As the Upper East Side comes to grips with news of massive delays for Phase I of the Second Ave. Subway, everyone is feeling the sting. Homeowners and tenants now face the threat of construction for the better part of the next nine years; businesses are trying to cope with the mess; and even the real estate industry — a prime beneficiary of a new subway line — is suffering through some subway-inspired problems.
We start with real estate. Writing for The Real Deal, Sara Polsky explores how the construction delays are impacting the already-slow Upper East Side market. Brokers are concerned that the constant construction and increasing delays present short-term challenges to the area that could easily deter would-be buyers. She writes:
Between now and whenever the subway is completed, said Halstead Property Senior Vice President Rena Goldstein, it could be difficult to interest buyers in Upper East Side properties east of Third Avenue. Goldstein said she chose not to show one Second Avenue apartment in the 70s to buyers searching for a pied-à-terre because she knew they didn’t want to live near construction for the next seven or eight years.
“It’s going to be a lot harder to sell property [on the Upper East Side]… it’s going to be like that for a long time.” The construction will likely mean fewer customers for local businesses, leading some to close, she said — another negative for prospective residents. “When stores start to become empty, then it impacts negatively on the community around it and …on the value of apartments.”
While other real estate agents disagreed with Goldstein and noted that a new subway line would dramatically increase values along avenues that are currently far from transit, these brokers were concerned about the eventual overall fate of the project. Polsky details:
One concern for potential buyers as the project is delayed, [Kathy] Braddock the consultant said, is whether it will be finished at all. If the city’s finances make it impossible to complete the project, a hole in the ground, “no matter what the price [of real estate], would be a deterrent,” she said. And some buyers might expect discounts now because of the construction’s expected impact on the neighborhood.
But once the subway is completed, [Asher ] Alcobi said it will boost prices in the area significantly and could have a wide-ranging impact on city real estate. Wall Street employees might relocate uptown from the Financial District, and subway access to East Harlem could improve development there, Alcobi said. And buyers who previously refused to look east of Third Avenue will broaden their horizons, Halstead’s Goldstein added, noting: “the far East Side will come up in value.”
Right now, though, the uncertainty of the project is leaving more than just real estate values in flux. Business is suffering as well. Tom Topousis and Perry Chairamonte of The Post talked to some of the small business owners along Second Ave. in the 90s, and none of them were too happy with the delays.
Ruffino Lubis of Kim’s Shoe Repair sounded concerned over the future of his business. “We’ve lost 50 percent of our business since this started. My customers can’t park anywhere,” Lubis said. “It’s going to be pretty desperate. I worry that we can’t stay open.”
While it doesn’t really matter that shoe repair customers on the Upper East Side can’t park anywhere, the bigger issue is access. With the avenue a perpetual construction zone, sidewalk access is severely limited, and foot traffic has disappeared. Once the tunnel-boring machines are in and the MTA can cover up the hole, pedestrian traffic and business should pick up. For now, though, these never-ending delays are slowly choking a neighborhood.