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Delays Continue to Plague Long-Awaited Completion of Roberto Clemente Plaza

By Eddie Small | January 18, 2017 3:51pm
 The expected completion of Roberto Clemente Plaza has been pushed back to April, frustrating many local business owners.
Roberto Clemente Plaza Construction
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THE HUB — A contractor's bankruptcy has thrown The Hub’s long-awaited Roberto Clemente Plaza has into to disarray, frustrating Bronxites and local stores who are tired of dealing with the traffic issues and declining business caused by construction.

Sam Slim, owner of the sportswear store Ness, said that cumbersome equipment and fencing on the plaza's construction site by Third Avenue and East 149th Street has made it very difficult to navigate the sidewalk outside his business, making the shop increasingly reliant on people who already know about it for sales.

He is frustrated by all the construction and delays but said he felt helpless in the face of them.

“I don’t have a choice,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how I feel. Nothing changes anything. What they have to do, they have to do.”

Nooreen Nysman, manager of the nearby clothing store Lola, said business was down at her store as well, and she was skeptical that the plaza would actually be finished by the spring.

She had a simple message regarding construction on the project.

“Get out of here," she said. "Right away, please."

Construction has also been causing traffic issues, according to Michael Brady, executive director of the HUB Third Avenue Business Improvement District.

He said he had requested that the city start doing more night work instead of day work on the project to alleviate some of these challenges.

“There have been traffic issues, certainly,” he said. “This is a transportation hub. It’s where all of the buses and subways and people — everyone kind of migrates to The Hub. That’s why we have our name.”

The city's Department of Transportation deferred comment on the traffic issues to the Department of Design and Construction, which is overseeing the project.

Department of Design and Construction, which oversees the project, has been meeting and working with the economic development group SoBRO to reduce disruptions caused by the project, and they have put workers on night shifts to try minimizing its impact, spokeswoman Shavone Williams said.

The agency also regularly provides newsletters and schedules to the community and deferred work during the holiday season to help local businesses, she said.

Roberto Clemente Plaza was previously expected to be finished by the end of 2016, but issues including the discovery of a gas line and soil contamination have led to delays, according to Jamilia Diaz, assistant vice president of business and community services at SoBRO.

“They really were unaware of a lot of things that were actually underneath the land that was there, so they found surprises,” she said. “I still think it's taken too long.”

The project is now expected to be finished in May, according to the DDC.

Brady said he has been trying to pressure the city into getting the project done and maintains that it should be ready by spring.

“We’re really hoping that things can get back on track,” he said.

Diaz, however, is more skeptical, saying she is trying to be optimistic about the spring completion date but is still nervous that more delays might be in store.

“I want to stay positive, but you never know,” she said. “I feel like we’re getting somewhere. We’re almost at the ending, but it seems like a project that’s taken forever, and it’s really not beneficial for the business in the area — although eventually it will be.”