One way to get to know a neighborhood is by exploring its buildings. So we did. This story is part of a series in The Brooklyn Ink on some of the structures in the borough, and what they tell us about life in and around them.
As residential and commercial development surges on Myrtle Ave. in Clinton Hill, business owners are struggling to maintain their livelihoods.
Two residential buildings are currently in construction on one block of Myrtle between Grand Ave. and Steuben St. Last year, a one-unit building of a local White Castle was replaced by a five-story residential building at 531 Myrtle Ave. that stretches 75 square feet to the east side, according to Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership. Myrtle Car Service moved down the block, and the space it originally occupied has since been developed into a seven-story residential and commercial building.
Manny Caican, a co-owner at Pratt Hardware store, located right next to the seven-story building under construction, didn’t seem like someone who just launched a new business on June 22. Mr. Caican’s memory of having to close his deli at the same premise last December still haunts him.
“The deli business was prosperous until the construction set off earlier in 2015. It changed everything,” he said.
The former deli owner was forced to endure the vibration and the noise, especially as many pieces of debris fell onto the roof from the construction site.
“You would never imagine how much a building would shake due to an adjoining construction,” he recalled. “It scared my customers away so badly they wouldn’t come back.”
Caican said that his average sale decreased by more than half since the beginning of construction, and he estimated $18,000 of losses in total, before he decided to close his business. “That was it,” he said. “As I couldn’t pay the rent for three months, I decided to shut down the store.”
Caican is now managing the new hardware store that replaced his deli, helping out an owner who funded the establishment.
The clash between store owners like Caican and newly constructed buildings resulted in numerous public complaints. The New York City Department of Buildings received three complaints about the seven-story building at 525 Myrtle Ave. between June and July 2015, according to the public records. The five-story building located at 531 Myrtle Ave., located in the same block of Caican’s store, also prompted nine complaints until this month since April, 2015, when the construction set off. Most of complainants insisted that the excavation was undermining an adjacent building or vibrating it.
Kim Hinds, a worker at Empire Tobacco shop next to the Hardware shop, said it is her daily duty to close the door when construction starts during the day. “There’s lots of dust coming in from the nearby building site, and also from the road repair work in front of our store,” she said.
Hinds was referring to the road repairs that shut down Myrtle Ave. between Washington and Classon from last April until recently, for the construction of Myrtle Avenue Pedestrian Plaza, which also coincides with the new building developments.
The 25,000-square-foot plaza will feature a public space with planting areas, outdoor seats, permanent art pieces and other amenities on Myrtle Avenue between Grand Ave. and Emerson Pl., according to the City Department of Design and Construction.
Hinds, a long time employee of the tobacco shop, believed businesses will improve when all the constructions end. “We don’t have a choice but to wait until then,” she said.
To help the businesses impacted by the construction, Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership launched a marketing campaign to inform people stores are open. The Partnership placed store window signage, sandwich board signs that states “Eat Drink Shop [Here].” Although the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership will keep the campaign going and plan other events to make the affected business thrive, it is not yet clear on the exact date of completion, according to a press release from the Partnership.
Corrections: This story originally incorrectly stated the size of the space that the new five-story residential building will occupy on Myrtle Ave., and the length of the proposed pedestrian plaza. It also incorrectly stated that Myrtle Car Service had closed, when in fact it has moved down the block. These errors have been corrected.