Clark Street business owners claim MTA left them in the dark on station closure

Chan Han, owner of Han’s Market, was unaware a decision had been made.
Photo by Ben Verde

Transit honchos are planning to fast track repairs at Clark Street subway station in Brooklyn Heights, but business owners in the station say they’re being left in the dark. 

The Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to shutter the station for eight months while conducting desperately needed repairs on the station’s three elevators, which are the only methods of reaching the deep-underground station. 

While agency officials sent out a press release on the decision on Feb. 14, shop owners in the station say they were never informed of the decision — which they fear will be catastrophic to their bottom-line, and force some of them to close. 

“They didn’t tell us nothing now,” said Chan Han, owner of Han’s Market, a convenience store housed in the station. Every business owner interviewed by the Brooklyn Paper on Monday afternoon said they were similarly unaware. 

Salahuddin Aziz, the owner of a newspaper stand inside the station, said the station’s closure would likely kill his business. 

“Right now business is bad, if they close for eight months, I’ll be out of business,” he said. 

Salahuddin Aziz, owner of a newspaper stand in the station.Photo by Ben Verde

The eight-month closure was one of three options transit bigwigs presented to the community, and the one favored by outgoing city transit czar Andy Byford — who cited the low costs and quicker timeframe compared to other options. 

“We strongly feel our approach minimizes the impact that this disruption will cause,” Byford said in a statement. 

The alternate proposals, which multiple business owners said they preferred, would have kept the stations open while repairs were conducted.

One option called for repair work on one elevator at a time, leaving one in service at all times — although that scheme would have extended the project’s timeline to two years. A third plan would have kept the station open during peak hours only, which would have taken a year to complete, according to the MTA. 

Transit officials presented the proposals at a community meeting at St. Francis College in September, and ultimately decided on the full-closure, which will begin after a contract is awarded, transit bigwigs said. 

The Clark Street station is slated to close for eight months while its ancient elevators are repaired.Photo by Ben Verde

The plan calls for the mezzanine doors to be left open during repairs, but business owners doubt that will be sufficient to maintain enough business because the vast majority of their business comes from commuters coming and going from the train. 

“Everybody goes to work, they bring their stuff with them, they don’t have time to come this way, they’ll go to a business over there,” said Fernando Costano, an employee at Brooklyn Heights Shoe Master, a shoe repair shop in the station. 

Costano and Kim, who pay rent to the Hotel St. George above the station, not the MTA, remembered 10 years ago when the station was closed for repairs for three months. 

“This whole neighborhood was dead,” Kim said. 

During that closure, landlords offered businesses a rent freeze for the three-month period, with the understanding that they pay back the difference once the station reopened, according to Costano.

Costano, who says he was only making between $30 to $40 a day during the first closure, questioned how such a deal would be possible during a much longer project. 

“How can I pay $25,000 for 8 months when there’s no business?” he said. “We’re not the kind of business to have extra money in the bank.” 

A spokesman for the MTA said agency employees would be performing outreach to business owners in the following week, and pointed out that the request for proposals for the project included requirements that contractors maintain communications with business owners and include signage directing pedestrians to their shops. 

“This has been a very public and collaborative process and we’re committed to keeping all of our neighbors informed as the project is planned this year,” said Aaron Donovan.