A Merrick Road construction project undertaken by National Grid has been causing bumper-to-bumper traffic that local business owners say is hurting holiday sales.
Lesa Shapiro, owner of Village Streetwear in Merrick, said she usually sees a hectic holiday rush at her jewelry and gift store. “Normally we would be doing great this time of year,” she said. “But right now I can’t say that.”
National Grid is in the process of replacing more than 7,000 linear feet of aging natural gas pipes under Merrick Road, between Lindenmere Drive and the Meadowbrook Parkway. The work has proceeded periodically since September, after two months of preparation.
When workers have taken a break, Shapiro said, her store has been packed. When the construction begins again, however, her business slows down. Shapiro, who keeps an earnings log, said that this year’s holiday sales have dropped roughly 30 percent compared with last year.
“It’s the lack of people being able to get to the store,” she said, adding that in one case she resorted to mailing an item to a customer who complained about the state of Merrick Road.
A few storefronts down from Village Streetwear is Bagel Plaza, where the usual Hanukkah-related boom has also been dampened, according to co-owner Yana Hirschorn.
“It’s been happening so frequently,” she said. “It could be a gorgeous day, and we’re dead because people don’t want to take Merrick Road anymore.”
All residents and businesses within 200 feet of the construction were notified about the work in advance, said Domenick Graziani, National Grid spokesman. “Our goal is to be as sensitive as we can to all members of the community,” he said. “We apologize for any inconvenience, but the work is absolutely necessary to further improve natural-gas safety and reliability.”
Still, some local business owners wondered why the construction takes place during the day rather than overnight. In response, Graziani said, “In accordance with our work permits, work that required more than one lane of traffic closure took place at night, while work that required one lane of traffic closure took place during the day.”
The construction was scheduled to end Dec. 21, but Merrick Road is not scheduled to be re-paved until April, when the weather warms up, so the asphalt can cure properly, according to Graziani.