How businesses suffering from post-Ida got unexpected help

NEW YORK — As we watch Ida a year later, business owners across the city fought an uphill battle to get the help they needed in the wake of this storm.

Calvin Sennon and his wife Latoya opened TriniJam BK, a Caribbean restaurant in Canarsie in August 2020. The business weathered not just a global pandemic, but a storm that they say caused around $15,000 in damage.

“A ton of cargo, all of our security systems, all of the backup freezers, everything, everything was destroyed,” Sennon says.

Their basement flooded a foot of water, but they weren’t eligible for flood insurance. The day after the storm, they were visited by Randy Peers of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and within a week or so they were selected to receive a $5,000 grant from the TD Bank Charitable Foundation.

“We looked for very high-impact areas, regions and communities. And Brooklyn was one of those where we wanted to make sure we were delivering support to small businesses quickly,” explained Ralph Bumbaca, NYC Market President of TD Bank.

TriniJam BK was one of 7 Brooklyn businesses identified by the chamber for these post-storm micro-grants. In total, the TD Charitable Foundation gave Brooklyn businesses $30,000 in emergency relief. In total, the foundation distributed approximately $300,000 in East Coast aid to help offset some of the damage caused by the storm.

Another business benefiting from these grants is La Petite Chambre BK, a children’s store in Flatbush that opened in May 2021, less than four months before the remnants of this storm ravaged our area. Berta Villa, the owner, says she opened the shop after being fired. According to her, the pooling in her store damaged children’s toys, books, clothes and furniture, with a total value of about $5,000.

“It was like a nightmare,” the mother-of-two said. “I had just opened a few months later and it felt like the worst thing that could have happened to me at that time.”

She was unable to get help from insurance, but she also received a $2,500 grant from the TD Charitable Foundation.

Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, says he saw firsthand how businesses struggled in the days following the storm.

“It was really a game-changer for those companies that were thinking, ‘gosh after COVID now I’m facing a flood, what am I going to do?’ And it was really something to help them get back on their feet,” Peers told CBS2’s Hannah Kliger.

This week, TrinkJam BK celebrated its second anniversary, and La Petite Chambre BK is in full swing. The owners of both companies say they just hope to weather the next storm that comes their way.

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