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Coronavirus Lockdown Has Long Island Main Streets Struggling To Survive

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Once thriving downtowns are now struggling to find a way to stay alive.

For decades, Long Island's downtowns have undergone a rebirth, but much of that is now in jeopardy.

You can hear birds chirping on the main drag through Farmingdale. That's good, perhaps, for bird watchers, but bad for small business owners who had been thriving.

Eric Levine had just opened live music venue 317 Main Street in the fall.

"It really started to become something that was a place for people to go, a destination," Levine said.


COVID-19 changed that. Their business is down 90%. They've creatively come up with online cooking classes and virtual date nights to eek out some income, but worry about surviving even after the shutdown lifts.

"We are not going to be 100% capacity. We will be 25%, 50%, whatever they call it. Nobody knows. No on has hit the mandate yet."

That concern is echoed in empty downtowns across Long Island. Before COVID-19, they were experiencing a renaissance. Now, they're struggling to stay afloat. Farmingdale's mayor, who also owns a pharmacy, says the two rounds of PPP loans are helping. He predicts a slow but steady recovery.

"We really believe we are going to come back very, very strong," said Village of Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand.

Residents have banded together, buying meals from local restaurants to donate to health care workers.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"We are feeding the health care workers and helping out the restaurants both at the same time," Ekstrand said.

"Once it's reopened, people will come back," said Eric Alexander with Vision Long Island, which works with 40 Long Island downtowns.

Alexander said Long Islander must be proactive in saving those downtowns.

"Wendy's and Panera bread are going to be fine. Your independent small business on Main Street won't be there if you don't come and support them," he told CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

PHOTO GALLERY: Coronavirus Shutdown 30 Days In

"A lot of us are supporting. We are coming in, stopping, calling our orders in," said one shopper.

Nearly 100 Long Island mayors joined the Congressional delegation for a conference on the fate of villages.

"Many businesses will probably fail and go out," one mayor said.

Vision Long Island polled 500 Main Street shops. A third of them say they are contemplating permanent closure, but believe communities shopping local will be a major factor in saving them.


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