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Many sign-less storefronts on Union Street in Flushing.

Mom-and-pop businesses along Union Street in Flushing will be provided financial assistance under a new program by the Asian American Federation to replace costly signs after fearing the anti-awning ticket blitz that has swept across the city.

The Asian American Federation, a nonprofit organization working to advance the civic voice of Asian Americans in the New York Metropolitan area, launched the Signage Replacement Program on Jan. 11 for long-time small businesses on Union Street.

Prior to the New York City Council passing the Awnings Act on Jan. 9, business owners removed their store signs in fear of having to pay costly fines to the city, leaving the once vibrant commercial area starkly barren, and without any store identification.

Funds for business owners to replace their store signs will be secured by City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to assist merchants.

“We have been working with the EDC to identify the most effective assistance for the merchants that can remain a legacy long after our small business assistance program ends,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of AAF. “Many of the business owners are struggling to keep afloat, and they have told us that it is impossible to come up with the $8,000-$10,000 to pay for the new signs. By subsidizing a good chunk of the costs, we are proud to give the merchants a financial breather, and take away from their worries.”

AAF’s plans for the new signs include a standard look for commercial signs on Union Street to give it a unique character that draws shoppers back to the neighborhood. The new signage is expected to be installed in three to five months.

Meanwhile, the organization is working with business owners to put up temporary banners to identify their stores until the permanent signs are ready.

The Signage Replacement Program will be a life-saver for mom-and-pop businesses as they move to come into compliance without suffering from the deluge of fines and penalties by the city, according to Koo.

“I am proud to have secured this needed funding to help revitalize this vibrant shopping corridor, and I’d like to thank Asian American Federation for its staunch advocacy on behalf of these businesses,” he said.

Ikhwan Rim, president of the Union Street Small Business Association, said they have been hosting multiple meetings in search of a solution to the signage issue over a year.

“Our small businesses are competing with the big box stores moving in to our areas, and times are hard for all of us! But, we also think this is an opportunity for our merchants to hang signs that are uniform in design that will refresh Union Street, and attract more customers and provide a better environment for the merchants,” said Rim.

 

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