By Helen Klein
With the holiday season right around the corner, merchants at Newkirk Plaza could find their business significantly impacted by station work being done along the Brighton line.
In particular, plans by New York City Transit to tear up concrete in front of the stores as part of the reconstruction of the plaza itself, as well as the TA’s plan to close the Brighton line on the weekend of December 5th, represent a double whammy to merchants whose businesses have already been hard hit by the ongoing construction, in which all the stations between Newkirk Avenue and Kings Highway are undergoing renovation, as part of New York City Transit’s Brighton Five project.
Already, there have been several weekends when there was no Brighton line service at all, meaning fewer customers passing through Newkirk Plaza. In addition, because of work on the plaza, the Newkirk Avenue station has been bypassed on other weekends during the past year, also draining customers from stores there.
At this point, according to Larry Hirchak, an engineer with Granite Construction, who is the project liaison to Community Board 14, preparatory work on one half of the plaza is nearly complete.
“We are anticipating completion around Thanksgiving,” Hirchak told members of CB 14’s Transportation Committee, gathered at the board office, 810 East 16th Street, for their October meeting. “Then, we will switch over and start demoing the part of the plaza adjacent to the businesses.”
While Hirchak noted, “We are going to try to do it as painlessly as possible” -- and told board members that access to the businesses would not be “impact(ed) any time during construction,” because of the construction of walkways and bridges -- simply tearing up the concrete adjacent to the businesses right before the holiday shopping season would be problematic, contended Nick Correra, vice president of the Newkirk Plaza Merchants Association.
Recalling that the first half of the project was originally supposed to be completed in August, Correra -- who owns Newkirk Station Liquors -- pointed out to the TA representatives at the meeting that doing the demolition just before December would have a tremendous negative impact on them, since the holiday season is their busiest time of the year.
“That would be horrendous,” Correra asserted. “We’re having a tough enough time up there, as it is. To start tearing out the concrete that abuts our buildings, and then bridge our stores to the new concrete you’re about to pour, would seem to create nothing but havoc up there.”
“Is there any way it can be held up till January second?” queried Morris Sacks, the committee chairperson.
“We will look at our schedule,” replied Hirchak.
The planned closure of the line for the weekend of December 5th -- which would result in shuttle buses running along Ocean Avenue to transport commuters who would otherwise take the train -- is being orchestrated so a canopy can be installed over the temporary platform that has been built at the Avenue J station,said Andrew Inglesby, assistant director of government and community relations for the TA.
“That just takes all traffic away from us,” stressed Correra. “That destroys us altogether. That’s a pivotal weekend for us.”
“We want to put the canopy up before winter,” Inglesby explained, noting that it was the earliest weekend that the agency could arrange to do the work.
“I understand that,” Correra rejoined. “But, inside Newkirk Plaza, we live and die by the subway. You take the subway away from us, that’s 40 percent of our business. One of the fellows that works for me took the shuttle bus. He said to me, ‘Nick, all your customers are sitting at Foster and Ocean Avenue.’ I’m not going to pick up my store and move it there so I can do business. I had a horrendous August. I had a horrendous September. Now, you are going to destroy my December.”
Is there any way that some of the shuttle buses could be routed past Newkirk Plaza, Correra wanted to know.
“I’ll see what we can do,” Inglesby rejoined, adding, “I can’t promise anything.”
By press time, the TA had not responded to an inquiry as to whether the agency had shifted plans to accommodate the concerns of the Newkirk Plaza merchants.