By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Another major water main project is on the way downtown — and residents and business owners are not happy.
The $20 million, four-and-a-half-year Peck Slip reconstruction will start later this month, ripping up seven historic blocks just south of the Brooklyn Bridge.
"I'm terrified," said Lee Holin, owner of Meade's bar and restaurant on Peck Slip. "I'm anticipating a nightmare."
Holin, who opened Meade's about five years ago, said he counts on his outdoor seating to attract customers during the summer, offsetting the slower winters.
But with jackhammers set to tear up the block, he worries that no one will even be able to see the bar, let alone stop in for a drink.
"If the [outdoor seating] goes away, we go away," Holin said. "The only thing that keeps us in business is the summer."
City officials said the project is necessary to replace the aging infrastructure beneath Peck Slip, including water mains that date back to 1906. The city also plans to install new sewer pipes, upgrade private utilities and add a smoother layer of cobblestones.
Over the course of the project, the work will take place on Peck Slip from South Street to Pearl Street; Water Street from Beekman Street to Dover Street; Front Street from Peck Slip to Dover Street; and Beekman Street from South Street to Front Street.
Amanda Byron, owner of The Salty Paw pet spa on Peck Slip, said she had heard the water main project was coming, but she had no idea it would be so extensive.
"This is shocking news and potentially devastating for all the businesses on the block," Byron said.
Shane Ojar, a deputy director with the city's Department of Design and Construction, said he would work with business owners to mitigate the impact of water shutoffs and street closures.
Many of the shops will also likely be eligible for grants of up to $35,000 through the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.'s Small Firm Assistance Program.
Residents who heard about the water main project at a Community Board 1 meeting last month said they are most concerned about the noise and rats it will bring to the quiet landmarked blocks.
"We're getting destroyed in this neighborhood with construction," said John Fratta, a Southbridge Towers resident and Community Board 1 member.
Fratta said the city had done a "lousy job" of curtailing the rat population on Fulton Street, which has been undergoing water main work for the last four years.
Ojar said he would do his best to address the rat problem, both on Fulton Street and on Peck Slip. He also promised that while the Peck Slip project will include overnight work, no noisy operations will take place between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Once the work on Peck Slip is complete, the city plans to beautify the newly-constructed street by replacing the parking lot that runs down its center with a new landscaped plaza.
However, the city Parks Department had trouble getting the design approved by the State Historic Preservation Office and has not announced a timeline for building the triangular park, which will include benches and a fountain.
The Parks Department did not return calls for comment.