Local businesses in Ridgewood are feeling the pain during a months-long project to make the 71st Avenue Plaza a permanent site.
Much like their Glendale counterparts — who are facing plaza construction issues of their own — several businesses that abut the ongoing construction site along Myrtle Avenue are seeing a decrease in customers, and in turn, a decrease in profits.
Bamboo Tropical, a health juice and salad bar located at 59-13 71st Ave., said they are losing so much money every week due to the construction work that they may need to close down for good if they don’t rebound from their losses.
The main issue Bamboo Tropical is facing is a lack of visibility because of very large concrete sewer tubing right outside their store, which blocks customers from seeing their storefront. The construction also leaves no parking for employees or customers.
“People sometimes think we’re closed, or they think we’re not punctual with our times because they can’t see us,” said Citali Hernandez, daughter of the owner of Bamboo Tropical. “But we are here and open, but they just can’t see.”
“Some [customers] say they aren’t coming in anymore because there is no space for them to park their cars,” added Valeria Benitez, manager at Bamboo Tropical. “They can end up being late to work, and that’s an issue for them, so they decide not to come.”
Other issues Bamboo Tropical faces include loud noises, dirt and dust being tracked into the store, and having the bathrooms for the construction workers right outside their establishment.
“Winter is already our slow time, but the construction is making it worse,” Hernandez said. “We have been losing around $1,500 a month since construction started. We barely make enough to purchase our fresh produce. We’ve been thinking of closing down because my dad has been paying our rent out of pocket, and he can’t keep doing that for much longer.”
Another business that has suffered because of the plaza project is Ridgewood Opticians, located a few stores down at 59-05 71st Ave.
“Business has definitely slowed down because of the construction,” said Kim Soto, an optician at Ridgewood Opticians. “We don’t get as many walk-ins. And we advertise a lot online, and people have trouble finding us. We have people coming from Forest Hills and other places, and they can’t find us. And when they do find us, they can’t park. Elderly patients come by Access-a-Ride, but they can’t park to get them here.”
Although businesses are hurting right now, Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), asks business owners to look at the bright light at the end of the tunnel.
“Once the sewer project is complete, then work will be going on in the plaza itself,” Renz said. “Vincent Arcuri (chair of Community Board 5) and I met with the contractor with DDC (Department of Design and Construction) on [Feb. 16] and he expects the sewer project, with the big gray sewer connections, to be completed in three weeks. Then work will be commencing in the plaza itself and the visibility will be greatly improved.”
Renz also mentioned that once construction is completed — scheduled for September of this year, according to the contract — that the new permanent plaza will be a major boon to the same businesses that are suffering right now.
“As with any construction project, there is impact to businesses,” Renz added. “But other plaza projects have clearly benefited the businesses. Even the temporary plaza was embraced by the community, so the new plaza will bring in new amenities and actually help the businesses in the area.”
Only time will tell how these businesses will do once the plaza is fully functional later this fall.