Small Businesses Paid Staggering Price for 2020 Riots, New Data Reveals
Bronx stores reported $125 thousand in damage on average, and represent over half of looted small businesses during the riots
Bronx store owners who were looted still remember the Summer of 2020 riots, even as Mayor Bill de Blasio ekes out his way from office. And freshly obtained city data sheds new light on the extent to which those small businesses bore the hidden cost for Bill de Blasio’s disastrous handling of the riots.
The data documents damage reported by small businesses to the Department of Small Business Services, and documents emergency grants awarded to compensate qualifying looting victims – grants which fell much short of the actual damage inflicted by the riots.
According to the data, 141 small businesses reported over $12 million in combined damages – with $9.4 million in the Bronx alone. But the SBS grants were over 13 times less than that, with Bronx small businesses sustaining $125 thousand damage on average each. Individual grant awards were capped at $10 thousand per store.
In a a one-and-a-half mile survey of 34 looted stores from the data – representing $6.4 million in reported loss in the Bronx – businesses were not amused, and did not have fond memories of the mayor. Many expressed regret, bitterness, distrust, and relief at the mayor’s leaving. Six of the stores appeared out of business.
“That was one of the bad things that I will never forget,” one store owner said of de Blasio’s riots. “We seen police in front of our stores but they couldn't do nothing … they couldn't do anything about it in front of them on the streets.”
His store reported $1 million in damages. Other stores had similar memories that the NYPD did nothing to protect their businesses during the mass looting. Many stores blamed the mayor for what happened.
“We pay a lot of taxes, and the city do not have nothing for us,” said another store owner, “the city was not helpful at all, the city was failed to protect our rights, the city was totally failed.” His store reported $130,000 in damage. He said he believed the reason why was politics.
“He put everyone’s lives in danger,” said another store owner, “we were out here until 2 AM defending our store.” He described Bill de Blasio as “a complete failure,” and he thanked god he was leaving office.
Considering that, according to NYPD crime data, there were 618 reported burglaries between Manhattan and the Bronx at the peak of the riots, the SBS data provides that nearly one in four looted stores were small businesses, at least. Bronx small businesses bore the brunt of that damage, with 75 businesses making up more than half of the grants, but representing over three quarters of the reported damages. Correlated with the NYPD data, the SBS data reveals that at least 40% of the looted stores in the Bronx were small businesses, as were nearly one in seven of the looted businesses in Manhattan, at least, which received 57 awarded grants.
Though the data provides a rare measure of the cost borne to small businesses by the 2020 riots, it is not complete, and represents an undercount of the total damage to small businesses. It only documents small businesses making less than $1.5 million in annual revenue, and only businesses which applied for and were approved of the grants. It contains no data on large and corporate businesses. On the survey route – East Kingsbridge, Grand Concourse, and Burnside – looted small businesses not represented in the data were encountered.
“If we're not qualified, then who's qualified?,” said a manager at an independent pharmacy whose grant application was rejected. She said the city agents were “very rude.” “As if people were trying to get free money or something,” she said, “the attitude that he's like, you guys are not qualified, I don't understand why you are calling. We just ended up giving up.”
It wasn’t the first time the city snubbed her store. “We got zero help during the night of the riot,” she said, “we called 9-1-1 at least like 20, 40, 50 times. We don't even know, because nobody picked up, it was just ringing.”
“it was a very memorable, but painful experience,” she said.
The data represents a diverse variety of stores: pawn shops, jewelers, electronics shops, pharmacies, furniture stores, hardware stores, delis, restaurants, liquor stores, clothing stores, eyeglass stores, and plenty others.
Not a single looted business spoken to expressed any positive feelings about the outgoing mayor.
Responding to records requests, both the Economic Development Corporation and the Department of City Planning claimed to not possess any documentation or reporting on the riots at all.
Though, the last time similar riots broke out citywide, during the 1977 ConEdison blackout, the Department of City Planning did in fact conduct and publish a thorough analysis of that mass looting event within the month. Allegedly, the same department did not analyze the 2020 riots. To date, no analysis of the 2020 riots has ever been published by any government agency.
But the Bronx is never going to forget.