Cuisine by Claudette had only been open for six months before Hurricane Sandy hit in on Oct. 29, 2012.
Located right on Rockaway Park, the eatery wasn’t spared as the storm ravaged the Rockaways. It was forced to shut down so soon after opening, said John Efrati, Cuisine by Claudette general manager.
After it was back open, the business was able to receive a grant from the city to help it bounce back from Hurricane Sandy and to prepare for other storms in the future through a program called Business PREP.
The NYC Department of Small Business Services first launched Business PREP (Preparedness and Resiliency Program) in 2015, offering workshops and webinars to business owners throughout the five boroughs that focused on how to handle and reduce loss during emergency events.
In 2016, the city expanded Business PREP with emergency readiness grants to businesses impacted by Hurricane Sandy and free on-site risk assessments to help buiness owners prepare for more extreme weather events.
Ahead of the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the department of small business services announced that Business PREP has awarded a total of $345,000 in grants to more than 115 New York City small businesses operating in flood zones.
“With Hurricane Sandy, we saw the paralyzing effect that weather emergencies can have on our local economy,” said Gregg Bishop, department commissioner, in a statement. “It is imperative that, through programs like Business PREP, the city equips small businesses with the education and tools they need to withstand emergencies and continue powering our economy.”
The program has been able to retroactively provide support for small businesses battered by the 2012 storm, like Cuisine by Claudette.
“There wasn’t a lot of help after Sandy,” Efrati said. “Insurance companies weren’t paying anything, small business kind of got stuck in limbo.”
Facebook/Cuisine by Claudette
But when he first learned of the Small Business Services grants, he applied immediately, he said, and was awarded $3,000. All Business PREP grant awards can be up to $3,000 each, the city said, to allow business owners to purchase resiliency-related items.
Aside from the 115 businesses that received grants, the Business PREP program has helped another nearly 700 city businesses develop emergency preparedness plans, officials said.
August through October is considered peak hurricane season in New York. The department is reminding business owners that applications are open at nyc.gov/businessprep or via 311 for even more New York City small businesses to get free risk assessments and grant awards.
The Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy
Cuisine by Claudette has bounced back from the damage done by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and its improvement seems to be indicative of a Rockaway revival overall.
In March, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that the Queen’s neighborhood experiences record job growth and business sales since Hurricane Sandy.
While business sales dipped in the wake of Sandy, they reached $149 million in 2016 — which exceeds the pre-storm level by 35 percent and marks the highest level ever, according to officials.
There are also more businesses cropping up in the Rockaways. In 2016, there were 1,215 businesses there, an 11 increase since before Hurricane Sandy. Most of these businesses are small, officials said, with 81 percent having fewer than 10 employees and two-thirds with fewer than five employees.
Even six years since Hurricane Sandy, though, some are hoping for even more efforts to rebuild the Queens area.
“Residents are increasingly active in communities throughout the peninsula and some businesses are growing at levels higher than before the storm, but more still needs to be done,” said State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr in a statement back in March. “Too many homeowners are having difficulties with the rebuilding process, and transportation to and from the peninsula can be arduous for residents. Even with these hardships, the future for the Rockaways is a bright one, and even brighter if we work together.”