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103rd Street Subway Closure Is Clobbering Sales, Businesses Say

By Gustavo Solis | August 25, 2015 10:07am
 Business owners say sales have decreased since the city closed the subway station at 103rd Street and Lexington Avenue for repairs in May.
103rd Street Closure
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EAST HARLEM — Commuters aren’t the only ones slowed down by the closure of the 103rd Street subway station on Lexington Avenue.

Several businesses have reported a drop in sales — some as much as 40 percent — since the city closed the station to start working on restorations in May.

“We used to open at 5 a.m.," said Munir Sharhan, the owner of Lex & 103 Deli. “Now we open at 7 a.m. It’s dead until 9 a.m.”

Sharhan’s early morning customers on the southeast corner of 103rd Street and Lexington Avenue used to stop by on their way downtown. But now they either walk up to 110th Street or down to 96th Street. Some of his regulars have stopped by on the weekend to say they can’t get over there because of the subway, he said.

Next door, Ma Deli & Grocery has seen a 40 percent drop in revenue, owner Chris Spanthi said.

Before the subway closure, people said the new 7-Eleven would cut into his business but he said the city’s construction project has had a bigger impact than the international franchise.

“The 7-Eleven did not make a difference,” he said. “The subway has.”

The city, when they announced the construction this spring, said work on the southbound platform should be completed by September. Once they complete the platform, they will renovate the northbound side, according to the MTA.

There is no estimated completion date on the capital project. An online tracker says it is expected to be completed by July 2016.

While the MTA does help promote businesses during big construction projects like the Second Avenue Subway line, there are no plans to help the businesses on 103rd Street, according to an MTA spokesperson.

The East Harlem Cafe on 104th Street has been trying to gain more customers by promoting the store on social media and hosting events such as art gallery openings and live music performances, owner Michelle Cruz said.

“August is slow but this is unusually slow," she said. "Customers will come in and tell me, 'Sorry I haven’t been over.'”

Most of the customers lost are people who used to stop by the cafe before heading downtown to work. Cruz hopes to see them come back once the downtown side is completed, she said.

Back at Lex & 103 Deli, Sharhan fears he will see an even greater decline in sales once the city starts working on the north platform. His store is right next to the staircase.

Should the city board it up with wooden board like they did the south side staircase, his business may not last.

“If they close this side we are dead,” he said.