Claude Solnik


Crescent Duck Farm: Last of its Kind on Long Island

Photo courtesy of Crescent Duck Farm

Long before the East End became known as wine country, Peking duck ruled Long Island, where more than 40 duck farms once dotted the region.

Today, the Long Island Ducks play baseball and the term “Long Island duck” resonates, although all but just one have resisted the urge to sell the land to real estate developers: Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue.

“We’ve had some of this land since the 1600s,” Crescent Duck Farm President Doug Corwin says of the 140-acre farm. “My great grandfather started growing ducks in 1908. Each generation has added more to this. It’s a family owned business that’s four generations old and hoping to go into the fifth generation.”

Duck farming in the U.S. first truly caught hold on LI after the original breeding stock was brought over from China in the late 1800s.

“So much of the industry was here on Long Island it almost became a generic term, just as Maine Lobster became a generic term,” Corwin says. “Long Island duck meant something. It’s not quite so well known a term anymore.”

The Island’s combination of land, climate, proximity to markets such as New York City, and transportation such as the Long Island Rail Road made it ideal for duck farmers.

“Back two centuries ago, you had a phenomenal amount of farms on eastern Long Island,” Corwin says. “There was nothing but potatoes, ducks, and whatever else was being farmed.”

He said 70 to 80 percent of the nation’s ducks were grown on LI, as farms got bigger and absorbed other farms. Gradually, the World Wide Web replaced webbed feet as a more common source of income.

“The industry took a big downturn and most of our competition went out of business,” Corwin says. “We’re trying to do agriculture in an expensive area. It’s cheaper to grow ducks in the Midwest.”

Today, duck farms are more commonly found in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California. But Crescent presses on, using technology such as high-tech microbiological testing and selling to wholesalers that supply high-end restaurants and butcher shops.

“We’re putting up a brand new hatcher now,” Corwin says. “I invested in a phenomenal waste treatment plant.”

People sometimes offer to buy land, but as Corwin describes things, don’t expect this era to end on Long Island anytime soon.

“Every now and then someone comes in and says, ‘I’d like that parcel,’” Corwin says. “We’ve turned it down. I’ve got a good business. I’ve got a brand name that’s well known. There’s a sense of satisfaction in doing something iconic for Long Island.”

Related Story: How COVID-19 Is Impacting Long Island Farmers

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Commercial Landlords’ Rent Concessions Ease Pandemic Pain For Businesses

It’s a renters market for office leases. (Getty Images)

In addition to an increase in remote work, social distancing and safety precautions, the coronavirus pandemic is leading to an uptick in free office rent and tenant improvement allowances, according to a new study.

The national report by Los Angeles-based commercial real estate firm CBRE found that office landlords are in a more giving mood these days, at least when it comes to granting concessions such as free rent and tenant improvement allowances to obtain new office leases and renewals.

“This means that office tenants can find some advantageous terms in many markets,” said Whitley Collins, CBRE’s global president of occupier advisory and transaction services. “At least until the U.S. economic recovery gains more momentum.”

That’s in part because fewer office deals are closing and because companies are facing new needs — and sometimes less need for space. All this is adding up to concessions that, when taken into account, are the equivalent of lower rent.

Net effective office rent, calculated including the cost of concessions, for the second quarter  dropped 6.6 percent in the 15 largest U.S. markets, according to CBRE. Base rent before concessions, however, declined by only 1.1 percent.

The average length of free-rent periods rose to 10 months, or nearly a year, up 13.7 percent from the first quarter. Tenant improvement allowances, money landlords offer to improve a space, increased by 5.1 percent to $75.57 per square foot. 

This came as office-leasing activity tumbled 43 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, according to Collins.

Philip Heilpern, a senior vice president at CBRE’s Long Island office in Melville, said relatively few deals have taken place here since the pandemic started, as few leases expired.

“Like almost every other market in the country, we’ve had a fairly dramatic drop-off in the number of deals in the market,” Heilpern said. “ Everything inessential has been put on hold.”

He said Long Island office renters “have enjoyed a slight uptick in landlord concessions,” but at least so far there hasn’t been a surge.

“We’ve had dropping vacancy rates and rising rental rates in the last few years,” Heilpern continued. “Tenants in the market now are being wooed a little more aggressively by landlords who want to make deals and get their space leased.” 

Darren Leiderman, executive managing director of Colliers International’s LI office, in Jericho, said the Island office market remains tight.

“There’s not a lot of space,” Leiderman said. “We haven’t had much building in the last 20 years.”

He said the Paycheck Protection Program helped companies pay office rent, benefiting both tenants and landlords.

“There haven’t been that many deals signed post-COVID,” he said. “Some haven’t been affected. Some have had more leniency and flexibility on concessions.”

An increase in working remotely is leading to more subleases hitting the market as well as workers separated by greater distances. And that is impacting the market as well.

“People still have leases,” Leiderman said. “People are saying work-from-home may impact the market. If you have a lease, you still have to do something with the space. Do you spread people out; do you sublease?”

New York City-based companies are shifting more Long Island residents to offices closer to home, fueling local demand, Heilpern said. Workers often work at home or travel to a closer office, instead of making the daily commute from LI to Manhattan.

“Clients said they plan to move some employees who live on the Island and work in New York City to their Long Island office,“ Leiderman agreed.

Heilpern said Long Island hasn’t seen “a dramatic drop in asking or taking rents,” even if concessions such as free rent are up. While deals are being sweetened, base rent at least so far hasn’t been impacted.

Leiderman said free rent, which initially was used to help companies cover moving costs, now provides leniency, while maintaining landlords’ base rent.

“When you refinance, you carry that higher rental rate,” Leiderman said of landlords. “It balances out.”

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First National Bank of Long Island CEO Chris Becker: Keeping Cash Flowing

Chris Becker was named CEO of The First National Bank of Long Island in January. 

Chris Becker in January became president and CEO of The First National Bank of Long Island. We talked with him about leading a financial institution during the pandemic and the role of this nearly 100-year-old, Glen Head-based bank with 49 branches (including 10 in New York City) at a crucial time for the bank and borrowers. 

How did First of Long Island modify operations during the height of the pandemic? As the pandemic was building and spreading, we phased in limited hours. We had our employees work from behind the teller line with glass barriers. We kept our drive-up windows and ATMs open and we kept a few lobbies open. We always had our staff in.

Did you personally shift to remote work? I’m set up to work remotely at home, but I came into the office every day. We were deemed an essential business. We had most of our back-office folks working remotely from home. I came into the office. We had people dealing with the public. I wanted to be here side by side with them.

Has electronic banking accelerated? We’ve been migrating to digital channels for years. During the pandemic, transactions shifted to electronic products. Our customers can snap a picture of their check. Those volumes tripled during the pandemic.

How are branches impacted? In-person transactions have been going down for years, as electronic transactions went up. Branches have become about solving problems, asking questions, talking about new products, financial needs, and things to help their business.

Are you adding branches? We’re opening a branch in Riverhead. That should open in the fourth quarter of this year. We’ve been opening branches in Brooklyn and Queens and will continue to look for opportunities there. We continue to expand our branch network geographically. We think there’s plenty of opportunity on Long Island.

Who was borrowing during the pandemic and for what? A lot of loans were the Paycheck Protection Program loans. We did $170 million in PPP loans to our customers. We were very busy with that. We did another $600 million of payment deferrals to help our customers out during the pandemic. A lot of customers came to banks and asked for payment deferrals. I think the banking community stepped up and combined with PPP to help the country get through this shutdown.

What was it like to help with PPP loans? When we were doing the PPP loans, we put together a team at the bank. I was personally processing loans and dealing with customers. The employees were so excited to help these businesses get through the pandemic and pay their employees. I had so many employees saying how proud they were that we were here to help. People were working around the clock. We had people emailing each other at 2 in the morning. The system was open around the clock.

How do you decide who gets loans? When we underwrite a loan to determine if a person qualifies, you get current information. You take that information and determine what’s appropriate for them. You work with them to try to create a win-win situation. You have to make sure the customer has the wherewithal to pay back the loan.

How do loan volumes look now? Normal loan volumes have been down. We’re starting to see activity pick up. As Long Island opens up, we’re starting to see customers come out looking for loans. We’re starting to see that activity pick up. We’re encouraged that things are getting better on Long Island.

As more banking is done online, do banks have to work harder at security? Banks have to be mindful of cyber security and fraudsters trying to steal identities. They do that more and more through digital channels. We’re constantly investing in our security to fight cybersecurity crimes. With the pandemic and people using more electronic transactions, criminals will try to exploit that.

How do you manage stress, particularly in difficult times? Make sure you laugh every day. We have a dedicated board of directors. Even at those meetings, we make sure we have a good laugh or two. It relaxes people, helps get rid of stress. When I go home in the evening, a lot of times I put on an old sitcom and watch it for a half hour and get a good laugh. I find that laughing is the best medicine for stress for me.

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RJV Office CEO Varun Bansal On How The Office Is Being Reimagined After COVID-19

Varun Bansal is CEO of RJV Office and officefurnitureshop.com in Farmingdale.

Transparency with plexiglass partitions is in and water coolers are out as offices are being re-imagined amid the coronavirus pandemic. When workers return to offices, they are sometimes finding the space has been redesigned. Varun Bansal, CEO of RJV Office and officefurnitureshop.com in Farmingdale, talked with the Press about new workplace norms.

How is furniture being used to make a healthier, safer workplace? In order to create a safer and better environment to go back to work, we need to make sure the cubicles are tall enough for the employees to work. The industry used to be more focused on an open environment. That trend is going away. People are going back to a safer area where benching is being replaced by cubicles.  What happened in the ‘80s and ‘90s is coming back in 2020 with a better, more advanced-looking cubicle with more glass and fabric.

What specific design decisions can make the office appealing? One thing we’re doing to make the office more creative and appealing is not having a wall partition from floor to ceiling. A combination of fabric and glass is a creative and fun way of designing. Light can travel. We don’t want to just provide a fabric-based system. You still want creativity.

Are the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines impacting office design? We created some guidelines based on the CDC such as 6-foot distances between people in work stations and meetings. More space, not people sitting on top of each other. It’s a combination of what the CDC has given. We used that to integrate into the office furniture industry.

Is density changing in the office as well as in other businesses? If you have 100 employees, only 30 percent are coming back. Seventy percent is working from home. It’s not a regulation, but that’s what I am hearing from companies. The work we’re doing is in phasing. The employees coming back get the priority. Once we complete those, we work on other phases.

What are people doing to make a better home office? To make a safe and healthy home office, people are buying one or two desks, one or two office chairs. The demand for acrylic glass, plexiglass, is coming into effect. When they buy small offices or desks from us, they secure their space with Plexiglass. Even working from home, they are securing the home-based offices with plexi around them.

How is technology fueling home office growth and impacting the traditional office? Conventional offices are playing a big role in technology. Demand for software like Zoom has increased compared to three to four months ago. The demand for band width is increasing. As more people work from home, you need more bandwidth to support the work force. Within cubicles, our clients are more focused on having an effective power system running across the cubicles, so they can plug in laptops.

Can you retrofit cubicles? If the existing height can’t be raised, we have a way to put together the frames with acrylic glass. That’s safer at the offices. We manufacture frames based on the height of the cubicles. Those frames are being installed on the low-height cubicles. It can give more height to lower partitions.

What will offices look like in future? Sales are going to be comparatively less, but the demand of redesigning offices is going to be higher. The demand for products like acrylic glass or plexiglass will be higher, redesigning work of existing offices where employees sit in a tight space, getting us six feet of space.

What about the future of the home office? Home offices typically are going to be a combination of a desk, a chair, and a printer. It’s more like a command center that is going to be creatively occupied by the employees. 

What’s the fate of the water cooler? The water cooler is history. We have to wait and see the next few months, to see industry trends. When people come back to work, they want to make sure they have hand sanitizer on their desk instead of a water cooler. Hand sanitization, the cleaning of office work surfaces, those are more imperative now. The pantry area. The offices that share microwaves and water coolers, those areas are more restricted.

New College Grads Face Pandemic Job Market

Two people in office passing documents with keeping a distance. Getty Images.

Moeez Naveed, 21, of Plainview, graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in biochemistry. Now he’s heading into the workforce as a medical scribe at a pulmonologist’s office in Bethpage.

“COVID delayed my hiring,” he said of the job, obtained through ScribeAmerica, in which he assists during doctor’s visits. “They had a hiring freeze. Everyone wears masks. I also wear a gown and a face shield. There’s a substantial amount of precautions.”

While there’s no one way to describe today’s work world, it’s very different than it was just months before. Recent college grads are entering a different economy, but also a transformed workplace.

Virtual interviews are often replacing those in offices, jobs sometimes have become remote and rock-solid job offers sometimes fell through.

“If students had offers, for the most part they’ve been retained,” said  Michelle Kyriakides, executive director at Hofstra University’s Career Center. “They may have had their start date pushed back.”

Orientation is often done remotely as new hires receive laptops and headphones. Initially, at least, they are working from home.

Internships sometimes have been canceled or at least shortened, as employees have had less time to mentor.

“Some employers have a halt on hiring or are pushing back starting dates,” Kimberly Joy Dixon, Stony Brook University’s director of employer engagement and diversity recruitment, confirmed. “Be a little more patient with the process.”

Grads are entering a brave, new jobs market with 11.1 percent unemployment nationwide as of June, down from 13.3 percent in May.

“I think there’s a lot of stress,” Kyriakides said. “They saw the number of unemployed going up and up. We’ve been telling students, ‘Be as proactive as you can.’”

Matthew Colson, executive director of alumni relations and the alumni association at Stony Brook University, said these are the latest tumultuous times.

“I think about the class of 2008 entering a challenging market,” [during the economic recession] he said. “And they have since persevered and found great success.” 

Indeed.com said job postings are down 29 percent from June 2019, but noted there’s strong demand for technology skills such as computer programming in SQL, Java, Python, and Linux.

“Soft skills are also growing due to the coronavirus pandemic,” according to Indeed.com, which cited communications.

As offices reopen, they likely will be different in activity and atmosphere for new hires. Many companies are welcoming up to 30 percent back at once.

Alumni often help those with or looking for work. Dixon called Stony Brook’s roughly 200,000 alumni “a bright light” and a “silver lining” in a changing world.

Stony Brook students and grads are taught how to present themselves on Zoom, including what to wear and what’s appropriate for backgrounds, and how to onboard as an intern or full time in a virtual setting.

“Prepare to have multiple employment opportunities with multiple companies, and one side hustle gig,” Brad Szollose, a business consultant in Bay Shore, said. “Be like a commando and prepare for anything. This is the only way to survive in this day and age.” 

Szollose predicted that many small companies may go out of business over the next year. 

“Be prepared to move on, over and over again,” he said.

“COVID has made it impossible for some people to get clinical experience,” said Naveed. “I plan on working as a scribe and conducting research at Stony Brook.”

Kyriakides said the workplace will likely never be exactly the way it was prepandemic. 

“I think we will see some change in how companies work and recruit,” she said. “There will be more flexibility in some industries.”

She said it’s important that graduates don’t simply sit on the sidelines, mentioning a healthcare administration major who moved back to Las Vegas and volunteered with her church, to help run its youth ministry group and food pantry.

“It’s really about telling your story,” Kyriakides said. “Being able to say, ‘This is what I gained from the experience. This is how I responded to the crisis.’”

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Sotor Technologies CEO Derek Peterson: Keeping Long Island Safe and Sound

Derek Peterson, posing with a Sotor Technologies sensor, named his company after the Greek god of safety, Soterus.

As CEO of Ronkonkoma-based Soter Technologies, Derek Peterson is an engineer and entrepreneur. He talked with the Press about the tech sector, going from Symbol Technologies to his own company, developing sensors and new products for COVID-19, and being a Black CEO.

Can you tell us about the device you created to screen for COVID-19? We created a device called SymptomSense, a screening evaluation gateway. It screens for vital signs such as blood oxidation level, temperature, respiration and heart rate. It’s in the same format as a metal detector. You walk through it and it will scan you and give you a pass or not. We’ve learned that blood oxidation level is a better indicator than temperature. We’re shipping to sporting teams, NFL teams, Major League Baseball. We also have police departments, hospitals, health institutions, major bakeries, and food producers. 

How did you get involved in sensors? We invented and designed the world’s first sensor to detect vaping. My background is in engineering. I’ve been creating sensors my whole career. It’s been part of my DNA to design sensors that keep people safe. The name Soter is inspired by the Greek god of safety, Soterus. 

When did you start Soter? Soter was founded in 2017. It was born out of another entity called Digital Fly. We created Digital Fly with a product called FlySights, which was a social media monitoring tool. If you posted a threat against somebody, like a student, teacher or principal, we could identify that threat and alert authorities. We were focused on bullying.

How did that lead to Soter? Schools were asking, “Can you help with physical bullying? Kids are fighting in bathrooms.” We went back to the drawing board. You can’t put a camera or microphone in a bathroom. However we can put a decibel level sensor in a bathroom. We created our first device in 2016 that picked up on sound anomalies. And we branched into becoming a hardware company. We rebranded ourselves to become Soter Technologies.

How did you develop vaping sensors? Schools asked us if we could help them with the vaping problem. Kids were vaping in the bathrooms. We added sensors that could detect if kids are vaping. And we created the world’s first vaping detector. We’re in 21 countries and about 8,000 devices deployed. All of Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Japan, Singapore. Everywhere. Australia, New Zealand. Canada.

Do you have to be an engineer and an entrepreneur? I’m an engineer first and a business person second. I like to invent and solve problems. However, I’m also on the business side. I view everything as a sport. I like to win. Building a business and winning deals, it’s sport to me, gamesmanship. And I enjoy the win. It’s satisfaction to invent and create technology. Can I sell this? Can I make a change in the world? 

As a Black engineer and businessman, have you faced additional challenges? Now I’m 30-plus years into my career. I built a brand for myself so people understand and recognize who I am. I’ve gotten past a lot of the systemic issues in the engineering world earlier in my career.

What issues? Early in my career, working for other people, I was not paid equally compared to an engineer at the same level, same grade, sitting in the cube next to me. That has been documented. I had to get salary adjustments to catch up with my peers. In the engineering world, there are few minorities, African Americans and Latinos. Typically when I travel, one or two or three engineers at a conference. They’re just not there.

Why? That’s a good question. They’re just not given the same opportunities. Maybe they’re not given the same awareness that these roles and jobs are available. It starts at the high school level.

Have you been able to make a difference as a mentor? I work with local universities in regard to mentoring. I speak often at high schools and universities and bring awareness to what’s going on and job opportunities. I sit on boards like Timothy Hill, the children’s ranch in Riverhead, to help young adults.

How diverse is your company? My company on a percentage basis is probably one of the most diverse on the island. It’s the United Nations, men, women, Black, white, Latino. All mixed races. Everybody plays happily in the same sandbox. Everybody  brings their own talents to the table. People come into the office and see the diversification. I look for good, talented people. 

What new products are you developing? The next thing we’re working on is sensors to open up the schools due to the pandemic. Those will be in the marketplace in August. It’s different technology we’re doing for schools. They can purchase what we currently have, but we’re releasing technology to go a little further to ensure safety.

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Empire State Development CEO Eric Gertler: Long Island Control Room Chairman

Eric Gertler, co-Chairman & co-Publisher of the New York Daily News on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 in Manhattan, N.Y. (James Keivom/New York Daily News)

As acting CEO, president, and commissioner of the New York State’s Empire State Development, Eric Gertler runs the state’s economic engine. The former executive chairman of U.S. News & World Report and managing member of Ulysses Ventures is also the regional captain of the Long Island Control Room, charged with helping to reopen the region’s economy from the coronavirus shutdown. He talked with the Press about his agency’s changing role, adapting in crisis and reopening LI.

What are your priorities for the agency as president and CEO, and have they changed in the wake of the pandemic? When you go through a crisis, they need to change. You need to respond to the times and how a crisis is evolving. For the first 90 days, we supported combating the COVID-19 crisis. Everything we did was in support of that. Now we’re looking at how to support the opening of the economy. 

What has ESD done to support the state’s response to COVID-19? We did an enormous amount of sourcing for the PPE [personal protective equipment] we needed to buy for essential workers around the state. When the crisis hit, we were involved in defining essential businesses and updating guidance. We also focused on how to help New York manufacturers of COVID-related equipment. We needed to make sure we had the necessary supply chain, including food, around the state. Those are not tasks that ESD normally undertakes. We became entrepreneurial and innovative and worked around the clock.

What are things you and the agency have been doing on Long Island? We are looking to support small businesses. Small businesses are critical to New York State. They represent 98 percent of the businesses we have. A lot of businesses, particularly those with under 20 employees, didn’t get federal money. We created the New York Forward loan fund to get loans to small businesses, particularly MWBEs [Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises] in need of financial support. And infrastructure. There are important infrastructure projects on Long Island, including the Belmont Park arena. Focusing on infrastructure, on jobs, is critical as to how we support the economy.

What’s been your experience as captain of the Long Island Regional Control Room? The Control Room has been an important part of assuring that the opening of Long Island goes smoothly. The key to the control room has been to understand the pulse of what’s going on so we can be ahead of the issues and monitor the region, so we can open up safely and keep tracking important data in a way that allows us to open smoothly and not pause.

How is managing the Long Island Control Room been different than other regions? I think the key here isn’t that the managing is different. We’ve been able to learn from other regions that opened up prior to Long Island. Other than New York City, Long Island was the last region to open up. We’ve learned from what other regions went through. You learn about specific issues with business, what people face when they go back into offices. You can write guidelines, but how are they being applied? What are the issues? Where are people feeling frustration so we can manage that? What were the issues for outdoor dining? A hundred things allowed us to ensure that each phase of Long Island opens up smoothly.

What’s the biggest change for you, going from the private sector to the public sector? On a personal basis, there’s a great sense of being involved in meaningful work and a mission. You get to do that, to be part of that in government. Nothing replaces every day being able to help people, to make the state, the community, society better. On a day-to-day operations basis, in the private sector, your thinking is more linear. You do this deal, invest this money and go forward. In public service, at this level, you need to be thinking almost three dimensionally. You need to understand the agency, how this will affect the community, where the pressure points are. You don’t contour everything in terms of projects. How do you make sure you get everybody, and the right people, as part of the projects to make a difference?

Are you optimistic that New York State’s economy will rebound from the recession caused by the coronavirus, and if so, why and how? I am optimistic that the state economy will recover, that we’ll return to the heights we were experiencing before. But I don’t think it’s going to necessarily be easy. I don’t think it’ll be the same. As the governor has pointed out, we’re going to reimagine the economy. Things will be different. I think there will be different types of investments in businesses of the future. As the governor has pointed out, we are New York tough. At the end of the day, the people will fuel the economy. And I have the highest degree of confidence in the people of New York State. I’m optimistic, but also a pragmatist. We’ll have to work too. But I do see a rebuilt, reimagined New York State economy.

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Congress Extends Deadline For PPP Loans

U.S. Capitol
Billions of dollars in unused funds remained in the Paycheck Protection Program for forgivable loans when the deadline ran out on June 30. Now it looks like companies will get more time.
After easing the terms under which Paycheck Protection Program loans could be forgiven, Congress has extended the deadline through Aug. 8. This will create new opportunities for forgivable loans to businesses that can either be turned into grants or paid back at rock-bottom interest rates of 1 percent.
The approvals, which came as PPP sunset on June 30, should mean a new sunrise for a program that went into effect in April. A single vote in the U.S. House of Representatives could have ended the program, which required unanimous consent due to the lack of time before Congress adjourned. In a Congress where disagreement is usually the order of the day, this passed both houses in a matter of days.
The decision answers a $129 billion question, the amount of funding still left in the program administered by the U.S. Small  Business Administration: Yes, companies will get additional chances to apply for the funding, provided that President Donald Trump signs the bill, as expected.
PPP is part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act, which uses the  SBA’s 7(a) small business lending program to fund forgivable loans up to $10 million.
The SBA even before the June 30 initial deadline had approved more than 4.8 million loans valued at $520 billion, according to the Journal of Accoutancy. The big question, beyond which and whether specific loans will be forgiven, may be how many companies can still apply and qualify.
Neil Seiden, president of Uniondale-based Asset Enhancement Solutions, specializing in helping companies apply for PPP, said Congress’ decision meant some of his staffers would continue working on applications, even through the holiday weekend.
“We actually have people who will be working this weekend,” said Seiden. “If there’s work to be done and people are available, we do it.”
While millions of loans have been approved, some companies that qualify either weren’t aware they could or were turned down by banks, often flooded with applications, for a wide range of reasons.
“We’ve kind of been on a roller coaster in the wild west, especially in April and May with the chaos  going on with big banks not communicating with people properly,” said Seiden, whose firm has been helping companies obtain small and larger forgivable loans. “That’s what launched us and motivated our team.”
Many business people initially got loans from the bank with which they do business. But many others were unable to and, in some cases, heard little or nothing back. Some waited, only to have the clock run out, before it restarted a few days ago.
“Now that we have another bite at the apple, we’ve got a whole bunch of cases waiting in the wings,” said one executive who referred clients to AES.
Some business people wrongly believed they didn’t qualify after being rejected due to application errors, where something as trivial as providing four numbers rather than two for year or vice verse, could lead to rejection.
An AES staffer said putting a personal cell phone in a form rather than a business number also could stall an application, even if the applicants simply found out they were rejected without a clear reason.
“It was very hard. It was not easy. For X, Y, Z reasons, we got denied once, twice,” said Mat Lanfant of his Port Washington business, The Cooking Lab. “We had issues when we were applying with another bank.”
Seiden said AES, which pivoted to focused on financing PPP loans, found companies sometimes were unaware of changing regulations or didn’t realize their category of company was eligible. Many sole proprietors, prime examples of small business, never applied, because they weren’t aware that they could qualify.
And other business people often weren’t aware of the intricacies of the program which, for instance, could some companies larger than the 500-employee cut off in most cases to qualify under certain circumstances.
Some companies that were approved initially returned funds, because they felt the terms would make it impossible for them to get the loans forgiven. But the terms changed, which could make these loans attractive, even after they initially rejected them.
Initially, money had to be used in eight weeks in order for loans to be forgiven, prompting some companies not to apply. That was extended to 24 weeks, making loans more appealing to many and easier to forgive.
Initially, 75 percent had to go to payroll, while that was modified to 60 percent, with the remainder able to go to costs such as rent and utilities.
Companies from Long Island sometimes obtained funds by working with banks as far as California and Utah, while Long Island companies sometimes helped businesses around the nation apply and qualify.
In addition to helping nearly 200 businesses in New York get PPP funds, AES has helped applicants from 26 other states, including more than a dozen in California, 30 in New Jersey, 10 in Pennsylvania, three in George and Michigan and many in other states.
“We were losing money. I started panicking, seeing the numbers,” an executive whose organization in New York City provides home health aides said of her initial predicament. “I didn’t know what to do.”
She found out she was eligible, and obtained funding which she said will let her organization continue to operate and survive its own financial crunch. “It’s about making sure we stay afloat, we can continue doing the work that we do,” she said of the funding, obtained through AES.
Some have suggested that most companies that are eligible have already obtained funds. While it’s unclear how many or which companies will apply and qualify, one thing’s clear. Time, a resource that had run out, has been replenished. 
“We’ve got another five weeks of doing this, mixing with other things,” Seiden said.
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U.S. Senate Votes For PPP Funding Extension

U.S. Capitol

It looks like businesses may get more time to take part in a massive program designed to provide funding.

The U.S. Senate approved Wednesday extending the Paycheck Protection Program, slated to sunset on June 30, through August 8, letting more businesses obtain loans which can be forgiven if they meet certain requirements.

The legislation, still awaiting approval in the U.S. House of Representatives and then requiring President Donald Trump’s signature, would extend a program that began in April with $130 billion still approved and not used.

Many companies initially did not apply or turned down loans, due to the original terms, which required money to be used within eight weeks, especially difficult since many companies were still closed. 

That was extended to 24 weeks with 60 percent not 75 percent required to go to salary, and the remainder allowed for rent and some other uses such as utilities.

Neil Seiden, president of Asset Enhancement Solutions, in Uniondale, which has been helping companies apply through the program, said some “companies that were initially hesitant about taking the money” have been applying. 

“We got a call from a guy for a $250,000 loan yesterday,” Seiden said. “Because of the forgiveness being extended to 24 weeks, he determined the loan could be forgiven.”

He said that business person operates a hair salon, which at the time of the initial applications had been closed.

“He didn’t apply, because hair salons weren’t open,” Seiden said, noting more time would allow more companies to apply and receive funds. “This will be a big upside for a lot of companies.”

While some companies are applying for the first time, others have had loans declined due to errors in applications, including improper phone numbers or addresses, even though they would otherwise qualify.

“If any of those things are off, that can automatically reject an application,” Evan Siegel, AES’ director of operations, said. “We’ve had situations where an applicant may have put a home address where a business address should go or cell phone number instead of business number.”

AES, he said, identified mistakes made in previous applications, correcting them, and helps companies go through the process. Companies are not charged for the service, which is paid for by lenders.

“There was definitely a push in the last few days to have people get their items in,” Siegel said, noting an extension would let more companies obtain funds. “I think we’ll pick up where we were and continue doing what we were doing.”

Related Story: Small Businesses Face Uphill Battle In Getting Forgivable Loans

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Long Island Businesses Adapt To New Normal

Restaurant workers are required to wear masks during the region's reopening from the coronavirus shutdown. (Getty Images)

As Long Island entered the phased reopening of its economy from the coronavirus shutdown, local businesses took preliminary steps toward a new normal. 

But it’s been far from business as usual in July, with changes going beyond the presence of masks, social distancing, and lower density unlike in the days before COVID-19 hit. 

“We’re witnessing a gradual return to normalcy,” says Terri Alessi-Miceli, president and CEO of the Hauppauge Industrial Association, “all consistent with the phase-in plan set forth by the state.”

How and what companies return to, however, may be a mix of new and normal, as reopening becomes not simply a return to, but a redefinition and reimagining of, normal.

Even as stores began to reopen, customers often were slower to return and many relied more on delivery for goods from supermarkets and other retailers than before.

Plexiglass barriers between cashiers and customers aren’t likely to go anywhere soon. With restaurants at limited capacity, reservations are recommended. And businesses such as barbershops and salons typically shifted to by-appointment models, rather than relying on crowded waiting rooms. 

“Some companies are considering ways to incorporate some degree of telecommuting into their new business models,” Alessi-Miceli adds. 

Telecommuting is more common in part because technology is now more widespread. At Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk offices, as the region entered phase two, all office workers were still allowed to work from home. And telemedicine transformed medicine, as virtual visits made house calls more common.

“The use of telehealth exploded during the crisis, especially for the treatment of mental health issues,” says Janine Logan, spokeswoman for the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council and the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State. “Rules and restrictions around the use of telehealth for all health services were relaxed during the pandemic and are still, for the most part, in place.” 

Linda Taylor, CEO of Visiting Nurse Service and Hospice of Suffolk, says her group is using telehealth to conduct more virtual visits, often including family members.  

“This benefits our ability to safeguard our patients and staff by minimizing face-to-face contact between home visits and maximizing our ability to monitor patient symptoms and progress,” she says of online visits, including review of medication, side effects, interactions and effectiveness.

Bill Kiley, a Long Island author who wrote a children’s book titled Hoped and Freckles, had lined up visits at Barnes and Noble stores and schools. He instead has been doing virtual visits that are likely to continue for the near future.

“My first online visit was with a school in Yonkers … and it was a delightful experience,” he says. “Next week I’m visiting an online class from a school in Northport.”

Some companies are changing their business model, offering services that may be more in demand during the new normal. WizdomOne Group,  a wealth advisory firm and employee benefits company in Islandia, launched “WizdomWorks,” providing office space to those who may not need much, if any, square footage.

Marisa Morgillo, a marketing consultant for WizdomOne Group, says “the ability to work more remotely” is making many people rethink sometimes costly conventional office space. 

Through WizdomWorks, she says, “various professionals and entrepreneurs” can work and “share ideas and connections” and space, rather than leasing traditional space.

“WizdomWorks will be offering this philosophy to those who are looking for a fresh atmosphere and start to the ‘new norm,’” Morgillo adds, saying spaces “will be available to lease by startups, entrepreneurs and established professionals.”

Real estate and construction have been returning to their new normal, which may have a different look and feel as brokers rely more on virtual house showings. Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk, meanwhile, isn’t bringing volunteer builders back just yet.

“We have restarted construction with paid staff only,” says Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk CEO Lee Silberman. “We do not anticipate allowing volunteer groups to come out to our worksites until Labor Day.”

Revenue could go down at businesses such as barbershops, restaurants, and others, due to lower volume. Even Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk, for instance, expects to build fewer homes.

“Not having volunteers severely impacts our ability to work on multiple houses at the same time,” Silberman says. 

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