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8th Ave. Water Main Construction to Snarl Traffic Until Fall 2014

By Andrea Swalec | September 24, 2012 8:43am

WEST VILLAGE — The street work that is closing lanes of traffic, stirring up dust and creating a ruckus on Eighth Avenue near West 14th Street — part of the city's plan to upgrade the West Village's water infrastructure — will be a fixture in the neighborhood for the next two years. 

The Eighth Avenue Trunk Water Main Project — which covers the four blocks from West 12th Street to West 13th Street — is scheduled to be completed in fall 2014. 

A spokesman for the city's Department of Design and Construction, which is coordinating the work, explained that the upgrades are needed because the 12-inch water pipes under the stretch of Eighth Avenue date back to the 1870s. 

"They break and burst, and we replace them, so it's not an emergency repair," the spokesman said.

Teams of workers digging into the street earlier this month eliminated the right lane of Eighth Avenue from West 12th Street to Jane Street, reducing the number of lanes from three to two. 

As drivers moved north, they had to navigate around a closed center lane between Horatio Street and West 13th Street, leaving two left lanes and one right lane. 

Some local workers and business owners said the construction — part of a larger $5 million project to upgrade water mains on Grand Street, West 60th Street and West 48th Street — has hampered their business. 

Allison McGowan, the owner of the Eighth Avenue clothing and housewares boutique Teich, said the construction that began in mid-June has left a fine layer of dust on her merchandise and cut into the store's foot traffic.

"I definitely think the work discourages people from lingering and stopping by," she said. 

Left Bank Books, located on the west side of Eighth Avenue north of West 12th Street, offered a 10 percent discount this summer to try to draw in customers despite the noise outside. 

"This is a store where people browse and take their time," said manager Michael Terry. "The discount was a thank-you to people for coming in anyway." 

Terry said he worried that the duration of the project would hit retail in the area in the long term. 

"Once people are used to this section of the city being marked by construction, they'll eventually avoid it," he said. 

Still, Nadira Hemraj, a worker at Van Gogh Cleaners on the east side of Eighth Avenue near Jane Street, said she was satisfied with how regularly the city updated businesses and residents about the work. 

"They have a job to do and they have to do it," she said.  

Residents and business owners who want to receive weekly bulletins on the work are advised to email 8thAveCCL@gmail.com to be added to DDC's list.