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Small Business Leaders Surprise Red Hook Shopkeepers

By Alan Neuhauser | January 30, 2013 8:23am | Updated on January 30, 2013 12:22pm

RED HOOK — The heads of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the city's Department of Small Business Services made surprise visits to Red Hook storefronts Tuesday morning to check on recovery efforts in the neighborhood.

The occasion roughly coincided with the 100-day mark following Hurricane Sandy, which caused catastrophic flooding and power outages in Red Hook and across New York City.

"We're touring businesses to see what they need," SBA public affairs specialist Michael Peacock said.

SBA administrator Karen Mills and SBS commissioner Robert Walsh made their first stop at Baked on Van Brunt Street, where they picked-up coffee and talked with co-owner Renato Poliafito, then headed to other businesses along Van Brunt. The pair have been periodically visiting storm-damaged neighborhoods in the weeks since Sandy.

"They were talking about recovery efforts and what help we needed in the neighborhood," Poliafito recounted. "[Mills] said she was working with the president and that he was pushing this."

Baked lost equipment and dry goods to Sandy, which ultimately spurred Poliafito to apply for a $25,000 loan through the city's Emergency Loan Fund, as well as an additional $5,000 grant from the SBA.

"Did we want an additional loan? No, but it just made sense," Poliafito told DNAinfo.com New York.

He welcomed Tuesday's visit from Mills and Walsh, calling it "a complete surprise."

"It was encouraging to see Washington wading down the street," Poliafito said.