A study this week shows the unequal impact the pandemic had on Long Island’s downtowns. It says businesses in lower-income communities and businesses of color were hit the hardest.
Rauch Foundation commissioned the study, and was presented at the Long Island Regional Planning Council's quarterly meeting this week.
Sulin Carling, co-author of the study, said many struggled to access capital and online marketing tools.
“Without support, there’s really a risk of broad loss of downtown businesses in lower income communities and communities of color,” Carling said.
“Our downtowns have really sort of had a lot of challenges and some of them have done really well, some of them have been nimble, some of them have been creative and some of them have come up with really interesting ways to address and blunt some of these challenges,” Co-author Shuprotim Bhaumik said.
Bhaumik said the study's authors paid careful consideration to the history and evolution of Long Island’s downtowns and their pre-pandemic challenges. He said rising rents, the growth of online businesses and the need for affordable housing, among other factors, worsened the devastating impacts of COVID-19.
The study recommends local policy changes to help businesses reduce costs and expand operations to public spaces. It also says increased outreach can help businesses access financial relief.
- The report focused on 10 downtowns including Baldwin, Bay Shore, Central Islip, Greenport, Mineola and Garden City, New Hyde Park, Northport, Port Washington, Riverhead and Roosevelt.
- Nearly 1 in 5 businesses pre-pandemic were facing challenges related to unaffordable rents, competition from online business, and staffing issues.
- Post-COVID, more than 1 in 3 downtown food and beverage and retail businesses projected more than 50% loss of revenue in 2020 compared to 2019.
- Downtowns that rebounded more quickly were generally leisure and food and beverage destinations.
- Downtowns that embraced innovative uses of streets and public spaces were able to re-attract visitors.
- Permanent and temporary store closures in lower-income communities were significantly higher than the average across the 30 downtowns surveyed in the study.