'Lost' TriBeCa Street to Get New Signs, City Says

By Julie Shapiro on May 24, 2012 7:49am 

Leo Ilyayev, manager of Ilya's Barber Shop on Lispenard Street, wants the city to install more street signs.
Leo Ilyayev, manager of Ilya's Barber Shop on Lispenard Street, wants the city to install more street signs.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

TRIBECA — Lispenard Street soon won't be so hard to find.

After complaints from small business owners that their customers get lost on the way to the tiny two-block TriBeCa street, the city agreed Wednesday to install more street signs by the end of next week.

"I can't believe it — I'm so happy," said Amy Bergenfeld, whose family owns the Civil Service Book Shop at 38 Lispenard St. "People will now be able to find me. I think it will really bring a lot of business."

The nearly 60-year-old bookstore lost about half its customers after moving from Worth Street up to Lispenard in January, Bergenfeld said. She blames some of that loss of business on her loyal shoppers being unable to find her.

There is currently just one Lispenard Street sign, at Broadway, the tail end of the one-way street. Lispenard's other two intersections have no signs. 

Bergenfeld and her mother, Roslyn Bergenfeld, have been calling 311 and local elected officials for months trying to get more street signs installed, but they couldn't get any answers.

Meanwhile, they've been fielding daily phone calls from lost customers who are circling the streets hunting for the shop.

"If it wasn't so sad, it would be funny," said Bergenfeld, a Queens resident who started the bookstore with her husband in the early 1950s.

But on Wednesday afternoon, just a few hours after a DNAinfo.com New York inquiry, a Department of Transportation spokesman said the city would replace the missing street signs at Lispenard Street and Sixth Avenue and add new signs at Lispenard and Church streets.

The signs will be installed by the end of next week, DOT officials said.

The Bergenfelds weren't the only ones on Lispenard Street who wanted to see more street signs.

Leo Ilyayev, who has managed Ilya's Barber Shop at 33 Lispenard St. for 11 years, said his customers are often confused about how to get there.

"People look for the street and nobody knows," he said. "How are you going to know? There's no sign."

Workers at Xoos, the French shirt shop at 7 Lispenard St., said there used to be a Lispenard Street sign at Sixth Avenue, but it disappeared sometime late last year. Since then, sales associate Fredina Kain said she has called 311 repeatedly.

She recently spotted a handmade paper sign for Lispenard Street at Church Street, but it soon disappeared as well.

Kain has found it almost impossible to get food delivered for lunch because the delivery people often give up on finding the shop.

"A lot of people have never heard of Lispenard Street, even though they've lived in New York their whole life," she said. "Usually what I have to tell people is it's parallel to Canal Street."

The 1st Precinct station house, one block from Lispenard Street, has a large stock of extra street signs for the neighborhood, and several people said they had seen a Lispenard Street sign there, but it was unclear why it had not been installed.

Officials with the 1st Precinct did not immediately return a call for comment.

Lispenard Street is named for a prominent early New York family whose members included Anthony Lispenard Bleecker, a merchant who was also a warden at Trinity Church and has a large burial vault in the churchyard, according to the church's website.

While the Lispenard name was well known in 18th-century New York, recognition has faded.

Paul Cantor, who has lived on Lispenard Street for the past 17 years, said he isn't surprised local businesses are having problems, though he personally has not had any issues with living on a street that cab drivers and delivery workers may not know where to find.

"I certainly understand," Cantor said. "It's a little street, it only runs two blocks, and most people in the city have never heard of it."

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