After President Obama announced a $75 billion plan for homeowners in distress, shady companies started offering Bushwick residents help with their mortgage modifications… for a fee.
Tag: Radio pieces on immigrants and the economy
Feet in 2 Worlds reporter Jelena Kopanja produced a piece for PRI’s nationally-syndicated daily program The World about how Ecuador tries to convince its expats to return home.
Immigrant Business Owners on Staten Island Struggle Against the Recession: FI2W Reporter Aswini Anburajan on WNYC
By Aswini Anburajan, FI2W reporter
Immigrant business owners have breathed new life into the North Shore of Staten Island, New York’s least populated and least diverse borough.
Feet in 2 Worlds partnered with WNYC, New York public radio, to produce a profile of Victory Boulevard, one of Staten Island’s major thoroughfares, for the Main Street NYC series, which examines the recession’s impact on neighborhoods across the city.
You can listen to the story by pressing play below or visiting WNYC’s web site .[audio:http://audio.wnyc.org/news/news20090511_main_st_staten_island.mp3]
The history of Victory Boulevard is like that of a lot of American Main Streets.
It was once part of a thriving downtown area until the development of suburbs drew the middle class community away from an urban center, and left areas like the northern end of Victory largely abandoned.
However, immigration to Staten Island over the past ten years has revitalized this part of the Island, which has stores that represent virtually every corner of the globe. While immigrants were once one out of ten residents in Staten Island in 1990, they are now one out of four residents. Ten percent of these immigrants own their own businesses, but the recent economic downturn has left many business owners struggling.
A&C Beauty Supply is a store that serves the Island’s African community, largely made up of Liberian and Senegalese immigrants.
Its owner, Adam, who is from Senegal, says that he noticed the downturn more than a year ago. Customers who were once avid purchasers of wigs and hair care products, now barely enter. On the day I stopped in, Adam had no customers in his store.
Kelvin Hanaf is the owner of Island Roti, a Carribbean takeout joint that serves food from his native Trinidad.
When I spoke with him he was at his wit’s end. “No one’s coming in,” he complained, saying that he would usually see weekend traffic start to pile into his store on a Thursday afternoon.
He joked that customers are cutting back so much that if they want to eat chicken roti they order a roti and cook their own chicken. Hanaf has cut prices by 50 cents on every item, and says that he just can’t afford to take the prices any lower.
Mosen Ibrahim also complains that penny pinching by the Island’s residents has taken a toll on his business. Moe’s Cafe, which he started five years ago, is one of the few places on Staten Island where you can find Mediterranean food and other dishes from Ibrahim’s native Egypt.
He was lured to Staten Island for the same reasons that many immigrants came — affordable home prices, the chance to start a business on the cheap and a small immigrant community from his native country. However, since the downturn Ibrahim has had to turn to his bank to stay afloat. They extended his mortgage, but he doesn’t mince words on what business is like right now. “Times are tough,” he said. “They’re tough for everybody but for the food business, when 80 percent of the people stop eating outside…” He trailed off with a laugh.
So who is doing well on Victory? Some of the haircutting salons like Against Da Grain Barber Shop report that even in a slow economy you still have to look good. This is one of the few stores on Victory that was crowded with customers the day I visited.
A hair braiding salon, named after its owner, Bissou, also reports that business is slowly picking back up. “A few months ago we were sitting here doing nothing,” Bissou, a Senegalese immigrant, told me, “So I can say that business is getting a little bit better.”
The one success story on Victory Boulevard, and perhaps for the future of immigrant-owned businesses on Staten Island, is Tulcingo Travel, a Mexican paquetería that facilitates the shipping of remittances and care packages between the United States and Mexico.
Immigrant entrepreneurs usually cater to their own communities, and in recent years the Mexican population on Staten Island has spiked, providing store owners who serve this community a buffer in these tough times. A Tulcingo worker told me that business had dropped off for about two months when the crisis first hit last fall, but things are back to normal now.
Could this bright spot on this struggling street mean that there is a silver lining to this crisis after all?
Nationally-syndicated radio show Latino USA featured one of FI2W reporter Martina Guzmán’s recent pieces this weekend.
You can listen to it here:
From Latino USA‘s website:
“The numbers are bad, and they just keep coming. Home Depot reports 7,000 jobs lost, and as Circuit City closes its doors, 4,000 more disappear. Car sales haven’t been this low in 27 years, and everywhere we look there are more signs of the times. In south Boston, Esther’s Country Kitchen leaves a note on the door reading, ‘Due to budget cuts, the light at the end of the tunnel is being turned off.’ Still, Americans continue to look for a bright spot. Some are finding a glimmer in what might seem to be a surprising place: immigrant neighborhoods.
“As part of Latino USA’s ongoing series focused on immigrants, New American Voices, we take a look at Detroit, and the dynamics of immigrant businesses inside their communities and beyond. Though Michigan’s unemployment rate is hovering at 10%, and people are leaving the state in droves, there is also an influx of immigrants. Martina Guzman reports on one community in Detroit that is holding the torch for Michigan with energy and undeniable growth.”
You can also listen to a conversation between Latino USA anchor María Hinojosa and John Austin of the New Economy Initiative For South East Michigan about how immigrant businesses help the city’s economy.
The interview is on this page, where you can also listen to the whole show.
Detroit public radio WDET today aired a piece by Feet In 2 Worlds reporter Martina Guzmán on the plight of Hispanic autoworkers and business owners who are suffering the crisis in the auto industry.
From the webpage of Detroit Today, hosted by Craig Fahle:
For decades Latino immigrants have achieved the American dream through the U.S. Auto Industry. At roughly 12 percent of the total U.S. manufacturing work force, Latinos acquired wealth and stability through good salaries, health benefits, union membership and a way to send the next generation to college. Now, all of that is in jeopardy with the Big 3 near collapse. As part of our occasional series, Feet in Two Worlds, WDET’s Martina Guzman reports on what Hispanic autoworkers are experiencing in the wake of the automotive crisis.
You can hear the story by pressing Play below:[audio:http://www.jocelyngonzales.net/FI2W/090114_martina_auto.mp3]
And you can read Martina’s post on the same subject from earlier this week here.
Poles going back to Poland, a trend that was first noticed two years ago, may be getting a boost from the economic crisis in the U.S. Speaking recently on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, FI2W journalist Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska talked about the growing number of Poles who are returning to their home country for economic reasons.
A variety of factors have encouraged reverse migration, chief among them is Poland’s admission into the European Union four years ago. EU membership has opened up work opportunities for Polish citizens in a number of European countries. Ewa, who reports for Nowy Dziennik/The Polish Daily News, also noted that some younger Poles have moved to Poland in the belief that their American education gives them a competitive advantage in Poland’s economy. But she also said that like the U.S., Poland is experiencing an economic slowdown, so the benefits of moving to the Eastern European country may not be as great today as they have been in recent years.
Press play below to listen to Ewa on WNYC or click here to visit the show’s page.[audio:http://audio.wnyc.org/bl/bl112608epod.mp3]
Ewa was recently honored by New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. at a Polish-American Heritage Celebration. Thompson hailed Ewa’s “truly impressive record of achievement that augurs a great body of work still to come.”
The crisis in the U.S. auto industry is among the many serious challenges facing Michigan’s economy. People are moving out of Michigan at a higher rate than any state in the nation, and at 8.5 percent Michigan has the highest average annual unemployment rate in the U.S. Despite these trends, business in the state’s Hispanic community is flourishing.
Feet In Two Worlds‘ Martina Guzman reported on Detroit’s thriving Latino businesses in a piece that aired on WDET, Detroit Public Radio.
Guzman compared some Motown neighborhoods where “buildings designed by world famous architects” are “now abandoned” to the city’s Mexicantown where “historic buildings have been renovated. There are ethnic grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, shops and a bustling main street.”
As the national economic crisis deepens and the state faces the loss of thousands more manufacturing jobs, Metro Detroit’s Latino business community may be a ray of hope on Michigan’s bleak economic landscape.
You can hear Martina’s piece by pressing play or you can visit WDET’s page here.[audio:http://wdet.org/audio/articles/HispanicBiz.mp3]
In her first nationally broadcast radio story, FI2W’s Aswini Anburajan explores how H1-B visas issued by the government are being used in surprising new ways by high-tech companies and their Indian employees in the U.S.
Instead of keeping to the traditional purpose of these visas —as the first step to getting a green card, which allows permanent residence in the U.S.— these workers are now using them to move around the world in search of adventure, corporate advancement and higher pay.
Aswini’s story aired on July 30, 2007. You can listen to it on the Marketplace website.
Feet in 2 Worlds reporter Aswini Anburajan’s story, Feet in Two Worlds: Indian Immigrants aired on May 31, 2007, on WNYC, New York Public Radio.
The story, where she explores some of the challenges faced by South Asian information technology professionals managing transnational work lives, quickly moved to the #8 spot on WNYC.org’s most emailed list. Here’s WNYC’s introduction:
“Many immigrants dream of returning to their home country after they’ve made their fortune in the US. But, for a growing number of highly educated Indian immigrants, the scales of opportunity have shifted. They’re leaving the US and going back to India to make their fortune.”
Press play below to listen to the story.[audio:http://audio.wnyc.org/news/news070531_immigration_exodus_anburajan.mp3]