This month we sat down with Tom Gray, current Executive Director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, co-founder of Rally Downtown, and member of The LAMP’s first Junior Board. He has been a force in building communities in New York City for a number of years, and we’re proud that Rally Downtown picked The LAMP as the beneficiary of its Taste of Greenpoint Brunctacular event happening on April 27. We sat down with Tom to learn more about the state of New York small business in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and to hear from Tom about what’s changed–and what hasn’t–in the commercial landscape of New York City.
As Executive Director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, you’ve seen a lot of change in some of the city’s most historic neighborhoods.
Despite a weak economy, our community continues to attract new and established technology companies. Google opened their facility in Chelsea, Wix Lounge is thriving and foursquare has a large presence in the community. Other new companies including Foodtoeat.com, Do it in Person and VILLIJ have all recently opened up shop in the heart of Manhattan. New York City is the place to be for fashion, finance and now technology.
As we move forward, these companies will need world class office space, in hip neighborhoods in order to attract and keep new talent. That is why the Chamber has been so vocal in its support for the expansion of the Chelsea Market, New York University and the revitalizations of Pier 57. All of these projects are helping meet that need, while respecting the character of our neighborhood.
What has surprised you the most about the way communities are changing?
Since working here I have learned just how hard it is to be a small business owner in New York City. The addition of new salary regulations, mandatory paid time off and the creation of restaurant letter grades are just a few new regulations that put pressure on small businesses. These mandates often impact small shops the most. Small business do not have the same bandwidth to cope with the artificially inflated cost of doing business.
Owners and their employees have a symbiotic relationship, and a successful business is one that understands the value in keeping their employees happy, running a clean shop and paying competitive, appropriate salaries. This, coupled with skyrocketing rents and a recession jeopardize the commercial character of our city. Seeing small mom-and-pop shops, restaurants and bars close in our neighborhoods is proof that we need to work together make New York City more small business friendly.
You co-founded an organization called Rally Downtown fairly recently. Why did you start it, and what does it do?
Rally Downtown was created after Superstorm Sandy struck New York City in order to help small businesses get back on their feet. Nearly every business lost a week of revenue, inventory and other assets. Sales have still not bounced back for those lucky enough to have survived intact and reopen their doors.
Currently, Rally helps drive traffic to small businesses in creative ways, and is committed to donating a minimum of 10% of their revenue to local non profit organizations. The commercial character of New York City’s neighborhoods can only be preserved if we support our unique small businesses. Rally will continue to develop new ways to support small businesses and encourage folks to shop local.
One of Rally’s next events is the Taste of Greenpoint Brunchtacular. What sets it apart from other food-centric events in the city?
The goal of the event is to simply show what Greenpoint has to offer, support NYC-based nonprofits all while having fun. It is easy to find a fundraiser for large charities, and mega nonprofits, but it is often hard to find an event supporting NYC based nonprofits doing amazing work in our neighborhoods. Rally plans on changing that!
How did you first get involved with The LAMP?
I have known one of the co-founders of The LAMP for some time, and was actually in the meeting when he pitched one of his first investors. From that day on, The LAMP hasn’t stopped growing. Now The LAMP has a full time staff, is in multiple boroughs and doing workshops all over New York City. The organization is now successfully building community, responsibility and activism across the media landscape. I joined the Junior Board because I believe in the organization, its mission and leadership.
Click here to buy tickets for A Taste of Greenpoint Brunchtacular, and use the code ‘LAMP’ for 15% off!