‘Back Off’: Ex-Bloomberg Chief Of Staff On Gov't's Role In Small Business Recovery

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By WCBS Newsradio 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – As parts of the country, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut begin to reopen in phases, business owners must change their operations to adjust to the new normal in the age of COVID-19.

"This isn't just about revenues and profits for me, said Peter Madonia who owns the family-run Madonia Brothers Bakery in The Bronx’s Little Italy. “This is also about the fabric of a vibrant neighborhood.”

Madonia is the chairman of the Belmont District Management Association. He told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank, that some restaurants will not be able to survive as they already operate on small margins, but there is a path to recovery if they begin to reopen this month and owners are given the freedom to develop solutions.

“Every business should know what is expected of it in terms of customer interaction, occupancy capacity, masks or no masks,” Madonia explained. “And then, I think they have to back off a little bit – the government.”

He served as chief of staff to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and formerly worked as Chief Operating Officer of the Rockefeller Foundation. He tells WCBS 880 city and state governments need to provide “clarity” on health guidelines.

“None of them have made a payroll,” Madonia said of government officials. “I don’t want you telling me how to run my business. Tell me what the macro level rules are and I, as the entrepreneur, will figure out how to make my business work in that context or not.”

He emphasized he has “real confidence” in business owners pivoting in this unprecedented time.

Madonia is reimagining his operations and that of his business community on Arthur Avenue. A large majority of their customers – 80 percent – drive from 10-40 miles away to its establishments. It has never been a profitable option to close its lots in the evening, but the business improvement district (BID) leader is considering it to boost sales in this unprecedented time.

“The restaurants can increase capacity on the street and curb,” he said of this proposal the BID is considering.

“I think the City has to have some flexible understanding that not every neighborhood is the same, not  every business district is the same, and let the business districts innovate a little bit on how theirs works best in what a new normal looks like,” said Madonia.

Listen to the WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast on the RADIO.COM app or above for more on the local economic recovery and small business survival.