All the help we can get
The economic damage that the COVID
19 pandemic has wrought upon
New York City is almost incalculable.
Almost every sector of our economy took a
massive fi nancial hit, and needs all the help
it can get to recover.
The city says 22,000 municipal jobs remain
in jeopardy because of the unprecedented $9
billion budget gap at City Hall. The MTA has
been begging for money for weeks to close its
massive $12 billion budget gap.
Offi ce vacancies are skyrocketing. Residential
tenants have fallen behind on their
rents and amassed even greater debt. The
entire tourism industry, which pumps tens
of billions of dollars in revenue into the city
each year, is at a virtual standstill.
And the heart of our entertainment
economy — the Theater District, which has
been dark since March — remains off-limits
to audiences through the end of May 2021.
A cynic might suggest that rescuing
Broadway might not be as important as the
other sectors of our economy that are also
in dire straits. But they would be wrong.
Theater in New York employs close to
100,000 people — actors, stagehands, crew,
etc. Broadway and Off-Broadway productions
generated close to $15 billion in revenue in
2019, according to the Broadway League.
There’s also the external impact of Broadway
shows — including restaurants, bars,
souvenir shops, even the hot dog vendors
within walking distance of the theaters. All
of them have suffered mightily during the
pandemic, and that will continue for as long
as Broadway remains dark.
The billion-dollar conglomerates who own
shops and restaurants in Times Square might
weather this economic storm and survive —
but all the small businesses in the district won’t
without a massive infusion of economic relief.
What makes this situation so horrifi c is
that the theater industry has to get on the
same line with the city, the MTA, residential
tenants, commercial tenants, landlords,
businesses and so many others in this city
desperate for relief.
The fate of New York City is locked to
the fate of America. Whether grandstanding
politicians want to admit it, this country’s
fi nancial health depends upon our city’s
well-being. Starving New York of economic
aid is not a winning political strategy; it’s
a death sentence for our economy. It’s time
for Senate Republicans and the president to
stop governing by spite and hatred. It’s time
for them to work with House Democrats to
truly save our city’s economy — and pave the
way for Broadway’s lights to glow once more.
FILE PHOTO VIA REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR
A customer buys red snapper at JMS Seafood, a fish wholesaler in the New
Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx section of New York City.
New York’s restaurants
and seafood need help
BY LEIGH HABEGGER AND KERRY
Each summer in the Bronx, the New
Fulton Fish Market teems with fresh
seafood harvested by U.S. fi shermen
in the waters off New England and the Mid-
Atlantic. Fishermen land New York’s famous
oysters, lobster, Montauk Sea Bream, and
countless other offerings that quickly make
their way to restaurants like Grand Banks.
In New York and New Jersey alone,
the commercial fi shing industry is valued
at $11 billion. When you consider the
additional $17 billion market size for the
restaurant industry, the value of these two
industries is staggering. They fuel our
coastal economy, employ thousands, and
are signifi cant economic drivers.
Once COVID-19 gripped the region,
the fi shing industry saw a 30% decline in
revenue, and our restaurants shuttered to
help contain the virus. Cash drawers stayed
closed for weeks and seafood orders ceased.
Independent restaurants have lost more
jobs than any other industry, impacting
their 11 million employees nationwide and
the 5 million workers they support in supply
chain industries, including fi shermen.
Normally, nearly 70% of all seafood
caught is consumed in food service establishments.
But as New York works slowly
to reopen safely, we won’t be near “normal”
for a long time – many restaurants’ cash
drawers sat empty for months and seafood
sales declined by 80%. Restaurants are cashstrapped
as indoor dining remains strictly
limited and customers are fewer. This slowdown
impacts the entire supply chain and
forces fi shermen to sell much less seafood.
To keep fresh seafood on the plates
of American consumers, we are asking
Congress to consider the needs of our industries
outlined below as they negotiate
another relief package.
The bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act
would provide $120 billion in grants to independent
restaurants like The Fulton, Pearl
Oyster Bar, Grand Banks, and other iconic
NYC seafood restaurants. The legislation now
has 210 House co-sponsors and 40 Senate
co-sponsors. Economists project that this
fund could pour $271 billion back into the
economy and reduce unemployment by 2.4%.
Commercial fi shermen and the seafood
industry also need an additional $1.5 billion
in direct fi sheries assistance and $2
billion so the U.S. Department of Agriculture
can purchase seafood – similar to how
they provide relief to other food product
industries. Direct aid through the fi sheries
assistance program will allow fi shermen
to pay bills and boat mortgages, provide
for their families, and support our coastal
communities. USDA seafood purchases
will help get fi shermen back to work and
provide Americans with safe, sustainable
and nutritious protein through the USDA
food assistance programs.
By providing relief to both fi shermen
and restaurants, Congress can ensure
both the longevity of our businesses and
consumers’ access to the most sustainable
seafood in the world, all while returning
hundreds of billions of dollars and millions
of jobs in the process.
Leigh Habegger is executive director of
Seafood Harvesters of America; Kerry Heffernan
is Chef at Grand Banks in Hudson
River Park, Manhattan.
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10 Oct. 15, 2020 Schneps Media