On Second Avenue, the Merchants Wait. And Wait. And Wait.

Construction on the Second Avenue Subway keeps driving customers away

On a late Wednesday afternoon, Vinus and Marc, a restaurant and bar on Second Avenue near 96th Street is empty. The room is filled with inviting red velvet chairs, but they are seating not one person. The lighting is low and romantic, but the noise outside the establishment is hard to ignore.

Danielle Schneider, an employee at the bar, said that her day is filled with noise, all from the Second Avenue subway construction, and that noise deters potential customers. And it’s not just the noise: The sidewalks are unavailable to passersby as construction workers tear them apart. “Right now, our fingers are basically just crossed, hoping that business will get a bunch better with the subway coming up and with our sidewalks coming back,” Scheider said.

Vinus and Marc recently applied for a permit to seat guests outside the establishment. Schneider said she’s hoping that by the time the weather gets warmer, the sidewalks will be available for the restaurant to use. While the noise is an annoyance, Schneider said she doesn’t mind it in a way because it means that work is getting done.

Schneider is hardly the only person on Second Avenue to express frustration over how long the construction is taking. Mahmoud Mostafa, the manager of Famous Original Ray’s Pizza on Second Avenue and 95th Street, said that while the construction workers keep businesses apprised of their work schedule, the construction tends to take longer than what the workers promise. As for the sidewalks, “They say that they will finish in two weeks, but it will probably finish in a month,” Mostafa said. Each month, he said, the completion of the sidewalks gets pushed to the next month. Mostafa also cited the increase in dust in his establishment, causing him to have to clean more often than before.

Sulayman Pnkhasov, owner of Elite Unisex Hair Salon, between Third and Second Avenue on 94th Street, said he hadn’t anticipated this construction when he opened his salon in 2009. He said he had to throw away his business plan once the construction started because there was nothing he could do. “I’m struggling,” he said.

Construction on the Second Avenue Subway started in 2007. The subway is set to open a new line that will function for 8.5 miles along Manhattan’s East Side—from 125th Street in Harlem to Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan. There will also be a track connection to the 63rd Street and Broadway Lines, allowing subway to provide services from East Harlem and the Upper East Side to West Midtown.

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board approved spending another $66 million on the $4.5 billion project to speed up the construction. The MTA Chairman, Thomas Prendergast, said he expects the first phase, which will accommodate 200,000 passengers, to open in December 2016. Phase 1 expands the Q train from its current terminal at 57 Street and 7th Avenue to the newly constructed 96th Street and Second Avenue. There will be new subway stations on 72nd Street, 86th Street and 96th Street along Second Avenue. Additionally, the Lexington Avenue and 63rd Street will be renovated.

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