COVID-19: Nearly Three in Four Businesses in Brooklyn Continue to Struggle

Numerous commercial spaces are available for rent in Flatbush Avenue. Photo by Kelsey Santos.


Nearly three in four businesses in Brooklyn continue to see lower sales compared to before the pandemic. That’s according to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce who surveyed Brooklyn Businesses. 

This has resulted in 33% of businesses having trouble paying their rent, and some of those businesses are now in danger of disappearing as a result of the state lifting its 20-month eviction embargo prompted by the pandemic.

“Actually a new grant program was approved recently in October to help small businesses that are having a tough time,” said Adrian Banneker, a customer service representative of the NYC Small Business Services. “The grants are given to the different Business Improvement Districts around the city and they handle it from there.”

The grant initiative enables the development and deployment of technical assistance programs, resources for capacity building, and back-office services for the benefit of numerous Business Improvement Districts and Special Assessment Districts with annual assessments less than or equal to $1,000,000. This funding is made available to nonprofit organizations. 

“The communities that require them the most will benefit from these desperately needed funds. BIDs are a significant resource for small businesses and the communities they serve across the City,” said Banneker. “Whether it be by supplementing safety and sanitation services or by promoting economic activity through street activations and holiday lights.”

Establishments around Flatbush Avenue are trying their best to stay in business until they’re left with no option but to close permanently. 

“We were devastated to see a significant number of neighborhood businesses closing permanently,” said Sneha Goud, the outreach manager of Flatbush Business Improvement District (BID). “We make every effort to support the preservation of these vulnerable enterprises. We advertise businesses on social media and host networking events where business owners can meet and conduct business-related negotiations,”

The Flatbush BID helps the community in many ways including seasonal events for giveaways around the holidays, organizes discussions with a variety of stakeholders on a range of challenging topics and initiatives that affect the Flatbush neighborhood, build community partnerships, and more. 

Goud noted that one of the primary causes of local businesses’ inability to get back on their feet is the current dominance of online shopping after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“People are accustomed to online shopping because of the pandemic. With these businesses, there are no websites for online shopping or online pickups,” said Goud. “Majority of the businesses in this area are mom-and-pop stores and small, neighborhood enterprises run by older people who are not up to date with today’s technology. You’ll need to physically go and visit the business to do your shopping.”

The majority of the local establishments in the neighborhood have been in business for over a decade. Therefore, they have struggled to adjust to the aftermath of the pandemic to get back on the right track.

“It was really bad for me during the pandemic. I was closed for a year and a half and I opened back up last year in 2021,” said Brian Clarke, a mom and pop shop owner. “Now people need masks and stuff to protect themselves so as you can see I began to sell masks, gloves, wipes, and selling them would help me pick up the pace again in selling and making money.”

Clarke owns a small stand shop by the corner of Flatbush Ave and Church Avenue. He’s been in business for over 12 years selling different pieces of clothing like socks, hats, beanies, and also accessories. Clarke mentioned having some competition with the new Target store that opened next to him in July 2022, but says he sees a positive side of it.

“I was actually shocked when I found out a Target was opening right next to me. That’s when I realized that this neighborhood is doing a 180 turn,” said Clarke. “I actually don’t mind in a way because it means there’s going to be more foot traffic which also benefits me. More people will pass by me and probably stop to look or buy something.”

Clarke says he doesn’t fear the competition due to his products being sold at a lower price than the company and people nowadays place a high value on saving money.

“I feel blessed to still be here. You know it’s been tough but we’re staying strong here,” said Clarke.