For 17 years, Joe Valvo and the team at Glendale Bagels have been serving up breakfast to hungry workers and residents, but the Myrtle Avenue shop’s future is in jeopardy.
Valvo told QNS in an interview on Thursday that Glendale Bagels could close for good on or about Feb. 5 after experiencing months of declining revenue that he claims is the result of construction work steps away from the shop at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and 70th Street in Glendale, where a new public plaza is being created.
The project, which will transform a short block of 70th Street between Myrtle and Cooper avenues into a new public space and also includes the replacement of water and sewer mains on Myrtle Avenue, is on track for completion in May. Valvo, however, says his business can’t ride out the project that long.
Glendale Bagels, like other food stores in the area, relies heavily on drivers making a quick stop on the morning commute to pick up a quick bite to eat or a cup of coffee. They would park on Myrtle Avenue or a block away, run in to get what they needed, then be on their way. The construction project, Valvo said, has made that quick task impossible.
Parking is restricted on much of the avenue between Cooper Avenue and 69th Street; Valvo claimed some of the few available parking spots are occupied by construction workers and their vehicles. A trench is being dug on the eastbound lane of Myrtle Avenue directly in front of the bagel shop, so two lanes of traffic are being forced to share the westbound lane. Flag men are stationed there to help guide cars, trucks and buses through the work zone safely.
Many people passing through Glendale have found alternate routes through the area since the plaza project began, using nearby Cooper and Central avenues to get around. Valvo also blamed that for the economic downturn.
Since September, business has been down at least 35 percent, or about $700 in revenue every weekday, Valvo told QNS during an interview at the shop Thursday morning. The steep drop, he says, forced him to lay off workers (he had three working the counter during our visit) and dip into his own savings to keep the business afloat.
“There’s not that many of us. We’re all getting crushed,” Valvo said. “I had a crowd from 7 to 9 a.m. I had Keyspan workers, DOT trucks, I had the cops from the 104, 83 and 75th precincts. I had EMS all lined up because you could park from 8 to 8:30 a.m. … I had a beautiful crowd. It’s been diminished because they have no place to park.”
The hard times aren’t isolated to Glendale Bagels. Down the block at Russo’s Bakery, business has been off between 40 and 50 percent since September, according to owner Rosita Russo. The bakery also relied upon drivers making quick morning stops for breakfast, but the parking restrictions and traffic on Myrtle Avenue ruined that opportunity.
“People would call ahead orders, but they say don’t go to Myrtle Avenue, there’s traffic and no parking,” she said.
Sayed Rahman, manager of the Dunkin’ Donuts shop near the corner of Myrtle and Cooper avenues, also said his weekday revenue is sharply lower since the construction project started. Like Valvo, he was forced to cut back his workforce to deal with the revenue drop.
Rahman tried to slow the bleeding by introducing curbside service where employees would run out an order to a waiting driver, but the construction also made that effort impossible.
Then there’s Nick Legakis, owner of the Glendale Diner, which has a parking lot that drivers have difficulty getting into due to ongoing movement of construction vehicles and construction material piled in front of the restaurant. This also also caused a drop in overall business in recent months.
After complaining about issues related to the construction site, Legakis noted, workers put up a work sign on the street reminding customers that Glendale Diner is indeed still open. That sign, however, was not there by the time we visited the location.
Valvo and others know the project needs to move forward, but they want the work done in a way that doesn’t damage their businesses. They have asked Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Assemblyman Mike Miller, Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano and the Department of Design and Construction to have the construction take place during evening hours when traffic is minimal.
A DDC spokesperson said that Verizon is doing work in front of the bagel store “at DDC’s request to relocate some of their lines so we can install new water mains at that location.” The DDC claims it requested that Verizon do the work at night, but added that “to this point, they have not agreed.” Once Verizon completes this work, the DDC will then install water mains there during nighttime hours.
Parking restrictions were lifted on Monday on the north side of Myrtle Avenue between 69th Place and 70th Street, according to the DDC. The DDC and Verizon are scheduled to meet with elected officials on Jan. 18 about the project, the spokesperson added.
Valvo said on Tuesday that it solved nothing — as spots across the street were occupied by construction workers, and traffic on Myrtle Avenue was detoured around the work area as the project continues.
“Every spot is available now, but you can’t get on the block,” he said. “They opened the spots, but they’re detouring you. So what was the point?”
If nothing dramatic happens to change the scope and timing of the work, Valvo said, he’ll be forced to close his doors, making Glendale Bagels another casualty on a shopping strip dotted with empty storefronts.