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Sunset Park’s Fifth Avenue Businesses Feel Economic Toll of Pandemic

The mostly immigrant-owned businesses on Brooklyn's Fifth Avenue are either suffering or planning to close for good

Mazin Sidahmed

Jun 29, 2020

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Storefronts on the 4400 block of Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park in Brooklyn are emblematic of the economic toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on New York City, especially on its immigrant business owners.

Like many businesses in Sunset Park, immigrants own most storefronts on the 4400 block, and many are feeling the pressure created by the pandemic. Almost two-thirds of ground-floor commercial tenants in New York City did not pay rent in May and June, according to the Community Housing Improvement Program. These are often businesses such as bodegas and nail salons. 

The New York Times interviewed multiple business owners and found many are not planning to reopen while others are struggling to survive. El Rancho, a butcher that sells specialty meat, could not accept food stamps during the pandemic, which many customers were now relying on, because their permit expired and they could not renew it. They began lines of credit for some clients, totaling $8,000 per month. 

Bay Ridge French Cleaners is owned by Alex, a Dominican immigrant, who said the “situation is really, really, really bad.” The New York Times

In other New York immigration news…

New Yorkers Hit Hard by Trump’s Work Visa Ban

Thousands of New Yorkers are facing uncertainty due to a new executive order signed by President Donald Trump that went into effect on June 24. It restricts new non-immigrant visas, including the H-1B visa, and could impact 525,000 individuals. Biplab Kumar Das works for a software company in New York and is now stranded in India after he went home to care for his father who passed away shortly after he arrived. Without an H-1B visa stamp, he is unable to return to the U.S. Bedford + Bowery

ICE Deported Key Witness in Lawsuit

The New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial board compared ICE to Vladimir Putin following the agency’s deportation of a key plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit over conditions in detention facilities. Hector Garcia Mendoza was named in a class-action lawsuit decrying the conditions immigrants were held in during the pandemic. He was deported to Mexico four days after the lawsuit was filed, despite a court order. He has been missing since May 19th and 18 members of Congress wrote a letter to ICE calling his deportation “outrageous.” The class-action lawsuit called for the release of the 114 people who are detained at the private detention center in Elizabeth. The Star-Ledger [Opinion]

City Council May Cut Immigrant Workers’ Center Support

As the New York City Council finalizes its budget on June 30, workers’ centers that serve immigrants across the city are facing potential cuts to city funding. These organizations serve immigrant workers who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, either due to losing the work available to day laborers or facing exploitation at high-risk jobs. Many undocumented immigrant workers were hired for cleaning work to disinfect work sites for other workers, often without being given adequate equipment. Manuel Castro, the executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment worker’s center, called on City Council to maintain discretionary funding support for workers’ centers in the upcoming budget. Gotham Gazette [Opinion]

Mazin Sidahmed

Mazin Sidahmed is the co-executive director of Documented. He previously worked for the Guardian US in New York. He started his career writing for The Daily Star in Beirut and he also contributed to Politico New York.




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