instead to huge international corporations, companies with little attachment to the stricken area and businesses that were never in jeopardy."
On top of all this the "The Rich Got Richer As Poor Got Crumbs.". Large corporations, some that weren’t negatively impacted by 9/11, were given millions while small businesses were cut checks for $10 and $38. And to make matters worse, "huge contracts were given to companies and organizations linked to the very officials tasked with deciding how to spend the money-- creating, at minimum, the potential for multiple conflicts of interest."

All of which brings to mind the rather bizarre comments of Kenneth Knuckles, a member of the City Planning Commission who, when Richard Lipsky testified on behalf of the Bronx Terminal Market merchants, asked, in a rather jaundiced manner, whether Lipsky had ever been in favor of any big store. Knuckles hadn't, of course, thought to ask if Jesse Masyr, Related's well-paid mouthpiece, had ever represented the neighborhood hardware store.

The point is that there is a built-in prejudice against small business and that these mom and pop shops need protection. The scandal at Ground Zero clearly demonstrates what does happen when the neighborhood store owner or the unconnected professional is unrepresented.

For example, the News piece mentions the Ground Zero Small Businesses Association (GZSBA) and its head Arthur Castle as a prime example of who is being hurt the worst in this whole embarrassing affair. Castle's 140 business and 700 workers are being evicted so that the MTA can expand the Fulton Street subway station as part of a post-9/11 "improvement." Yet the GZSBA isn't protesting the eviction - they simply want fair and equitable relocation. The MTA claims that it is doing everything it can be the truth comes out in Castle's quote which ends the article:
"What the terrorists could not do — force us to go — is now being done to us in the name of revitalization," said Arthur Castle of the Ground Zero Small Business Association. "The MTA is giving us just a hearty handshake and a promise to pay for the moving vans."
Can we now expect that our "above politics" Mayor Bloomberg will intervene to mitigated this Ground Zero scandal? After all he had as much responsibility as Governor Pataki here, even if he had abdicated his role early on. This would provide the mayor with a great opportunity to show how his administration doesn't allow special interests to corrupt good public policy since there are still many downtown small businesses that could use his help.