By Courant Staff Writer A. Le'Var
July 1, 2004
The $6 million Park Street Streetscape project is supposed
to make the neighborhood more attractive and inviting to shoppers,
but owners of businesses near the first phase of the work say
the short-term effect is hurting them.
"I'm used to making about $300 a day,'' said Andres Ruiz, owner
of Nano's Store at 858 Park St. "Now I'm making $5 to nothing
Ruiz and several fellow merchants blame the decrease in business
on the lack of parking. The construction of new sidewalks has
limited parking on the busy shopping street, and police quickly
ticket vehicles of customers that are double-parked in front
"I don't know how much I have lost, but I know I have lost
some business,'' said Femia Colon, a hair stylist at Puerto Pelo
2000 at 855 Park St. She said her business has gone from 10 to
15 customers a day to about five. "There is no parking; if you
park in front of the building they give you a ticket. People
are scared to park.''
Julio Mendoza, the executive director of SAMA, the Spanish American
Merchants Association, which supports the project, said parking
is available in the area. Mendoza said that there are seven to
nine parking spaces in a lot on Putnam Street and 35 to 40 spaces
three blocks from the construction.
"You always have a couple of people who are going to be affected,''
Mendoza said. "We're trying to make sure they are affected as
little as possible.''
Bhupen Patel, the city's public works director, said he has
met with the merchants on Park Street and does not see the construction
as a problem.
"It's a longtime project,'' Patel said. "The people are going
to have to learn to deal with it. The access is not all blocked.''
But Roberto Muniz, owner of Los Cubanitos Bakery at 867-869
Park St., said he recently lost a customer because of the parking
situation. Muniz said the customer, who bought a cake for $185,
was given a $45 ticket for double parking.
Jose Escobales, manager of Star TV Service, has had to change
his prices. Instead of charging $20 to repair a television, he
now charges $10. He said he changed the prices because customers
have difficulty getting their damaged TVs to the shop. Escobales
estimates that he has lost at least $3,000 since construction
"The customers don't know where to park right now,'' Escobales
said. "If they park across the street, they get a ticket or
if they park in the lot next to me, they get a ticket.''
SAMA is offering struggling merchants low-interest loans to
help them get by, Mendoza said. He doesn't see the merchants
"losing a lot of money'' during the construction.
"The project was planned for a while and we knew people would
lose some business,'' Mendoza said. "Our job is to protect the
merchants and that's what we're doing.''
The businesses at the west end of the project, where work began
three months ago, can look forward to relief when the improvements
in their area are done, but their neighbors down the street then
will feel the pinch as work proceeds east.
"This is a two construction season project,'' Patel said. "You
will see the completed project hopefully by next October.'
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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