Simotas bill would help struggling Astoria businesses hit by subway station shutdowns

Simotas bill would help struggling Astoria businesses hit by subway station shutdowns
Courtesy Simotas’ office
By Bill Parry

As Astoria restaurants and stores continue to reel financially due to subway station closures on the N/W line, state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) introduced legislation to give tax relief to any New York small business that experiences significant loss or dislocation from a state or local infrastructure project.

The MTA’s renovations that completely shut down the 30th and 36th Avenue stations have caused a big drop in foot traffic and far fewer customers at the small shops, restaurants and bars that are the economic backbone of the neighborhood, according to Simotas.

“I cannot sit still while small businesses become sacrifices on the altar of subway maintenance work and renovations,” she said. “My bill will strike a balance so that costs of achieving a common good stemming from infrastructure projects are shared and not borne solely by a struggling small business sector. Astoria’s merchants, small shops and restaurants are absolutely essential to the life of our community, giving the neighborhood its vibrancy and character. These businesses must survive.”

Construction equipment has also made it difficult to access or even see some of the businesses along 31st Street. As part of the MTA’s Enhanced Station Initiatives, the 39th Avenue and Broadway stations are scheduled to shut down this summer once the 30th and 36th Avenue stations open.

“This is not just an issue affecting western Queens because subway station repair plans will have a detrimental consequences for neighborhoods throughout the city,” the lawmaker said.

Florence Koulouris, district manager of Community Board 1, said, “We’ve been monitoring the situation in Astoria since the subway renovations began and sadly some businesses have already been forced to close by losing so many customers. Others are struggling to survive.”

Frank Arabascio, acting director of the 30th Avenue Business Association and owner of Redken Saloon Salon, located at 36-17 30th Ave., said businesses have put up with Con Edison repairs “countless times” but those disruptions last between two and four weeks.

“The eight-month shutdown of the 30th Avenue train station is crippling our businesses, with my losses now at nearly 30 percent,” Arabascio said. “What the MTA has done is to devastate this business corridor with an eight-month disruption and that should be illegal. Tax relief would be a huge help for the businesses that have been hurt to receive some sort of tax relief for such a lengthy and unprecedented project.”

The Simotas legislation would give small businesses an income tax and franchise tax credit covering 100 percent of their lost income due to state or local infrastructure projects, for taxable years commencing with 2018. A small business is defined as one that is independently owned and operated and has 100 or fewer full-time employees.

Small businesses would be eligible for the tax credits when they suffer a financial loss of at least 25 percent of projected revenue as a result of an infrastructure project.

“Giving these businesses tax credits for their losses would show Astorians that our government cares about the livelihood of our small business owners and their families,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said. “It would also ensure that our neighborhood can continue to grow while providing world-class opportunities for shopping, food, and entertainment for all residents.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.