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Prolonged East Houston Street Construction Is Harming Business, Locals Say

By Allegra Hobbs | March 31, 2016 7:23pm
 The construction on East Houston Street has been going on for years, and is expected to continue at least until October of this year.
The construction on East Houston Street has been going on for years, and is expected to continue at least until October of this year.
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DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs

LOWER EAST SIDE — The ongoing, ever-prolonged construction on East Houston Street is taking a toll on the thoroughfare’s commerce, disgruntled business owners say.

As the city’s Department of Design and Commerce continues to extend the anticipated completion date of the yearslong overhaul of the busy corridor between Bowery and the FDR Drive, local businesses say the project’s noise and flying dust continues to chip away at their customer base.

“It’s been horrendous,” said Paul O’Sullivan, owner of One and One Bar and Restaurant at the corner of First Avenue and East Houston. “There has been a massive decline in business.”

The reconstruction project — which began in late 2010 to rebuild the road surface, build new curbs, sidewalks and add traffic signs, and replace water and sewer mains — was initially scheduled to wrap up in the spring of 2013 before being pushed back to summer 2014, at the time angering businesses that lined the corridor.

But the project’s estimated completion has been continually pushed back as city agencies encounter problems with underground wiring and pipes that require interference from utility companies, as first reported by Bowery Boogie. DDC reps have most recently stated construction will not conclude until this fall — though a department spokesperson would not offer an updated completion date when reached by DNAinfo New York.  

One and One, which has been in the neighborhood for roughly 15 years, has seen a 40 percent drop in business since construction workers started breaking up the pavement out front, O’Sullivan said.

The pub owner pays $12,000 per year for a sidewalk café that gets little use, as outdoor diners are plagued by dust and debris.

“It’s relentless,” he said. “I can’t even open my windows in the summer.”

O’Sullivan also claims his premises are often overrun by rats that have scurried out of the ground since construction workers broke ground.

The owner of another East Houston watering hole says ever since workers began ripping up the sidewalk in front of his establishment, prospective drinkers have had a difficult time reaching his door — and loyal patrons have told him they were redirected by construction workers monitoring sidewalk traffic.

“Regulars are getting turned away,” said Dave Weakley, general manager of Fool’s Gold pub between Eldridge and Forsyth streets. “We’re a small business — it’s very frustrating.”

A DDC spokeswoman said the department is coordinating with contractors and utility companies to ensure the project is wrapped up by the end of the year, and is reaching out to affected businesses to minimize disruption. 

"We are coordinating with local businesses and community members in order to be good neighbors in those communities experiencing our construction activities," said Shavone Williams.