Among the factors considered when hunting for prime real estate in New York City, there’s one question that every potential renter—be it residential or commercial—will always ask: Where’s the closest subway?
For the businesses near the 15th St.-Prospect Park and Ft. Hamilton Parkway stations on the F and G lines, proximity to the train is a huge perk. Or at least it was, before southbound trains began skipping the two stations in January for a multi-month construction project, severely hampering business for many of the area’s merchants.
Suzanne Meehan, owner of directly above the Ft. Hamilton Parkway station, said that she has seen roughly a 15 percent drop in business since the stations closed. Other store owners she spoke said they have seen losses up to 25 percent.
For Meehan, who opened the Prospect Avenue location of her café in 2005, the brunt of the loss has come from the mornings, when straphangers had been accustomed to grabbing coffee and a pastry on their way to the train. Considering the hectic nature of mornings generally, most are not willing to double back from the Church Ave. stop to get their coffee from Meehan's café.
“It affects my employees, it affects my customers,” she said. “If I tell someone how to get here, I need to remember to tell them, ‘Oh, you need to do this, and get off, but don’t get all the way off, just cross over and come back.'”
The construction actually began four years ago as part of the MTA’s Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation Project, which involves overhauling the viaduct structure and renewing tracks, signals and switches along Brooklyn’s Culver Line, said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. It’s the same project that has had trains skipping the Smith-9th St. station in Gowanus for more than a year.
Compounding the problem, MTA is planning to to the five stations south of Smith-9th St. once construction is finished in 2014.
Other business owners in the area have come to terms with the fact that owning a business in New York City means coping with inconvenience.
“We’re being patient, like they told us,” said Herculis Kontogiannis, owner of the Windsor Café near the 15th St.-Prospect Park station. “They say ‘A few more months, a few more months.’ What can you do?”
Kontogiannis estimates that his restaurant has suffered a 20 percent dip in sales since the work began. To recoup some of the loss, he and his staff have expanded their delivery service to include neighborhoods typically out of their range.
“My guys on the bikes, we’ve got them giving out menus down past Cortelyou Road,” he said. “We have to go out and get the money, instead of the money coming to us like it normally does.”
Meehan, on the other hand, was forced to close a small take-out window that catered to commuters.
“It basically got to the point where it wasn’t even worth it for us run to anymore,” she said. “People just developed new habits.”
According to the MTA, service should be fully restored to both stations sometime in April. But Meehan said she finds it difficult to trust the time frame when it’s changed so many times before.
“With this particular saga, it’s like when you say too many times the excuse about how you didn’t bring your homework in,” she said. “They used up their last excuse with this community, I think.”
Kontogiannis said he’d like to see the MTA add more crews to expedite the work.
“They should be working around the clock to hurry up and finish,” he said. “There’s nothing that takes that long. What could they possibly be doing? Building us a new railway? I don’t know.”