As a Downtown New Jersey Board Member, Strowe Will Provide Input on State's Reopening Plans

JERSEY CITY, NJ – Downtown New Jersey (DNJ), the top non-profit downtown advocacy organization in the state, was named to the “Main Street” Committee of Gov. Phil Murphy's NJ Restart and Recovery Council

Downtown New Jersey 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.

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Tom Strowe, who leads Scotch Plains Township’s economic development efforts as Project Coordinator for Redevelopment, is a Board member of DNJ and will work with the organization to provide input on the strategy and guidelines for the state’s reopening.

“We must ensure the voice of Main Street, our downtowns and all small businesses, are being heard and incorporated into the state’s reopening strategy,” Strowe said. “Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mayor, Township Council, Township Manager’s office, and the Scotch Plains Business Resource Group have been collaborating to provide assistance and guidance to our business community.”

“Now as the state shifts focus to a reopening plan, the economic needs of small businesses and towns like Scotch Plains must be incorporated into reopening recommendations, and I will pass along ideas from Scotch Plains leadership and our businesses community to DNJ to be added to the NJ Restart and Recovery Council’s plan,” added Strowe.

DNJ President, Bob Zuckerman, who is also the Executive for the Downtown Westfield Corporation, 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.”

“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” Zuckerman added.

“The key to a successful reopening 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,” DNJ Executive Director Courtenay Mercer said.

Downtown New Jersey 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. Many businesses are already struggling economically and could use technical and financial support to reopen safely.

DNJ is advocating for the State to implement these 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

The full policy paper can be viewed on DNJ’s website.

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