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Businesses in Queens Plaza Welcome Crowds of Frustrated Commuters

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 1, 2012 4:57pm

QUEENS — Thousands of people streamed into Queensboro Plaza Thursday — one of the few places commuters are able to travel directly to Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy — snapping up everything from bicycles to sandwiches and helping local stores recover some of the losses from the monster storm.

Dunkin’ Donuts, which is located right next to the Queensboro Plaza subway station, had twice the usual number of customers, said Tahmina Begum, the store’s manager, adding that the store usually serves about 800 customers a day. “Today, I ordered double the amount of donuts,” she said.

People who usually would not pass through the area found themselves at the plaza, where the N train was running amid a partial restoration of subway service and buses where taking people to Manhattan.

Mercedes Francis said she ended up in Queensboro Plaza after a long journey and was trying to figure out how to get to a 10 a.m. job interview at an elevator repair company in Hunters Point.

She left her home in Deer Park, LI at 8 a.m., went to Penn Station and from there took the N train to Queensboro Plaza.

Around 11 a.m., she was still looking for a cab that would take her to Hunters Point.

Many straphangers frustrated with the lack of mass transit turned to bikes as a mean of transportation. That turned out to be very good news for L.I.C. Bicycles, located near the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge.

“Anything with wheels went out the door,” said Carlos Carbinell, an employee at the store.

He said cheaper bikes ranging from $300-500 were selling particularly well.

Skateboards and adult scooters have also been popular sellers, along with helmets, locks and bike lights.

About 30 of the shop’s rental bikes had been rented and many people had come in to get their bikes fixed, Carbinell said.

He added that while he was happy about the increase in sales, the store was only making up for the two days when it was closed for business due to Hurricane Sandy.

Imran Gowani, a salesman at Queens Rozina Mini Mart, said he had been serving many new customers. The most popular item, he said, was cigarettes.

“People are waiting for a bus, and try to stay calm,” he said.

He said the store is hoping to make up for lost business during the hurricane. The store was open Monday and Tuesday, although at shorter hours. Most of the limited number of customers had come to play Lotto, he said.

Raj Gautam, from Gotham Fresh Food, said he had also noticed a spike in the number of people at his store, but said that many of them are coming to use the restroom.

“We let them do that even if they are not buying anything,” he said. “Maybe they will remember us and come back another time to eat.”