Bloomberg Meets Small Business Owners Over Coffee in Red Hook

By Alan Neuhauser on December 5, 2012 5:51pm 

RED HOOK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg strolled Red Hook's business district Wednesday morning, stopping at a cafe for coffee with a handful of small business owners and community leaders affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Bloomberg has been making regular, unannounced visits to storm-battered areas since Sandy landed Oct. 29. His trip to Red Hook Wednesday, which included stops at Fairway market and stationary store Foxy & Winston, marked at least his second time in the neighborhood since the storm struck, a spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office said.

"The fact that he walked around the neighborhood is pretty impressive," said St. John Frizell, the owner of Fort Defiance Cafe & Bar on Van Brunt Street, where the mayor talked with local business owners over coffee. "I did come away [from the meeting] satisfied. He seemed to be present during the conversation. He listened more than he talked."

The group, which included Monica Byrne, co-owner of home/made and a founder of Restore Red Hook, and Jill Eisenhard, executive director of Red Hook Initiative, discussed additional outreach for businesses affected by the storm.

"Loans are great and they're better than nothing," Frizell told DNAinfo.com New York, referring to low-interest government loans that represent the only form of monetary disaster relief available to companies. "But for a business that has five years or less on its lease, how do you take on $25,000 in debt?"

The conversation, which lasted about a half hour, also included talk of how to attract more shoppers to Red Hook, and how to improve transportation to the neighborhood, namely by reopening the subway stop at Smith and Ninth streets.

Afterward, Bloomberg walked across the street to the stationary store, where he spoke with the staff and bought a pink, pig-shaped pillow.

"It was very nice to see him down here supporting local business," said Jessica Vanderberg, 32, director of Foxy & Winston's print shop and design studio. "He just introduced himself, told us about his family, and got one of our pigs."

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