Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley said she met this week with representatives of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Design and Construction, Verizon, Community Board 5 and the 104th Precinct regarding the ongoing Cooper Plaza project at the corner of Myrtle and Cooper avenues.
Several merchants in the area told QNS that they’ve seen a significant decline in business since the project started last fall, which resulted in lane closures and parking restrictions along Myrtle Avenue. Many of these shops are eateries that rely on drivers passing through the area to stop and get a quick bite to eat on their way to work; the travel restrictions have made that task nearly impossible.
Part of the construction project involved digging a trench along Myrtle Avenue between 69th Place and 70th Street to replace a sewer and water main. Ducts and cables maintained by Verizon underground also needed to be moved.
During the meeting, Crowley said, the agencies said they would consider extending the work day by three hours in order to have the project completed well before the scheduled May completion date. Work currently takes place from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; the additional work hours would come during the afternoon and early evening.
Sources familiar with the meeting stated that the private contractor working on the city’s behalf are amenable to the idea, but Verizon has not yet made a commitment to working extended hours.
But in a statement Friday afternoon to QNS, a Verizon spokesperson denied that its crews, or contractors hired to work on their behalf, are on site in Glendale. The company indicated the work is being done by contractors working for the DDC, and that the schedule of work was not under Verizon’s control whatsoever.
“By rule, anytime a city project requires Verizon infrastructure to be moved, the DDC contractors perform the work themselves at Verizon’s cost,” the spokesperson said. “We are not performing this work – no Verizon workers are on site performing this work. We are merely paying the DDC to do it themselves. The timing and scheduling of that work is entirely at their discretion.”
Regardless of who or when the work is being conducted, Crowley noted, the needs of local business owners must be addressed.
“Our small businesses are the backbone of our communities. They fuel our day-to-day lives, and when they hurt, we as a neighborhood hurt,” Crowley said. “Construction along Myrtle Avenue has undoubtedly impacted the stores, but I am encouraged by various agencies and community leaders getting involved to amend the issue. I will continue to be in touch with store owners as well as agency representatives to ensure this construction does not interrupt our community’s way of life.”
Parking restrictions on Myrtle Avenue between 69th Place and 70th Street have also been lifted, and the NYPD is slated to bring agents to the area in order to provide better traffic flow.
Additionally, Community Board 5 has asked the DOT to temporarily suspend alternate-side parking rules on 68th through 71st streets between Central and Cooper avenues. According to District Manager Gary Giordano, this move would help provide those frequenting businesses on Myrtle Avenue with additional places to park on weekday mornings.
Joe Valvo, owner of Glendale Bagels, is holding out hope that these changes will help save his business. Valvo previously told QNS that the bagel shop he’s owned for nearly 20 years might close as early as February due to declining business since the project started.
However, when asked by QNS on Friday, Jan. 20, about the long-term future of his business, Valvo took a wait-and-see approach.
“Of course, I don’t want to close. I’m trying to hold off as best as I can,” Valvo said. “I’m going to see how much this combination [of a longer work schedule and eased travel restrictions] is going to help me.”