As the city and state prepares for its COVID-19 comeback, the Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Queens Day in Albany to recognize local businesses that have weathered the pandemic, and discuss future economic recovery efforts in the borough.
Chamber staff, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, District Attorney Melinda Katz and members of the Queens Delegation to the Senate and Assembly were on hand for the virtual event which drew more than a hundred participants.
“The Queens Chamber is now the most diverse that it has ever been, with our staff, our membership and our board,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Grech said in his opening remarks. “We have over 1,300 members, representing over 125,000 Queens-based employees, now in our 110th year. Today, your chamber of commerce speaks 12 different languages. Every day, we’re pounding the pavement to help businesses in need, from the Rockaways up to Little Neck, and from Long Island City to the Nassau border.”
Speakers emphasized the challenges that the pandemic has presented to businesses in Queens, while looking forward to the ongoing recovery with optimism.
“I want to acknowledge how especially difficult the last fourteen months have been for small businesses and nonprofits here in Queens. Many of our small businesses are owned by first- and second-generation New Yorkers who put their life savings into their businesses,” Richards said. “This pandemic took an enormous toll on their livelihoods and sadly, some owners could not bear the brunt of this storm, and closed shop. More recent developments have given me hope, though. The Biden administration and Congress extended funding that has given us a lifeline through the American Rescue Plan back in March. This was not by any means easy, but it was a shot in the arm our small businesses needed to survive.”
The district attorney congratulated the chamber for getting many involved in the pandemic recovery efforts.
“This chamber has done an amazing job during COVID in keeping people connected and making sure that they have resources for their businesses,” Katz said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s second in command, no stranger to Queens small business owners after her many visits to the borough, offered up a pep talk to the virtual participants.
“I know this has been a tough year, but I really feel that we have turned the corner,” Hochul said. “We’re getting the MTA going again, people are getting back to work, and they’re walking again in the streets, and feeling that sense of confidence and that swagger that we all love as New Yorkers.”
State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky conveyed her sense that the borough is ready to rebound .
“When I look where we are today in Queens, I am absolutely amazed,” she said. “I am convinced that it is because of the business community, the jobs, and the services.”
Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman, who ran for borough president last year, concurred as she concluded the Queens Day virtual event.
“We are resilient as a borough, and it is a pleasure to work on behalf of our constituents,” Hyndman said. “I don’t know if there’s a more cohesive borough of elected officials than what we have right here in Queens, and I’m honored to work with each and every one of you to make our borough better.”