Home Asides As SAS construction heads south, 2nd Ave. merchants suffer

As SAS construction heads south, 2nd Ave. merchants suffer

by Benjamin Kabak

For the past few years, business owners along Second Ave. near the upper 90s have bemoaned the constant state of construction around the Second Ave. Subway launch box. With noise and dust filling the air, with fenced-off sidewalks and a general state of disarray, business has suffered and many stores have closed. Now that the project work is heading south along the avenue, business owners in the East 60s and 70s are finding out that life amidst a subway construction isn’t very much fun.

As The Real Deal reported this week, some merchants have found business down by 40 percent as the MTA has set up fences and has begun working between 69th and 74th Streets. The Beach Cafe at 70th St., for instance, has been open for 40 years but has seen business drop by a quarter since subway work began. There is, said owner Dave Goodside, “no guarantee that we’re going to be in business next year and that’s due to the subway construction. We’ve never felt like that before, but that’s how we feel.”

New York City politicians are attempting to usher through a bill granting these businesses tax abatements during construction, and the MTA has been promoting the “Shop Second Avenue” initiative. Additionally, once work is completed on Phase I of the SAS sometime between 2016 and 2018, these businesses will see property value shoot up, but that is little consolation as their day-to-day existences remain in limbo. These shops are but necessary victims of a badly-needed subway extension.

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JP August 25, 2010 - 1:02 pm

The construction needs to be publicized better. A giant, rolling counter that keeps track of the progress vs dollars spent, and a tourist-viewing station where you can see the work-in-progress, live. That would drive more people to *want* to be in the middle of dust and noise and vibrations. Otherwise, good luck selling blintzes or coffee right above the TBM!

Benjamin Kabak August 25, 2010 - 1:38 pm

Being right above the TBM isn’t the problem; it’s being in the area where they’re working on station entrances and auxiliary buildings. The TBM should be drilling with little notice in the area, but as they ready to remove dirt and relocate utilities, it’s messy.

mdh August 25, 2010 - 1:37 pm

I’m rather tired of hearing about all these businesses suffering because of the subway construction. I understand that it amounts to real, hardworking people and their businesses, but I think we need to take a step back and think about just what the impact is.

First, let’s consider the economic impact on all businesses: due to the current economic climate consumers have become much pickier in general. Consumers have less disposable income in a more uncertain time so everyone has cut back spending. Period. It’s a tough time for any business, especially restaurants.

Second, this means that a place like Beach Cafe — not exactly “highly-rated” with only 3 stars out of 5 on Yelp — is going to be among the first restaurants that consumers will pass on. You could make a similar case for the recently-closed Cinema Cafe just down the street from Beach Cafe. What makes those places desirable for diners, when you consider the multitude of other options in the neighborhood? Do those restaurants offer anything particularly special or worthwhile for a potential customer?

Finally, the Beach Cafe example of this construction’s impact to businesses does not hold water:
1. They have not lost their outdoor seating area due to the construction
2. There is NO fencing at the southeast corner of 69th/2nd
3. Noise? The majority of Beach Cafe’s business occurs at night when construction activities do not take place, and it’s a restaurant ON SECOND AVENUE, which is a generally noisy street to begin with.

Those facts notwithstanding, do people actually think about going to a store or restaurant on 2nd Ave. in the construction zone, but reconsider specifically because they don’t want to deal with the “noise and dust filling the air, with fenced-off sidewalks and a general state of disarray?”

mdh August 25, 2010 - 1:40 pm

My apologies — upon taking a closer look, Beach Cafe is actually on 70th St., not 69th St. There is, in fact, fencing on the corner of 70th/2nd.

Older and Wiser August 25, 2010 - 3:04 pm

There’s a ton of MTA construction all up and down 2nd avenue. But some of it, e.g. cuts into sidewalk widths near intersections, looks more like a bus-related project than subway. I haven’t been paying much attention to buses lately, but is there some sort of BRT project going on concurrent with SAS?

Benjamin Kabak August 25, 2010 - 3:07 pm

Well, there is the extensive East Side Select Bus Service that’s debuting in October. A lot of the street work is focused around that, but I think they’re not doing much for the bus in SAS work zones.

Red August 25, 2010 - 3:10 pm

There is – First/Second Ave. Select Bus Service. But I was under the impression that the city was not building that project’s bus/bike lane improvements in the SAS construction zone. So that may or may not be what you see.

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