NEW DORP — A center offering help to small businesses hit hard by Hurricane Sandy has opened a new outpost in Staten Island.
The Staten Island Small Business Development Center, located at the College of Staten Island, opened a satellite office in New Dorp on Monday.
The office, inside the Empire State Bank branch at 1361 N. Railroad Ave., will help businesses impacted by Sandy get answers and find assistance needed to reopen.
“It’s already been too long, we have to do more,” said Rep. Michael Grimm. “That’s what this is about. This is about taking the next step to try to save some of these small businesses that are really on their last leg.”
While the SBDC has worked since the storm to help businesses, it was hard for many owners in the area to visit its Willowbrook location. The new office is closer to beach areas hit hardest by the storm, and will allow staffers to visit affected businesses more easily.
“What we want to do is be able to be on site, in the community, and be able to visit the various businesses that are here and have been affected,” said Dean Balsamini, director of the SBDC.
For Diana Petrone, owner of Not Just Bagels on Hylan Boulevard, the new location will be a huge help in getting her business completely back on its feet.
She reopened her store in December after storm surges sent 9 feet of water into her store, completely damaging everything inside, Petrone said.
While she said the SBDC has been a great help in her recovery, she has only been able to talk to workers over the phone and could not visit their office.
With the new office, Petrone said she’ll be able to go in person much more often and workers will be able to visit her bagel store more easily.
“Ninety percent of the time I’m stuck in that store,” she said. “Unless they come to me or I get them on the phone, it’s not possible for me to leave. Having them here is so much more possible and accessible.”
The SBDC doesn’t distribute aid money to damaged businesses, but lays out the options for grants and loans, answers questions and helps owners navigate the process.
The group also helps businesses figure out their revenue stream to see which loans they should take and help fill out paper work, Balsamini said.
With $51 billion in federal aid money starting to flow into the city, new programs have started to help businesses, so the timing of the satellite office is good, Grimm said.
“Those programs are all starting,” Grimm said. "That’s why I think this step is a big part of it so that we can reach out, yet again, to maybe some of the business owners that are frustrated and have given up," he said.
"We can go back to them now and say, 'Don’t give up.' ”