Two weeks ago the East Harlem building explosion literally rocked this neighborhood. A number of businesses still haven't even reopened. Dozens more have a long way to go before they get back on their feet.
Inside the Touba African Market on East 116th Street, many of the shelves are completely bare. The business is just around the corner from the site of the March 12 gas leak explosion that leveled two apartment buildings and killed eight. The African Market is one of 59 businesses impacted by the blast. Windows were blown out, part of the ceiling collapsed, and merchandise was destroyed, owner Fallou Samb said.
On top of damage, many of the merchants lost days or even weeks of business when they were forced to close for the investigation and subsequent repairs.
Ganesh Lamsel owns the 99-cent store on East 116th Street. He was among those to show up at a small business recovery meeting at the NYPD's 25th Precinct.
Our cameras weren't allowed inside, but outside merchants, including accountant George Lizzano, told us they are worried about their businesses surviving. Lizzano said they need financial grants to reopen the businesses and to start all over again because they lost a lot of money.
The city's Department of Small Business Services promised help but didn't say how much would be available or when it will come.
"Through NYC Business Solutions there are certainly a number of opportunities to access some financing and loan programs, the SBA is also looking at opportunities," Deputy Commissioner Robinson Hernandez said.