FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 4, 2019

Contact: Catherine Tenuta, SBS Press Secretary - ctenuta@sbs.nyc.gov, 212-618-8768

DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION CELEBRATES LEGACY AND CONTRIBUTIONS OF NYC IMMIGRANT BUSINESS OWNERS

In Celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month, Photo Exhibit Depicts Present-Day and Archival Images of Immigrant Business Owners Over the Last Century

New York – NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Gregg Bishop and the Tenement Museum today announced the launch of a new photo exhibit celebrating the legacy and contribution of New York City’s immigrant business owners. The photo exhibit, called Immigrants Mean Business: An Enduring History of Entrepreneurship, features present-day and archival images of NYC immigrant business owners representing a range of countries of origin. This is the City’s first-ever exhibit partnership with the Tenement Museum. The exhibit officially opens on June 8th during Immigrant Heritage Month, and is free to the public.

The exhibit celebrates immigrant New Yorkers’ rich history and recognize their contributions as the foundation of the City’s economy. New York City’s economy continues to thrive, not only due to a vibrant immigrant population, but because of its unparalleled diversity. The strong economic framework that we enjoy today is a direct result of the City’s welcoming policy toward immigrants that has been maintained for over 100 years. From 1892 to 1954, over 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island. Before that, another 8 million came through Castle Garden in The Battery.

Today, 38 percent of New Yorkers have immigrated here from other countries. In addition to making up 46 percent of the City’s workforce, another 83,000 own their own businesses, representing half of all small businesses in New York City. According to the most recent numbers from the Fiscal Policy Institute, in 2017 New York City’s immigrant business owners brought in $5.2 billion of the $13.2 billion in total individual earnings from incorporated businesses. 

“Over the course of the past century, waves of immigrants have come from all over the world but one factor remains constant - we are a city built on immigrant entrepreneurship and we welcome those from across the globe with open arms,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “As an immigrant New Yorker myself, I am proud to launch an exhibit that celebrates the foreign-born New Yorkers who have left a deep imprint on our city’s culture and economy.”

“Immigrant, migrant and refugee entrepreneurship is what helped build- and continues to help build- America,” said Kevin Jennings, President of the Tenement Museum. “This exhibit powerfully illustrates the connection between immigrant business owners past and present, using the Tenement Museum’s collections and world-class apartment and walking tours, including our ‘Shop Life’, ‘Sweatshop Workers’ and ‘Foods of the Lower East Side’ tours, which will be offered to visitors to expand on and supplement the photo exhibit.”

“The story of our communities and our daily lives in New York City are driven and shaped by immigrants, old and new. From eating at your favorite restaurant, to visiting the neighborhood barber or salon, or utilizing the latest tech innovations, these photos remind us that our history is an immigrant story,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “The Trump administration’s attempt to erase and rewrite our past is unwelcome and simply untrue in the ultimate city of immigrants, where half of our businesses are immigrant-owned. Our colleagues at the Department of Small Business Services, together with the Tenement Museum, have created a spectacular exhibit that New Yorkers will be able to enjoy all summer long.”

The free exhibit will open on June 8th and run every weekend through the summer until September 8. Linking present and past, this pop-up exhibit features contemporary photo portraits of immigrant business owners by photographer Tesfa Alexander, paired with historic photos of immigrant-owned businesses from the late 19th century to the 1970s provided by NYC Department of Records & Information Services and the Tenement Museum. The following present-day business owners are featured in the exhibit:

  • Alex Khaytin, Ukrainian immigrant and owner of CDL Auto Club in Brooklyn;
  • Atinuke Akinwunmi, Nigerian immigrant and owner of PurH20 based out of Staten Island;
  • Julie Choudhury, Bangladeshi immigrant and owner of Parineeta the Bride in Queens;
  • Michael Petrov, immigrant from the Soviet Union and owner of Digital Edge on Staten Island;
  • Natalya Yagau, Kazakh, immigrant and owner of Elite Laser Spa in Brooklyn;
  • Nestor Lebron, Dominican immigrant and owner of The Barber Factory in the Bronx;
  • Peter Tondreau, Korean immigrant and owner of Very Fresh Noodles in Manhattan;
  • Sufia Hossain, Bangladeshi immigrant and owner of Silly Chilly Hot Sauce in Queens;
  • Yajaira Gonzalez, Venezuelan immigrant and owner of Pop + Pour in Manhattan; and
  • Yudelka Carrera, Dominican immigrant and owner of Events by Yudy based out of the Bronx.

As part of an ongoing commitment to serving the City’s entrepreneurs, SBS offers no-cost services and resources to entrepreneurs in immigrant communities throughout the city in multiple languages, including culturally-sensitive business courses, financing assistance, pro-bono legal aid, and more. For more information, visit nyc.gov/immigrantbusinesses.

For more information on the exhibit, visit tenement.org/nycimmigrants.

“As the representative of such lively immigrant communities as Chinatown and the Lower East Side, I know firsthand the vital role they play in New York’s economy,” said NYC Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “From the beginning, New York’s status as a vibrant financial hub has been fueled by the innovative spirit of those who came to this city with a dream to make a better life for themselves and their families. There is no better way to kick off Immigrant Heritage Month than opening the Immigrants Mean Business: An Enduring History of Entrepreneurship photo exhibit right here in the Lower East Side. I thank Mayor De Blasio, Commissioner Bishop and the Tenement Museum for their work to recognize the role of immigrants in our city’s economy.”

“This first-of-its-kind photo exhibit is a fantastic celebration of both the immigrant hands that built New York and the foreign-born entrepreneurs whose ingenuity has made this the greatest city in the world,” said NYC Council Member Francisco Moya. "New Yorkers are well aware of the contributions immigrants have made but in today’s climate with a White House that continuously threatens immigrants it’s critical to make sure we never forget that our diversity has been our great asset.”

“We cannot forget that history is only as accurate as the voices that are included. Immigrants to a large extent have built this city, and Immigrant Heritage Month is a wonderful way to highlight their long, rich history here and their enormous contribution to our economy and culture,” said NYC Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “I am very proud to support this exhibit -- created and curated in partnership with the Tenement Museum, the Department of Records and Information Services, and the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs – and its celebration of immigrant business owners as a key part of the story of New York.”

“The immigrant experience is a fundamental part of how the United States became an economic stronghold on a global scale. I want to commend the New York City Department of Small Business Services for their efforts to highlight the legacy of our immigrant workforce through this very moving exhibit,” said NYC Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “As we celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month, this event is an important reminder of the work ethic that our ancestors used to build the great city of New York, and a testament to the gratitude that we owe them. 

“The Bronx Chamber Commerce is excited to visit and share this incredible exhibition that highlights the demographics of our membership, borough, and the entire City,” said Lisa Sorin, President of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. “Our great borough has a strong economic foundation set forth by the talent, array of cultures, and passion for businesses established by immigrant business owners. We thank the administration for showcasing the importance of the small businesses in New York!” 

"New York City has welcomed millions of immigrants throughout our history, and the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs have undoubtedly catalyzed the local business community's unparalleled vibrancy," said Jessica Walker, President and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. "This incredibly timely and important exhibit will shine a light on the critical role of immigrant-owned businesses in establishing New York City as a global leader in entrepreneurship."

“Historically a melting pot, NYC is made up of so many diverse and unique businesses,” said Linda Baran, President & CEO of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce. “This exhibit is great way to highlight immigrant entrepreneurship and how these businesses continue to shape our local economy. Kudos to the NYC Department of Business Services and their partners for celebrating immigrant businesses, past and present day, in all 5 Boroughs.”

“Small businesses are the economic engine of New York City and the majority of those small businesses are owned by immigrants that have come here from all over the world,” said Quenia Abreu, President of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce. “Immigrant owned businesses not only give our city the diverse cultural flavor that makes it unique and attractive to millions of tourist who visit every year, it also powers the economy by providing jobs to thousands of New Yorkers. Immigrant owned businesses make New York City the best city in the world!” 

About the Department of Small Business Services (SBS)
SBS helps unlock economic potential and create economic security for all New Yorkers by connecting New Yorkers to good jobs, creating stronger businesses, and building vibrant neighborhoods across the five boroughs. For more information, visit nyc.gov/sbs, call 311, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About the Tenement Museum
At a time when immigration is at the center of our national conversation, the Tenement Museum is more relevant than ever. Since 1988, the Museum has forged emotional connections between visitors and immigrants past and present, through educator-led tours of its historic tenement buildings at 97 and 103 Orchard and the surrounding neighborhood, enhancing appreciation for the vital role immigrants play in shaping the American identity. The Museum now aims to use every medium at its disposal to dramatically increase the impact of its programming—reaching millions not thousands-- with its message of how immigrants built and continue to build America.