Upper East Side businesses complain that the new 1st Avenue bike lane extension drives away customers
Earlier this fall, work was completed on Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side, extending the lanes to run all the way from 65th to 110th streets. On the Upper East Side, the First Avenue Bike Lane runs from 72nd to 125th streets.
“Most of our business is cabbies who used to park outside, but now our profits have gone down by 25 percent or more,” said Waiel Algabyali, who owns NA Candy Store at 85th and 1st. “We have lost most of our customers, so we had to cut back on things like cigarette brands.” Algabyali said he has been struggling to keep up with his rent now that his cabbie customers can’t park outside because of the bike line.
“This is the worst thing they ever did here,” said Jerry Bone, a customer at NA Candy Store. “They come in packs to give tickets.”
The parking spots on E. 85th and 86th streets stretch shrunk from nine spots to three, and delivery trucks and customers fight over the few precious spots on 1st Avenue. Geiger Construction on 1st and East 83rd is even thinking about picking up and moving their shop to Queens because the hassle of loading and unloading supplies in the middle of the street.
Johann Wolf, the owner of the Little Wolf Cabinet Shop on 83rd and 1st is adamantly against the bike lanes and has spoken to all of his neighbors about the intrusion upon his business.
“When the idea first came up, we went crazy,” said Wolf, who double parks his truck often. “My truck cannot park to load and unload and we know we will get a ticket. When we get lumber out of the truck we have to pull it out and turn, so now half the lumber sticks into the streets and I’m surprised we haven’t hit anybody yet.”
On the Upper West Side, the bike lanes look quite different. The lanes themselves are not painted a different color, and except for the tiny painted figure on a bicycle in the lane, they are hardly distinguishable from other lanes of traffic. In fact, trucks and cars often drive in the lane.
Near Lincoln Center, traffic has narrowed to one lane, causing a mess for nearby restaurant owners.
“We lost business from customers who used to come from New Jersey and upstate New York to see the shows at Lincoln Center,” said Peter Coundouris, the owner of Pomodoro restaurant at 71st and Columbus. “They can’t get parking, so they circle around and go somewhere else. Plus, one day someone is going to get hurt from those cyclists.”
Jian Fung, the manager at Amber Sushi at Columbus and 70th Street agrees that the bike lanes don’t seem to be of much use in the neighborhood. “Business has gone down about 15 percent around here, and to be honest, I usually only see about 10 bikes a day using the bike lane,” he said.
Says Steve Badal, the owner of Unique Cuts Barber Shop on 1st and 86th, “New York City is a city where people are making business, They are driving. It’s not a bike city.”
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