Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District, Astoria Together and Sunnyside Gardens Park joined forces to create a western Queens local business source map, or “Who’s Open??,” which is tracking 250 businesses and counting.
The local organizations created the map to provide real-time updates on business hours and services that have been dramatically impacted by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s PAUSE executive order.
“This is a sensible way to organize our neighborhood and amplify the businesses that are still prepping the food, pouring the coffee, offering dinner and drinks to go, and making their local products available for the rest of us,” said Alan Baglia, Queens source map founder and organizer. “So many of us are home and following state guidelines to flatten the curve. Little things like keeping daily habits and ordering from our favorite places will play a role in helping us all get through this. It is time more than ever to support the local business and the workers that are essential to our community.”
The listing was created by Sunnyside Shines BID immediately after the executive order was enacted, with a focus on Greenpoint Avenue, Queens Boulevard and areas south of Queens Boulevard. The initial data was then transferred to Google’s My Maps feature and expanded to include the Sunnyside business districts of 43rd Avenue, Skillman Avenue, as well as parts of Woodside, Astoria and Long Island City.
In less than a week, “Who’s Open??” is tracking more than 250 businesses.
These business include grocery stores, corner markets, laundromats, bike repair shops, takeout and delivery options, as well as other essential services including emergency childcare for first responders at Little Friends Schools in Long Island City.
The map also points to a variety staff solicitations via GoFundMe for fitness studios as well as bars and restaurants, including Tone Pilates in Astoria, Suryaside in Sunnyside, and Solid State in Woodside, among others.
Some entries even list job opportunities, such as Food Bazaar located on Northern Boulevard.
Sunnyside Gardens Park is also hosting the map on their website.
“[We’re] thrilled to host the map on our site and promote in our newsletters and social media,” Paul Roer, current Sunnyside Gardens Park board president, said. “Our local businesses are the cornerstone of our community and we want to do everything we can to support them as we all get through this situation together.”
Users can search “Who’s Open??” by entering specific businesses by name or broaden searches with simple keywords like “pizza,” “wine,” “market” or “staff fund.”
Keywords are being added regularly to strengthen the search feature of the map.
The map creators want to stress that the platform is constantly evolving and being fact-checked. Business decisions are day-to-day, and to avoid any doubt, they advise others to always call the businesses themselves with the phone numbers and social media information provided in the listing.
The organizers credit Instagram and Facebook pages as great sources for businesses ever-changing information at this time. They note that walking the neighborhoods for direct visits from a safe distance as well as phone calls to confirm hours and services have been essential tools in this unusual time.
Hand-lettered signs serve as primary communication for dozens of small businesses, and the map brings that information to the greater public.
While many businesses have listed delivery apps among their available services, the map creators are urging customers to first try to order directly from businesses and use the delivery apps as a last resort.
“Some of the apps have announced they will defer fees to businesses, but this just means the fees will be passed on to the businesses down the road when they are struggling to dig out from this,” said Jaime-Faye Bean, director of Sunnyside Shines BID.
In time, the developers hope to include more Queens neighborhoods, such as Hunters Point and Jackson Heights.
The organizers are in discussion with Edible Queens to broaden the map and expand the platform’s distribution. In the East Village, community organizers are patterning off of the Queens source map in an effort to promote their own businesses.
They hope similar maps will trend elsewhere and give a lift to other neighborhoods and communities.
The ultimate goal is that the “partial closure” maps will soon end — but for the time being, they want to be a source of information and innovative promotion for their communities.
They are encouraging anyone with consumer tips, corrections, additions for the western Queens source map, or to set up additional neighborhood collaborations to contact them by email at email@example.com or via social media by direct messaging Baglia at @alanbaglia on Instagram and Twitter and Sunnyside Shines BID at @sunnysideshines.
Baglia added that “Who’s Open??” early working title, “Hey-19,” alludes to the Steely Dan song by the same name, with lyrics that are reminiscent of the current social distancing measures: “Hey, 19 / No, we can’t dance together (We can’t dance together) / No, we can’t talk at all / Please take me along when you slide on down.”