Looting during George Floyd protests could cost NYC businesses ‘tens of millions’

Looters have targeted small businesses and big retailers, throughout the city

Looting and vandalism during the George Floyd protests may cost New York City businesses millions of dollars in damage, according to one expert.

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“I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s going to be in the tens of millions of dollars,” Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, told the New York Post.

That price tag includes the expense of repairs in addition to enhanced security and insurance costs, she said.

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In the week since Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for at least eight minutes, angry and frequently violent protests intended to denounce systemic racism and police brutality have gripped the nation.

Tense standoffs between protesters and police have sometimes descended into destruction; looters targeted small businesses, as well as big retailers like Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street, Nike, Coach, Bergdorf Goodman, Apple and others, smashing windows, burning property and stealing goods. Gelinas told the Post that “hundreds, if not thousands” of storefront windows, many of them custom-made, specialized glass, were shattered during the looting.

Small businesses employ close to 60 million people, or almost half of the entire U.S. workforce. The destruction of the businesses comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which forced an unprecedented lockdown of the nation’s economy.

The majority of businesses had just started to reopen from the shutdown (though most were not operating at 100 percent capacity) when the protests started.

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“Despite insurance coverage and federal assistance, there will be businesses that will never reopen,” said Dan Geltrude, a financial and tax expert. “There will also be economic damage that will take some areas years to recover from, if ever. And worst of all, we do not know right now how far this will spread and for how long.”

SoHo Broadway Initiative Executive Director Mark Dicus suggested that businesses in the neighborhood remove merchandise from the storefront; install physical barriers to prevent break-ins through storefronts; leave lights on overnight; hire overnight security; and check their security systems.

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“These past few evenings have been difficult on the SoHo Broadway community, especially our residents who are watching destruction unfold on their streets and sometimes in their own buildings,” Dicus said. “I am heartsick to hear the personal stories about how the unrest is impacting those who live and work in this one-of-a-kind neighborhood.”

Still, some business owners — even those with stores that have had windows smashed and goods stolen — said they support the protests. That includes Missy O’Reilly, the owner of a karaoke bar in New York City’s East Village. The damage “sucks,” but she said it was not a lasting issue.

“Luckily broken glass and stolen booze is an easy fix unlike the problems people of color face in this country,” O’Reilly wrote in a public statement on Facebook.

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