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Project Frustrates Park Street Merchants

By Courant Staff Writer A. Le'Var Taylor
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 a day.''

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 of stores.

"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 began.

"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. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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