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End of the Line

For Second Avenue shop owners, it’s a subway to hell.

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Marcelo Ronchini opened Nina’s Argentinean Pizzeria on Second Avenue, near 91st Street, four years ago this month. A family-run business, it was building a neighborhood following and growing revenue 15 to 20 percent each year. Then, last April, after decades of promises, the MTA started building the Second Avenue subway. Eventually, the new subway will be good for businesses on Second Avenue. But for now, Nina’s is facing an unappetizing construction zone.

April 12, 2007
Ceremonial groundbreaking for Second Avenue subway in a tunnel at 99th Street and Second Avenue.

April 15
Construction starts in front of Nina’s. Second Avenue is torn up; a fence reduces the sidewalk from twenty feet to seven. “I lose foot traffic,” Ronchini says.

May 1
With construction on, all business and residential trash must be left at the corner—in front of Nina’s—where garbage trucks can get it. The fenced-off sidewalk is cut up. Revenue is 15 percent lower than at the same time a year earlier.

June 14
For the third day in a row, a tractor-trailer is parked in front, blocking the storefront. “I finally got so frustrated that at night, when no one was there, I climbed up on it and covered it with Christmas lights.” Revenue’s off 18 percent from a year earlier.

July 1
Business is slow, but costs keep rising. “Anything that delivers—ice cream, ravioli, tomatoes—has all gone up around 10 percent. They say it’s because of the gas.” Revenue is off 20 percent.

August 5
With less business, staff hours are reduced. The chef quits rather than take an eight-hour-a-week reduction. Kebap G, a restaurant just up Second, closes. “The area is starting to look like a war zone.” Revenue is off 23 percent.

November 10
The phone lines go out on a Saturday afternoon and stay out till Monday. “I lost hundreds of dollars in delivery business.” A few doors away, Red Rock Road House Bar closes. Revenue is off 20 percent.

December 15
The MTA and its contractor start holding weekly meetings with affected business owners. “ ‘This is all just the beginning,’ they tell us.” Revenue is off 19 percent.

February 4, 2008
Work has been focused on the other side of the street; now the MTA announces plans to work on Nina’s side for at least three months. “But that’s what they said on the other side, and they were there eight months,” he says. It’ll start February 22.

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