No gravy train: Atlantic Ave. merchants say streetcar will ruin business

Trolley plan reveals potential street closures, new bridges
Parsons Brinckerhoff

They’re trolley dodging!

Atlantic Avenue merchants are railing against the city’s plan to run streetcars along the bustling retail corridor and truck route, which they believe will take away parking for customers and block trucks from making deliveries, and are urging officials to find a different place for it.

“Atlantic Avenue is already so crazy, we have concerns about where the cars are going to, where the trucks are going to go,” said Christine Whelan, who owns famed Middle Eastern grocer Sahadi’s between Court and Clinton streets.

Officials claim they’re still exploring various paths for Mayor DeBlasio’s $2.5 billion trolley, but sending the streetcar along Atlantic Avenue between Court Street and Henry, Hicks, or Columbia streets is the only connection between Cobble Hill to Downtown they’re proposing right now, as they hold meetings with community boards to discuss and finalize the route by early next year.

Regardless, they say, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector will ultimately be a boon to local enterprise, claiming similar systems have boosted business in other streetcar-using cities.

But traders on the already-popular strip say it seems like the change will just get in the way of the brisk business they’re already doing.

Atlantic Avenue currently has two traffic lanes and one lane of curbside parking in either direction. The streetcar will need at least 22 feet — approximately the same width as two standard travel lanes — to run in both directions, which will need to come by eliminating lanes, parking, or the strip’s 20-foot sidewalks, according to the head of the project.

Whelan depends on nightly truck deliveries and drop-offs from a tractor trailer once a week, and said that adding a curb-side streetcar to Atlantic Avenue could make it difficult for her suppliers to reach her store and to unload food.

“If I can’t get merchandise here, I’m not going to survive,” she said.

Customers also drive from far and wide to patronize the stretch’s many specialty stores, and they depend on parking space, another merchant claimed.

“We’re not just local businesses, people come to us, we’re a destination. I always need to have parking available,” said Matthew LaSorsa, who owns wine shop Heights Chateau at Henry Street. “There should be other alternatives that should be explored.”

Discussions about how parking will be configured on each block are still some time away, but the city is planning on working closely with the people and businesses it will affect, said Anthony Hogrebe of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is overseeing the project.

The head of the street’s business improvement district the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, Whelan, and another local business owners met with reps from city agencies involved in the project last week to voice their objections. The honchos were willing to take their issues on board, Whelan said, but also didn’t propose any other options.

“We shared our concerns and they were receptive,” she said. “I would love to hear some realistic, practical alternatives.”

The city expects to start building the streetcar system in 2019 and have it running in 2024.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill