UPPER EAST SIDE — Small businesses owners in the neighborhood not only have to deal with getting their enterprises up and running, they have to contend with long waits for permits, slow Internet service and Second Avenue Subway construction, among other challenges, locals leaders said.
At the first Community Board 8 small business forum, held last week at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, Upper East Siders expressed concerns about the struggles faced both by fledgling and established entrepreneurs.
Lawyer Robert Brill said Landmarks and Preservation Commission regulations are too often in conflict with these establishments' needs because they take too long to fulfill.
"For businesses that are in historic districts or landmarked buildings or avenues, there has to be a quick and easy way for the business to get the permits quickly and to do the work in their space," he said. "Somebody has to tell Landmarks: 'You have to have one or two staffers whose mission is to get the permits processed.'
"This is a terrible problem," he added.
Gregg Bishop, deputy commissioner of Small Business Services' Business Development Division, said the agency could help in those areas.
"If there's a business that needs assistance with another agency — if it's Landmarks or even utilities — you can connect with us," he said. "Each of these agencies has a person we can connect with to expedite the process."
Brill added that these companies also contend with telecommunications concerns, often not being able to choose the desired or best Internet provider — either because of city infrastructure or because of the building owners' decisions, he said.
Andrew L. Kalloch, a policy analyst for Stringer, said high quality Internet access was a long-standing concern.
"The Internet is the fourth utility," he told atendees at the forum. "We cannot do without it today. We need to do it better."
Some also voiced long-standing concerns, including the Second Avenue Subway construction.
"There's clients sitting in the salon, and there's one of the explosions, and the client doesn't want to sit there anymore," said Hello Beautiful manager Zeba Sait, whose salon is located at East 70th Street and Second Avenue. "They run out, they don't want to pay for their services."
Others believed street vendors, too, were driving business away.
Echoing past community concerns that vendors threaten the neighborhood's quality of life, CB8 Street Vendor Task Force Chair Michele Birnbaum claimed said the street sellers flout rules and regulations — putting them at a competitive advantage against brick-and-mortar establishments.
"The proliferation and non-compliance on the streets is untenable," she said, adding that better enforcement would boost off-the-street setups. "It goes hand-in-hand with what you can do for small business."