Since construction fences, noise and debris descended upon Second Ave. in mid-2007, businesses along the future subway route have struggled to survive. Fewer Upper East Siders are walking the work-clogged strip and restaurants who have had to sacrifice their outdoor cafes due to lost sidewalk space have seen revenues drop precipitously. Business owners have routinely asked for state or MTA hand-outs, but these requests have been met with a resounding no.
Last week, the Second Ave. Business Association again went hat-in-hand to the New York Senate, Dan Rivoli reported in Our Town. During a hearing on the status of the Second Ave. Subway construction, Joe Pecora asked for two intertwined things: “Promote foot traffic that has gone down 50 percent. Make Second Avenue a sales tax-free zone.” In the past, the Senate had failed to act on a grant fund or a property tax abatement, and the city has not responded to these requests either.
For its part, the MTA vowed again to make sure its work site is cleaned up. The authority will ensure that garbage isn’t left to rot — and breed rats — overnight, and capital construction has engaged in an effort to beautify the construction area. They are considering a call to minimize the number of empty construction containers left in front of storefronts as well. Yet, from politicians and from the MTA the message was the same: There’s only so much they can do, and the business disruptions are just the cost of constructing a subway line that will lead to a neighborhood boom when it’s completed. “Our options,” City Councilman Dan Garodnick said, “are limited.”