The City of Seattle gave $15 million to waterfront businesses during a disturbing construction project. Now the King County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is asking why similar consideration wasn’t given to minority businesses elsewhere in the city.
“It is clear the City of Seattle is engaging in a double standard when it comes to big businesses downtown with the seawall. There seems to be $15 million available,” Gerald Hankerson, president of the King County NAACP told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz. “But when it comes to the small, minority-owned businesses in the central area of Seattle, there is not one single dollar.”
Hankerson further believes that Seattle’s construction project running along 23rd Avenue in the Central District ultimately aims to oust minority owned businesses from the area, and replace them with wealthier corporate shops.
“It is clear to me that this is the final stage to get rid of those small businesses in that area, which they’ve been trying to do for quite some time — in anticipating a new central area over the next year or two — to bring in the big corporate-type businesses,” he said.
The 23rd Avenue corridor is a primary route through the Central District of Seattle. The city is currently engaged in a series of projects to upgrade the road. But that construction is interrupting business, according to Hankerson who argues the city is favoring one business community and not another — the minority-based business community along 23rd Avenue.
Rantz pointed out that the city did contribute about $100,000 so the businesses could advertise they are still open during construction. And while Rantz believes that the Seattle Department of Transportation is often absentminded in its planning approach, he fails to see where racism plays into what is happening on 23rd Avenue.
“Not thinking allows for these small businesses to be run out, which could be part of a huge plan of the Seattle Department of Transportation or the city itself,” Hankerson countered. “Why is it that every time it comes to black or minority-owned business being impacted in this city there are no answers, no solutions, and no money?”
Hankerson points out that all the advertising Seattle has contributed cannot help the businesses if people cannot drive to the shops, or even walk into the blocked front doors.
“The reality is that this is the end result,” he said. “Doors are going to be closing within the next 30 days unless the City of Seattle doesn’t intervene in some way. How are mitigating funds available for one business and not the other, if [getting rid of them] is not the intention?”
“It’s clear that for years now the central area of Seattle has been ground zero for gentrification. We’ve seen those impacts and the erosion in those communities for the past 30 years,” he said. “Today we see that the construction that’s going on along that corridor has had such a dramatic impact on small businesses that customers cannot even get into the door.”