The city’s economy is hurting. More than one million residents are out of work. The city’s official unemployment rate in September was 14.1 percent, compared with a national rate that dropped to 7.9 percent, from 8.4 percent in August.
The pain hit particularly hard for small businesses, which are key to the city’s economy and to neighborhoods’ vibrancy.
Small businesses provide jobs to more than three million people, about half of the work force, according to the city. An influential business group, the Partnership for New York City, estimated that when the pandemic eventually subsides, roughly one-third of the city’s 240,000 small businesses may never reopen.
Businesses are urging public officials to cut regulations and find other ways to spur a recovery. In September, the New York City Business Improvement District Association released a statement calling on Mr. de Blasio to “allow retail businesses to use public space in creative ways similar to the successful Open Restaurant initiative.”
Under the new program, which begins Friday, ground-floor businesses with storefronts that want to use the nearby space on the sidewalk can apply online. It’s an obvious fit for retail shops, but the city said that repair stores, personal care services and dry cleaning and laundry services can use the outdoor space for seating, the “display of dry goods” or as a place customers can line up.
There are a number of rules to follow.
Unlike the outdoor dining program, retail businesses cannot use any part of the street, unless the street had already been closed to cars. The business must keep an eight-foot-wide path on the sidewalk clear for pedestrians.
Businesses can use tents and umbrellas to keep shoppers dry, except when there are high winds.
Anything the business puts outside as part of the program must be taken in by the end of the day.