On Aug. 22, residents of the Queens neighborhood of Corona gathered to create a vision for the future of Roosevelt Avenue, the commercial heart of the neighborhood. AAFE is leading the initiative, which is soliciting resident input as part of a Commercial District Needs Assessment conducted by the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS). Make the Road New York and the Queens Chamber of Commerce are also participating in the needs assessment, which is being facilitated through SBS’s Neighborhood 360° program.

All of the partner organizations took part in the visioning session, as well as representatives from Renaissance Economic Development Corp., an AAFE affiliate dedicated to supporting small businesses in New York City.

“There was a great community turnout, all Spanish-speaking Latino people ranging from young adults to seniors,” said Marco Fiallos, Renaissance portfolio management associate. Latinos make up more than 60% of Corona’s population. The event built off of an AAFE survey of more than 200 area businesses, all of whom provided input on potential commercial improvements in the Roosevelt Avenue area.

The event was set up “speed-dating style,” with facilitators moving from table to table.  According to Fiallos, two main concerns emerged from the discussion: regulation of street vendors, particularly pertaining to hygiene and food safety, and pricing. The latter was especially important to older residents, who noted that stores easily accessible in their area generally charge higher prices than chain stores, which are not usually found in their neighborhood.

Participants expressed a desire for stronger food vendor hygiene regulations. Some suggested mandating glove use, while others said vendors should be required to obtain food handlers licenses. However, another commonly-voiced concern was a lack of accessibility to the permits. In addition, some residents voiced concern over the amount of space street vendors take up, and suggested size limitations for such businesses. The prevalence of street vendors in the area, though, may be at least partially explained by the other most oft-cited concern at the event: cost-prohibitive commercial rent.

At the end of the visioning session, AAFE summarized the findings for SBS, which will continue to research community viewpoints in preparation for the eventual Neighborhood 360° report.

Neighborhood 360° has previously released needs assessments for areas including Downtown Staten Island and East Harlem. Participation from residents is critical for developing a comprehensive neighborhood plan.