How businesses suffering post-Ida got unexpected help

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NEW YORK — As we look back at Ida one year later, business owners across the city have fought an uphill battle to get the help they needed in the aftermath of that storm. 

Calvin Sennon and his wife, Latoya, opened TriniJam BK, a Caribbean restaurant in Canarsie, in August 2020. The business weathered not just a global pandemic, but a storm that they say caused around $15,000 worth of damage. 

“A ton of merchandise, all our security systems … All of our back up freezers, everything, everything was ruined,” Sennon says.

Their basement was inundated with a foot of water, but they weren’t eligible for flood insurance. The day after the storm, they got a visit from Randy Peers with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and within about a week, they were hand-selected for a $5,000 grant from TD Bank’s charitable foundation. 

“We looked for some really hard-impact areas, regions, and communities. And Brooklyn was one that we wanted to make sure we got support out quickly to the small businesses,” explained Ralph Bumbaca, NYC Market President of TD Bank.

TriniJam BK was one of seven Brooklyn companies that were identified by the chamber for the micro-grants after the storm. Money distributed by TD Charitable Foundation to these businesses amounted to $30,000 of emergency help. In total, the foundation says they granted around $300,000 of aid across the East Coast to help offset some of the storm damage.

IDA: ONE YEAR LATER:

Another business that benefited from these grants was La Petite Chambre BK, a children’s boutique in Flatbush which opened in May 2021, less than four months before the remnants of that storm tore through our area. Berta Villa, the owner, says she opened the boutique after she was furloughed from her job. According to her, the pooling in her store damaged children’s toys, books, clothing and furniture, worth a total of about $5,000. 

“It was like a nightmare,” the mother of two said. “I had just opened up a few months in and it was like, that was the worst thing that could have happened to me at that time.”

She wasn’t able to get help from insurance, but she was also the recipient of a TD Charitable Foundation grant of $2,500.

Randy Peers, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, says he saw first-hand how much businesses were struggling in the days after the storm.

“It was just really a game changer for these businesses that thought, ‘gosh after COVID now I’m dealing with a flood, what am I going to do?’ And it was a little something to really get them back on their feet,” Peers told CBS2’s Hannah Kliger.

Just this week, TriniJam BK celebrated their second anniversary, and La Petite Chambre BK is thriving. Owners of both companies say they just hope to weather the next storm that comes their way. 

Have a story idea or tip in Brooklyn? Email Hannah by CLICKING HERE.

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