2018-02-14 / Features

Subway Repair Shutdown Severely Impacting Local Business

BY ANNETTE HANZE


Opa! and Tastee Corner are just two of many businesses financially affected by the subway station closure. 
Photos Vinny DuPre Opa! and Tastee Corner are just two of many businesses financially affected by the subway station closure. Photos Vinny DuPre The 30th Avenue and 36th Avenue N/W train stations in Astoria have been completely shut down by the MTA for repairs since last October— as nearby residents are well aware. (See the Gazette’s front page story dated October 4, 2017 at QGazette.com). So are the many businesses that line the avenues, especially on 30th Avenue.

Frank Arcabascio, acting Director of the 30th Avenue Business Association, and owner of Redken Saloon Salon (36-17 30th Ave., Astoria), said around 100 businesses have been impacted.

The stations have been shut down for an accelerated “facelift,” along with 30 other stations, as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to “rapidly redesign and renew” dozens of the city’s subway stations.

Arcabascio said the plan was implemented without any business impact studies, or consulting local residents, landlords, and business owners whether it would be best to bite the bullet and completely shut down for 8 months, or reduce service (no late-night or weekend service) for a couple of years. Instead, Arcabascio said, the MTA decided, on its own, to opt for complete closure. A partial shutdown, while taking longer, would have still allowed for the majority of riders to continue using the station, and patronizing the businesses extending many blocks to either side of the closed station. He said at least foot traffic, “the lifeblood of most of the businesses,” would have continued. Shops depend on people stopping off on their way to and from work. Of course, many will still make the special trip, walk the extra few avenues, or navigate the mazes near the station when they have the time and energy, to visit their favorite places or explore new ones. But that is a huge reduction of business. One place reportedly has seen a drop of 50 percent, while another has closed (Opa! Tony’s Souvlaki, which had been there for 49 years; a “closed for renovations” sign was on the building).

Arcabascio made the point that “businesses, landlords—everyone must get permission before doing any kind of construction, but the MTA does as they wish, with no permits needed or input from the people—the businesses, community boards, residents. This hurts everyone.” He added, “Even LaGuardia Airport is still open despite being completely rebuilt.”

Arcabascio further noted that in the past, when Mike Bloomberg was mayor and Con Edison was working on the power lines and had to rip up the streets, Bloomberg saw to it that there were low or no-interest loans given to businesses, or tax abatements. Arcabascio was also grateful to former City Council Member Peter Vallone Jr. who had gone to Bloomberg for help, which has not been offered this time. Arcabascio added that the 30th Avenue businesses were not given notice about the train closure, and he wants to let people at the other stations know what’s coming so they can prepare for the next wave, which will include the 39th Avenue and Broadway stations this summer. The Astoria- Ditmars station will be closing for renovations in April, before 30th and 36th Avenues even reopen.

Other organizations have pointed out that the renovations are mainly cosmetic and do not even include elevators to make the trains accessible for the handicapped and elderly.

There was a rally on Thursday, February 8 to bring awareness to this matter. Arcabascio said the Central Astoria LDC was supporting this struggle, and the 30th Avenue Business Association would like all the local elected officials, for example, NYS Senator Michael Gianaris, Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, and Council Members Costa Constantinides and Jimmy Van Bramer, who are all very active in community matters, to advocate for them. They would also like to bring together all the community board presidents and business associations.

The train stations currently under construction, 30th Avenue and 36th Avenue, are scheduled to reopen some time in June, but Arcabascio wondered, “Does that mean the beginning or the end of June? If it is the end of June, that will be four extra weeks of damage.”

Which are precious weeks for businesses struggling to stay afloat due to the devastating reduction in foot traffic since the closure.

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