New York Mets honor Queens small businesses during pregame ceremony at Citi Field

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards speaking to small business owners and employees at Citi Field (Courtsey The New York Mets)
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards thanked Mets owner Steve Cohen for providing a financial lifeline to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of NYCEDC)

The New York Mets held a special ceremony to recognize Queens small businesses ahead of Tuesday night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field.

The Mets extended hundreds of complimentary tickets to small businesses that received grant funding through the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s Queens Small Business Grant Program, which provided vital resources to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative was made possible by a generous donation of $17.5 million from the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to inspiring philanthropy and community service.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of any local economy, and that’s especially true in Queens,” Mets Owner Steve Cohen said. “Alex and I were glad to see that the funds were distributed quickly and into the right hands, especially to minority and women-owned businesses. We’re proud to be part of this diverse community, and we look forward to seeing these businesses thrive.”

(Photo courtesy of NYCEDC)

As part of the “Queens Small Business Comeback Night” at Citi Field, the Mets and those in attendance recognized the success of the grant program, which dispersed $14 million to 755 small businesses and street vendors, with 90% of grants going to minority and women-owned businesses.

The program was launched last January by NYCEDC in partnership with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and business lender Pursuit.

“My office was honored to launch the Queens Small Business Grant Program and help provide a critical financial lifeline to more than 750 borough small businesses, many of which are minority-owned, facing unprecedented uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Richards said. “We could not be more thrilled by the success of this program. Thank you to our hometown New York Mets for recognizing this initiative and the incredible small businesses it assisted.”

(Photo courtesy of NYCEDC)

When he took over as the owner of the New York Mets for $2.4 billion in 2020, Cohen made a commitment to community investment in the neighborhoods surrounding Citi Field.

“We can’t thank Steve Cohen enough for his generosity,” NYCEDC Board Chair and Restaurateur Danny Meter said. “Through this partnership, NYCEDC was able to offer a vital lifeline to small businesses in Queens who may have had to otherwise close their doors for good.”

The program was aimed to support minority-owned small businesses and those located in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.

“NYCEDC has always been an unwavering partner in the borough’s overall economic growth and the Queens Small Business Grant Program provided crucial supplemental support on a community level in addition to federal programs that may or may not been accessible by some business owners,” Greater Jamaica Development Corporation President and CEO Hope Knight said. “Though we’re not out of the woods yet, good work is being done by those who have stepped up in this unprecedented time of need.”

Through the initiative, small businesses and street vendors with 20 or fewer employees were able to receive up to $20,000 for operating expenses.

“It has been a difficult year and a half for small businesses here in Queens, but throughout the pandemic, we have seen firsthand so many remarkable stories of resilience,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech said. “Our local businesses have worked harder than ever to stay afloat, giving each other a helping hand, when need be, and serving their communities in inspiring ways. This will ensure that cherished local institutions can stay open and continue employing Queens residents, serving our communities and adding character to the neighborhoods we all know and love.”