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Local Buisnesses Join Calls for Grand Street 'PeopleWay' in Williamsburg

By Gwynne Hogan | July 14, 2017 9:55am
 Around sixty businesses have supported the plan for a pedestrian, bus and bike-oriented Grand Street. 
Around sixty businesses have supported the plan for a pedestrian, bus and bike-oriented Grand Street. 
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

EAST WILLIAMSBURG — Dozens of local businesses on and near Grand Street have joined the call for a more pedestrian, bus and bike friendly street, a plan pitched by transportation advocates to help brace North Brooklyn for the 2019 L train shutdown.

About 60 businesses have signed letters of support for the "Grand Street Peopleway" asking the local Community Board, the Department of Transportation, the governor and the MTA to take a plan for a massive street redesign of Grand Street seriously.

Establishments such as Apollo Restaurant, Desy's Clam Bar, United Pharmacy, Associated Fresh Market and Mama Pho have signed on, according to Transportation Alternatives, which is leading the charge for the PeopleWay.

Beyond helping displaced riders get around during the L train shutdown, many local businesses said they thought the PeopleWay could be a boon to business on the block, drawing folks to the area to use the bus routes or simply by encouraging foot traffic on the block.

"If all of a sudden you don't have any cars around, it's like a people magnet," said John Berg, 52, a manager at Blue Angel Wines, a wine and liquor store on Grand Street for the last 11 years. Berg pointed to the small pedestrian plaza near the Myrtle-Wyckoff L train stop in Bushwick that recently opened and is always brimming with people. "There's always tons of people there and that's one little itty bitty block."

John Pirolo, owner of Italian bistro The Saint Austere, said he thought the PeopleWay would draw residents Grand Street to take the bus.

"The first thing I think about is the increase in foot traffic. That can't be a bad thing," he said. "The front of my store becomes the subway station."

Transportation Alternatives' plan for the Grand Street PeopleWay aims to make space for select bus routes and protected bike lanes along Grand Street to allow as many people as possible to travel smoothly from across it to the Williamsburg Bridge and into Manhattan in order to brace for the L train shutdown.

The MTA has said it plans on adding two add additional bus routes from the Grand Street L train stop over the Williamsburg Bridge and into Manhattan.

They're pushing for a similar plan along 14th Street in Manhattan.

The Grand Street PeopleWay might also entail shutting down the street for private car traffic, a bone of contention for drivers in the neighborhood and some of the street's business owners who rely on the metered parking in front of their shops for customers.

"We depend on cars for 50 percent of the business," said Sami Hamound, a manager at Save on Grand, bargain home goods store. "If there's no parking, they won't stop here, they'll go some place else."

Locksmith at Empire Locks who goes by her artistic name Aura I Am, said she often has to jump in her car when people need their locks opened in an emergency.

"It's going to be hard for me to find parking," she said. She often has to run and open somebody's door whose locked out with a child inside or the stove on and she doesn't have 15 minutes to walk to her car. 

"Having parking around us is important," she said.

READ MORE: HERE'S WHAT YOUR COMMUTE MIGHT LOOK LIKE DURING THE L TRAIN SHUTDOWN

Grand Street's Businesses Improvement District won't come out in support of the plan because around three quarters of their members say they can't do without parking, said Homer Hill, the executive director of the BID.

"They're all struggling already," Hill said, pointing to the area's rising rents and competition from online shopping.

The MTA needs to shut down service on the L Train between 8th Avenue and Bedford Avenue for 15 months beginning in April of 2019 in order to do repairs on the tunnel under the East River that flooded during Hurricane Sandy.