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NY City Businesses That Opened During the Pandemic

More than 2,800 businesses New York City businesses have shuttered their doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But New Yorkers are known for resilience, and many new businesses successfully opened their doors in the coronavirus economy.

The brand new Krispy Kreme shop, a full 4,500 square-foot venue, is open for business in the middle of Times Square. And even when the tourists are gone, Broadway theaters are closed, and hotels have more vacancies than occupancies, the doughnut emporium is busy. As if the fresh, sweet doughnuts were not enough of a reason for patrons to visit the new site, dozens of masked and socially distant customers line up outside each day to view the production line that churns out thousands of doughnuts every hour. The glaze waterfall, standing 24-inches tall, is another attraction.

Krispy Kreme doughnut
Fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee bring customers to the new Times Square locatin

Murray’s Cheese is a New York staple. For 80 years, the company has been selling cheese, wine, and delicacies across the five boroughs.  A new location opened in August in Long Island City, Queens.

Nick Tranchina, president of Murray’s, said the decision to finish the construction and open the shop and restaurant was easy. “We knew people wanted to go out, and we wanted to make people’s days better. Cheese brings joy.” The outdoor space can only accommodate five tables, and predictably, the demand has been far higher than that. “We’re in the process of increasing our space,” Mr. Tranchina said. “We’ve already hired more staff, extended our hours, and tightened the menu.”

Murray's Cheese

But it is not only eateries that are pulling through the corona-chaos. Shen Beauty, in Brooklyn, is an independent cosmetics and beauty shop. In January, the owner began renovations on a new, bigger space a few blocks from the original store. When everything came to a halt in March, plans had to be revamped. Finally, on September 1, the new 1,800 square-foot space opened. The shelves are lined with 1500 products from 150 companies; four sterile and safe treatment rooms are used for facials, massages, etc. After more than six months of lockdown, customers are looking for ways to treat themselves. Ladies (and men) who were forced to neglect their usual self-care routines are finding their way back to beauty practices for the body and soul.

2020 New York Business Journal’s Women of Influence Announced

Dorit Ungar Black, a founding partner at New York’s Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP was named as one of ten  Women of Influence in 2020 by the New York Business Journal.

The women recognized this year are all pioneers in the legal, finance, engineering, and real estate industries. They have all demonstrated professional and communal leadership and demonstrated their commitment to workplace excellence as well as civil engagement and involvement. 

This is not Ungar Black’s first 2020 award. She was named Best in Litigation by Euromoney Legal Media Group as part of the 2020 Women in Business Law Awards, and also listed on Crain’s New York Business’ 2020 Notable Women in Law list.

Pandemic Brings Early Holiday Season to New York

The rushed last-minute holiday shopping scramble may just be another annual tradition lost to the coronavirus pandemic. Across New York and the country, retailers are getting a head start on the holiday season.

While most shoppers don’t usually appreciate the holiday “creep,” this year there are several good reasons for getting an early go on gifts and cheer.

First, stores are looking to reduce in-store crowding. Typical doorbuster sales are not being offered, with many companies driving shoppers to websites to avoid crowds, curb the need for social-distancing enforcement, and minimize chaos.

Another good reason for the early holiday season is the goal of minimizing shipping holdups that are typical in November and December. Many chains were overwhelmed by the lock-down induced online shopping surge, so they are looking to learn from that experience and motivate shoppers to buy early.

The economic fallout of the pandemic has many New York stores rebranding their holiday gift ideas. Many people are unemployed, looking to save where they can, and not expecting to travel to large family get togethers where numerous presents would be necessary. Instead, merchandise is being geared toward “homey activities” that keep people active, offer entertainment for kids, and even introduce new hobbies. Similarly, more stores are offering on-line shopping with curbside pick-up. 2020 has certainly been a different kind of year. The early holiday retail is one good way of ushering in cheer and joy when we need it most.

Health Heroes: A New Award Program for New York

Empire BlueCross BlueShield, in collaboration with Crain’s New York Business, has launched the 2020 Empire Whole Health Heroes Awards program. The program is designed to recognize and highlight individuals who have exhibited profound commitment, kindness, and outstanding leadership in the field of health and wellness in New York City during the continued coronavirus emergency.

As the largest health insurer in New York, Empire has spent the last several months tracking, recording, and reading endless stories of the hope, resilience and determination of New Yorkers. The Heroes program will recognize a total of 50 honorees in the following categories:

  • Health Care Whole Health Heroes: Health care delivery leaders or those in professional services/technologies supporting the health care sector (nurses, doctors, EMTs, etc.)
  • Business Whole Health Heroes: Private sector leaders (CEOs, business owners/executives, HR directors, etc.)
  • Essential Whole Health Heroes: Individuals leading the way as essential service providers (infrastructure, transportation, emergency services—like police or fire), warehouse and delivery, critical manufacturing, food and agriculture, government and community-based services)
  • Whole Health Insurance Brokers: Leaders in sales, administrative and customer support

To submit a nominee, an essay must be uploaded online at crainsnewyork.com/wholehealth starting today through November 6, 2020 at midnight EST. Winners will be featured in Crain’s New York Business (print and online) in a special section on January 18, 2021. A virtual salute and event will recognize honorees on January 15, 2021.

New York City is Growing Fintech Center

New York City has always been a welcoming home for the financial and business sectors of the economy. Some of the world’s leading financial outfits have based their headquarters in the Big Apple. But continual technological shifts, the coronavirus pandemic, and demographic transitions are giving New York City a new title. Now, more than ever, New York is emerging as the heart of fintech, the rapidly growing, entrepreneurial-driven industry bridging the divide between technology and financial operations.

This fintech opportunity is not entirely new for the city. Since the Fintech Innovation Lab New York was founded in 2010,  44 partners have signed-on, alumni companies have garnered over $1 billion, 1,100 jobs have been created, and close to 250 proof of concept businesses have been generated. 69 companies, including five acquisitions, were formed.

According to Forrester Research, New York’s fintech industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the North American economy. It has the biggest market of tech talent across the U.S. and has more fintech industry workers (333,000) than San Francisco Bay Area (310,000). New York has the most computer-science graduates, more than 7,600 each year, and is home to close to 100 academic institutions. Tech:NYC reports that 10 percent of the nation’s developers are located in New York City.

Way back in 2011, then mayor Michael Bloomberg (also a fintech entrepreneur), acknowledged the burgeoning importance of technology in the city’s economic future. Cornell University and the Technion (Israel’s Institute of Technology) joined forces to build a $2 billion graduate school of applied sciences, making New York City the world’s premier technology capital. In 2019, New York was designated the “world’s global technology leader” by U.K.’s Savills Survey.

Crisis as Opportunity for Female Leadership

The coronavirus pandemic is generating thousands of opportunities for women to showcase their strengths and step into leadership positions.

The economies disrupted by COVID-19 will eventually need to be realigned. Businesses around the world will be redefining their operational models and reassessing their business strategies. European Central Bank President, Christine Lagarde, argues that the male tendency to shy away from crisis is now a prime chance for women to shine. According to Lagarde, now is exactly when industries of all kinds are seeking leaders who are eager and capable of tackling unchartered challenges. We know that women lead differently and that is precisely what everyone is looking for right now: new paradigms for productivity, dynamic designs for development, and revolutionary ideas for resilience.

After years of making less money than men, women have become adept at budgeting and financial efficiency. Similarly, women have traditionally contended with a myriad of hurdles—in and out of the workplace—making them agile problem solvers and expert multi-taskers. As companies of all sizes look to restore their pre-corona activity, women leadership will inspire employees, drive sales, motivate managers, build budgets, and  cultivate innovation.

Working women have always been scrutinized and held to higher standards. The flip side of this unfortunate bias is the honing of skills and practices that reduce mistakes or mishaps. Women are hyper conscious of being called out in the workplace and therefore pay much more attention to detail.

Similarly, women are known to be “big picture” thinkers; they care about the greater good and prioritize the people side of things over the financial bottom line. As employees continue to worry about job stability and their personal finances, female leadership will be vital to maintaining their motivation and ensuring their productivity. Returning to work, whether in the office or virtually, after the prolonged trauma of corona will necessitate empathy, structure, agility, and respect—all characteristics seen more prominently in women executives than men.

Now is the time for experienced women to show their skills, speak up in the board room, and fill the leadership void.

How to Support Women-Led Businesses During Crisis

Since the very outset of the pandemic, COVID-19 has had a crippling ripple effect across world economies and international supply chains. In every country, businesses are navigating devastating obstacles: detrimental drops in revenue, debt, and job loss. For small and medium outfits, also known as SMEs, the financial turmoil is particularly devastating. And women-owned SMEs are feeling the crunch even more. These women, many of them mothers, report extreme stress levels and minimal support in juggling the multitude of responsibilities.

Ultimately, it is in the power of each of us, consumers and customers, to rethink how we do business and find ways to engage with these SMEs to ensure their survival. Here are a few ways to help:

1. Go local: With a little research, it is possible to find local service providers for almost all businesses. Whether it is agricultural products or produce, office administration or copywriting, it is worth seeking out the small business that will value your business more than any corporate entity. Similarly, the money you funnel toward a local small business is more likely to be channeled back in to other local businesses, so it is a cycle of support that keeps growing.

2. Spread the Word: When you have a good SME experience, make sure to spread the word and recommend the service to friends and family.

3. Support With More Than Just Money: Consider using some of your skills (marketing, tech knowledge, accounting, etc.) to help a small business owner. While your business will always be appreciated, your expertise will also be valued. Some SME owners might be willing to barter with you or trade services instead of direct payments.

4. Make it Easy to Do Business with You: Company comptrollers, regulators, policymakers, and leadership should be flexible in all the protocols and procedures, deadlines and guidelines, necessary to engage with an SME contractor. No corners should be cut or laws overlooked, but show SMEs grace when asking for robust paperwork and huge projects.

Finding the Balance in Tech and Business

Distinction and nuance are not common these days. Everyone is eager to either be “all in” or “totally against” the newest and coolest fads, fashions, and even phones. Current economic, social, political, and personal realities have yielded a climate of cynicism about the dangers of social media, the disturbing possibilities of digital surveillance on smartphones, and the power stronghold of tech and business giants.

The countless ways technology and scientific advances have changed modern life can be viewed as both positives and negatives. Some people perceive innovation as life-changing; others categorize them as unnecessary (or even evil). But it is creative thinking and constant discovery that fuels progress. Whether it is apps, gadgets, start-ups, or business models, there is something to be said for striking the right balance between outright enthusiasm and paralyzing negativity.

The world as we know it relies on the greatest minds to continually push for more. But it also needs to leave room for the doubters. Those asking the hard questions, like “why?” and “who might this harm?” need to be heard and taken seriously. Business growth and tech expansion do not happen in a vacuum. They generate tools, policies, and platforms that transform the way we live and how we interact with the world.

Executives, administrators, and developers will do well to remember that there are people at the other end of that bottom line, avatar, or username. Pretentiousness must be abandoned for humility by those hard at work in the tech and finance sectors. Even those who govern these industries—the policymakers and overseeing officials—need to bridge their zeal with the right amounts of reality-informed doubt.

Empire Station Complex Remains On Track

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the Empire State Complex, a formidable redevelopment initiative set to drastically revamp Pennsylvania Station and the surrounding area, earlier this year. In July 2020, the project team heard the concerns and comments of many community activists, experts, and officials, and they are now ready to move ahead with a revised version of the project. Based on the preliminary schedule from New York’s Empire State Development agency, the final scope of work will be presented by the end of 2021.

Governor Cuomo’s goal is to make Penn Station a world-class transportation hub for the millions of New Yorkers, tourists, and commuters that pass through there annually.

The complex is set to comprise 19.6 million square feet, including over 14 million square feet of commercial office space, 800,000 square feet for retail, and an equal amount for hotel space. The project is also being designed to seamlessly connect Penn Station and the new Moynihan Train Hall, create eight new train tracks, and open new entrances to subway stations. Widen platforms and additional ramps and elevators will make the complex ADA-compliant.

The Empire State Complex sits between Sixth Avenue and Ninth Avenue and spans from West 30th Street to West 34th Street. The most notable buildings included in the complex area are Pennsylvania Station, Madison Square Garden, Moynihan Train Hall, and the Farley Office Building.

While no cost for the complex has been revealed, but the Governor’s office says the project is “self-funded” by city income and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) fees that are issued to manufacturing, industrial, and not-for-profit companies. The project is slated for completion by 2038.

New York Museums Reopening With Collaborative Healing Projects

New York exhibit

New Yorkers are starting to go out more. As city dwellers begin to come out of lockdown, they are also looking for ways to process all that has happened over the last few months. Individually and collectively, New York is trying to internalize and address the lives, communities, finances, and stability lost since the outbreak of the pandemic.

“Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine”, a new oral history exhibition by the New-York Historical Society, curated testimonies and photographs of New Yorkers from across the five boroughs. It is one of the first new exhibitions to open since March and will be conducted entirely outdoors. The exhibit is meant to be a space for healing and restoration. Visitors are encouraged to record their own feelings and pandemic experiences as well.

The Museum of the City of New York is still closed, but it does have an outdoor installation of pictures of life during coronavirus submitted by New Yorkers displayed on its facade and terrace.