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The ANHD Blog raises the profile of our issues, and educates our member groups, city decision makers, and the general public on our core issue areas. The ANHD Blog offers sharp, timely and effective commentary on key public policy issues, as well as our work and the work of our member groups.

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Meet the Merchant Leaders of the Citywide Merchant Organizing Project

November 25, 2023

This video series shares the stories of the merchant leaders of the Citywide Merchant Organizing Project. In addition to owning and operating storefront businesses, they organize to fight displacement pressures, build community wealth, and drive truly equitable economic development.

In the summer of 2022, ANHD launched the Citywide Merchant Organizing Project with funding from the NYC Department of Small Business Services and Goldman Sachs Foundation. Over the course of the first year of the program, we worked with seven partner organizations - Asian American Federation, BKLVLUP, Chhaya CDC, Cooper Square Committee, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, Rockaway East Merchants Association, and the Yemeni American Merchants Association - to form merchants associations, develop merchant leaders, and build merchant power against the threats of commercial tenant displacement.

This video series shares the stories of a handful of those merchant leaders, all of them immigrants and/or people of color, and their storefront businesses in East Flatbush, Flatlands, Jackson Heights, Richmond Hill, the Lower East Side, and Kingsbridge. Many of them mention the challenges of opening and maintaining a successful business and the uncertainty of their long-term stability as rents rise, but they also emphasize the importance of the support they receive from organizations like our CMOP partners. With the leadership of these merchants and many more like them, ANHD and our partners continue to organize and advocate for commercial tenant protections.

Casa Adela in the Lower East Side

Casa Adela is a neighborhood institution run by merchant leader Luis Rivera, who took over the Puerto Rican restaurant when his mother passed away. Luis talks about the rising rents in the Lower East Side and what that means for the future of his business. With the help of his community, legal service providers, and organizations like the Cooper Square Committee, Luis was able to fight off a massive rent increase, access funding opportunities, and keep his doors open.

Lucy’s Flower Shop in Kingsbridge

Just down the street from the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx, Lucy’s Flower Shop is one among a tight-knit group of long-term businesses who have organized to keep each others’ doors open through challenges that have included untenable rent increases, pandemic shutdowns, and now the city’s third redevelopment attempt of the armory, which is contributing to upward rent pressures. The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition is helping to reactivate the local merchants association in order to build the leadership of merchants like Lucy and make sure they are heard in the redevelopment process.

Shangrila of Nepal, Desi Wears, Didi Dukan, Green Boy Fruit & Vegetable, Shivram's Bakery, Rara Group, and Amrit Textiles in Jackson Heights and Richmond Hill

These seven businesses serve the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities of Jackson Heights and Richmond Hill. The importance of these businesses–which include a grocery store, a money transfer agency, and a fabric store–cannot be overstated. In a neighborhood of diverse immigrants and languages, local small businesses provide goods and services that residents rely on to maintain their cultural and religious identities. Chhaya CDC works alongside these businesses and many more to make sure they can stay in place and continue serving their communities. 

Lips Cafe in East Flatbush

Lips Cafe doesn’t just serve coffee–they serve community. Jamane Weekes co-owns the cafe and community space with his mother, and they anchor their East Flatbush community by hosting events, collaborating with other businesses and local nonprofits, and offering a space for local residents to work and connect. Jamane contributes his leadership and expansive network to BKLVLUP’s merchant organizing work in the neighborhood.

The Eighty 8th Med Spa in Flatbush

Dr. Marie Paul and her three children co-own and operate The Eighty 8th Med Spa, bringing health and beauty treatments to her home community in the heart of Brooklyn and also transferring knowledge and training to develop medical professionals within the neighborhood. As a merchant leader working with BKLVLUP, Dr. Paul helps drive an economic development model that builds community wealth.

Suede in East Flatbush

Managing partner Chasen Hollancind calls Suede a restaurant “by the community for the community,” providing upscale dining in a neighborhood where residents would often have to travel elsewhere to find such options. The journey to become a restaurant and community space, however, required a lot of work navigating city systems and competing against larger, more established businesses. Now, Chasen works with BKLVLUP and helps other entrepreneurs on their own journeys by sharing his experience.


All of these merchant leaders are helping to organize with CMOP partners in addition to doing the work of owning and operating a small business, maintaining a commercial space, and navigating city systems  that often don’t work for them. They organize because they recognize the importance of building power together in order to fight displacement, build community wealth, and drive truly equitable economic development.

To learn more about ANHD’s small business work, visit the CMOP page and the USBnyc page on our website. To learn more about the displacement pressures commercial tenants are facing, check out this article in the New York Times. And stay tuned for ANHD’s upcoming report, “The State of Storefronts 2023: Beyond Recovery.”

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