Havana Tropical Café, a Cuban Restaurant which was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, was awarded a $50,000 Stronger NJ Business Grant by the Christie Administration this week, according to a release by the NJ Economic Development Authority.
The Stronger NJ Business Grant program is funded through New Jersey’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) allocation from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Similar to other Sandy relief grant programs, there are strict federal eligibility requirements to which the EDA and applicants must comply. To date, 374 grants have been approved totaling $18.1 million. An additional $24 million in loans have been approved by EDA through the program. This includes 11 grants in Highlands and 60 in all of Monmouth County.
“Businesses like Havana Tropical Café embody all of the wonderful qualities we have seen time and again within the small business community as the state recovers from Sandy,” said EDA Chief Executive Officer Michele Brown. ”We have provided support to many small companies, but perseverance, a positive attitude and love for their communities is really what drives business owners to rebuild. We look forward to supporting many more businesses in Highlands and other impacted areas across New Jersey.”
“This has been a very challenging time, but we love the beautiful Highlands community and were determined to stay here,” said Havana Tropical Café owner Ralphy Amado. “I am very grateful for our landlord, our many friends, and so many Highlands residents who have been so supportive and have expected nothing in return. The Stronger NJ grant will help us get back on our feet as we approach the summer season.”
Amada reopened his restaurant last August, losing most of the summer season after Sandy. He and his friends replaced the walls, floors, appliances and furniture in the facility. He depleted his savings and sold personal assets, including his truck, to fund the rebuilding.
In February, EDA recommended that Highlands receive a $1.5 million Streetscape from the Stronger NJ Neighborhood and Community Revitalization (NCR) program for improvements to the borough’s downtown area, including Bay and Washington Avenues. In addition to Highlands, other Monmouth County communities recommended for “Streetscape” grants include Asbury Park, Keansburg, Long Branch, Neptune and Belmar, totaling over $6 million.
The Streetscape grant recommended for approval under the NCR, also funded through the State’s CDBG-DR allocation from HUD, would help Highlands improve its downtown area, including the construction of new crosswalks, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant intersections, new street trees, streetlights and furniture, and wayfinding signage. Following EDA action, all Streetscape projects must undergo federally required environmental and historic preservation reviews by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.
For more information on the Stronger NJ Business programs, visithttp://application.njeda.com/strongernjbusiness or call the EDA’s Sandy hotline at 1-855-SANDY-BZ (1-855-726-3929).