Mass Layoffs Imminent If State, Fed Do Not Take Drastic Action Immediately (Updated)

A shuttered business in Fort Greene Monday. Photo by Craig Hubert

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    Editor’s note: This story is being updated throughout the day. Check the end for the latest developments.

    Mass layoffs are looming if states and the federal government do not take drastic measures immediately. The repercussions on individuals, families, businesses of all sizes, and the economy will be severe. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, local politicians, entrepreneurs, laid-off workers and others are calling for the government to suspend payments of all kinds, including rents, mortgages, loans, payroll taxes, sales tax and utilities.

    In Brooklyn and beyond, layoffs started Friday, chiefly concentrated among restaurants and event businesses. Clinton Hill restaurant Vini e Olii and the Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg and Crown Heights’ Berg’n shut their doors, among many others. Late Monday, layoffs spread to other businesses, such as Alamo Draft House and McNally Jackson. The bookseller, which earlier this month opened a second Brooklyn store at City Point in Downtown Brooklyn, laid off 80 Monday, workers detailed in a post on Medium. They have set up a McNally Jackson Support Fund on PayPal.

    Even large companies who retail non-essential items have shut their stores and are expected to start layoffs soon. J.Crew, which has a store in Williamsburg, said they will pay associates for two weeks.

    Restaurants and bars that remain open are switching to takeout per orders and have drastically scaled back. In Bed Stuy, Peaches and Beso are among those who are scaling back and changing their processes and menu to takeout, Patch reported. In an unprecedented move, Cuomo announced they are allowed to sell alcoholic drinks to go.

    Jen Mankins of Brooklyn clothing boutique Bird, which has stores in Williamsburg, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene and Park Slope, has moved operations online for the time being. “This is devastating and catastrophic and there’s no end in sight to what the real economic impact is going to be on all of us,” she commented to fellow entrepreneur Jonathan Butler of the Flea and Smorg in an Instagram thread about the shutdown.

    Beauty salon Fringe, whose Brooklyn location is in Carroll Gardens, like many small businesses in Brooklyn, pivoted quickly from staying open and taking precautionary measures to closing temporarily. Monday it announced on Instagram it will shut for one week.

    Businesses selling essential goods and services such as grocery stores, hardware, cleaning and repair remain open for business, such as grocery store Greene Grape in Fort Greene, although some have moved to a pick up or delivery model, such as Utica Avenue Plumbing Supply in East Flatbush, which, like many, sent out an email to customers about the situation Monday. Amazon, which has a facility in Sunset Park, said it is hiring extra workers nationwide for its warehouse and delivery operations to handle increased online orders. Greene Grape posted a statement on its blog stating it is open for business and taking precautions such as hourly cleanings.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is calling on Congress to “suspend payroll taxes for employers and make emergency loans available to big and small companies” during the crisis, MarketWatch reported Monday. Brad Lander and other local pols are also calling for similar measures. New York City has already arranged for grants and loans for small business, but they fall short of what is needed. Edible Brooklyn, Gowanus Dredgers and others are urging people to buy gift certificates to support local business and others are crowdsourcing funds to donate.

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    As of Tuesday, March 17, Brooklyn Botanic Garden is temporarily closed in order to support our city’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are taking this step out of care for BBG staff and community members.⠀ ⠀ Classes, workshops, and tours are cancelled through April.⠀ ⠀ Advance registration for all March programs will be refunded. Staff will contact students enrolled in March and April classes with information about receiving refunds. We will make an announcement about Sakuri Matsuri by Friday, March 20.⠀ ⠀ We are deeply saddened that the community will not be able to enjoy the pleasures of early spring here in the coming weeks. We will regroup when this emergency has abated to welcome you back into the full embrace of the Garden.

    A post shared by Brooklyn Botanic Garden (@brooklynbotanic) on

    An online petition asks Cuomo to suspend rent, mortgage and utility payments during the crisis. Even without government action, homeowners may be able to negotiate individually with their mortgage lenders for a temporary suspension of payments, according to Forbes. However, the crush of inquiries could be overwhelming. Government websites were unable to handle the deluge of online applications for unemployment Monday, it was widely reported.

    The White House and Congress are moving now to potentially arrange loans and cut payroll taxes, The New York Times reported. Mayor de Blasio said on CNN today the economic fallout will be like the Great Depression, the Times reported.

    A “shelter in place” order is likely coming in New York City, Mayor de Blasio said this afternoon. We hear rumors the city is preparing for a curfew. Alternate side parking has been suspended. We are updating this story as the situation develops.

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    Way before the current public health crisis hit, we planned our annual fundraiser to help fund free and low-cost studio programs, financial aid, and scholarships for children and families who cannot afford great art education on their own. 🖤 Now, with our doors closed to the public, we need your support more than ever. Our online auction (that you can conveniently participate in from the comfort and social isolation of your own home) features items generously donated by over 80 AMAZING local businesses. Your bids will not only help our own non-profit art studio weather the current storm, but we hope will highlight the remarkable range of small businesses operating in our neighborhood — many of whom offer delivery! — who also need your support at this time. 👋🏻 We are so grateful to be a part of this amazing North Brooklyn community. Take a look at just a few of our absolutely incredible neighbors, and click the link in our bio to place your bids! 💫 Thank you so much to @lefanfare @brokenlandbar @exleynyc @getawaybrooklyn @diandi.nyc @thegreenpointpalace and @basikbrooklyn for your support. Stay tuned for lots more local business highlights until bidding ends on the 29th!

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