Executive Director, Downtown New Jersey
May 18, 2020
Jersey City, NJ – On Friday, May 15, 2020, Downtown New Jersey’s Executive Director, Courtenay Mercer, participated in the first “Main Street” Committee of the NJ Restart and Recovery Council. The committee included representatives from small business establishments, chambers of commerce, unions, small business lenders, and other related advocacy and education non-profits. Downtown New Jersey (DNJ) adds a unique perspective to the committee, as their membership includes towns, business districts, lawyers, developers, and design professionals that have been actively engaged in downtown revitalization.
DNJ President, Bob Zuckerman said, “For over 30 years, DNJ has supported NJ’s downtowns through the days of sprawling highway corridors and big box competition and during the past decade of resurgence.” He added, “We are prepared to see NJ’s downtowns through the economic upheaval presented by the COVID-19 closures, providing them with updates about state and federal policy initiatives, sharing best practices among downtowns, and advocating for the necessary assistance and resources to recover.”
As a proven advocate for New Jersey’s downtowns, DNJ has been given the opportunity to provide input into the approach for re-opening to both the Legislature and NJ Restart and Recovery Council. Earlier this month, DNJ hosted a forum with its members to articulate concerns and ideas. The below represents highlights of DNJ’s recommendations. The full policy paper can be viewed on DNJ’s website.
“The key to a successful reopening,” DNJ Executive Director Courtenay Mercer said, “is that consumers feel confident that the businesses they patronize are clean and safe, and that employees and fellow customers are able to practice proper social distancing safety protocols to minimize the possibility of transmitting infection.”
As announced by Governor Murphy in his press briefing on Monday, DNJ supports a phased approach to re-opening based on location within the state, and ability of a business to implement sufficient social distancing protocols. The reopening guidelines should be clear, concise, and transparent. They should be released with sufficient lead time to allow our businesses to acquire and install any safety materials prior to the reopen date. Moreover, many businesses are already struggling economically and could use technical and financial support to reopen safely. Similarly, our municipalities, who will likely bear the greatest burden of enforcing the reopening protocols, will need financial and other resource support to be effective. DNJ looks forward to working with its fellow “Main Street” committee members to develop solutions that will assist our small downtowns as they prepare to reopen.
In the meantime, the State can begin with some immediate measures that will ease the strain on NJ’s small businesses now, before full reopening begins:
- Allow certain non-essential retail establishments to open by appointment with strict adherence to social distancing, and protocols to limit consumer contact with products and/or cleaning protocols should contact occur.
- As Jersey City and other places across the US have done, the State should limit (at least temporarily) the fees charged by online ordering and delivery services (e.g. Uber Eats, GrubHub, DoorDash, etc.)
- The NJ Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control should provide leniency with regard to the definition of “premise” for the purpose of expanding outdoor dining to better enable social distancing.
- The NJ Legislature should enact eviction protections for commercial properties similar to those afforded residential properties by P.L.2020, c.1.
- The NJ Legislature should enact a law extending business interruption insurance coverage, at least partially, to pandemic-related losses.
- NJ should create a commercial rent assistance program for tenants, and/or deferment assistance program for landlords.
- NJ should re-institute the DBIZ Program to provide additional resources to downtown management corporations to assist their small businesses
Downtown New Jersey is a non-profit member-supported organization of individuals, businesses, developers, government agencies, and local and regional entities that are passionate about downtowns. Downtowns reflect our communities’ unique identities, provide a focal point, a convenient local place of commerce, and offer a sense of place where people can gather and truly be a community. Downtown New Jersey provides advocacy, education, and technical assistance resources dedicated to ensuring the vitality of our downtowns.
For more information about Downtown New Jersey, visit www.downtownnj.com.
Courtenay Mercer, Executive Director
Downtown New Jersey