Merchants on Ave. H want to conquer divide

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A band of Midwood merchants say their piece of Avenue H has the potential to become the next hip strip in Brooklyn, but construction on the nearby B and Q trains has made its blessed subway station a curse.

The fact that the Avenue H station sits in the middle of the shops should be a boon to business, but a long-running construction project means Manhattan-bound shoppers have to skip the strip, between E. 13th and E. 17th streets, in favor of Cortelyou Road or Newkirk Plaza just down up the line, the merchants say.

The MTA says the construction — which has been going on since the fall — is on track to be completed this fall, but some merchants say the work is cutting into their bottom line.

“That train work was really bad for us at first,” said Arjenis Gonzaga, who manages coffee shop and juice bar Salud at Argyle Street. “Instead of people passing by for coffee, they’ll stop at Newkirk.”

Things are just as bad on the other side of the tracks, said Ronald Joanis, whose all-purpose Capital H Services shop has been offering everything from copying and Internet access to apartment rentals and employment assistance for seven years.

“We are really suffering,” he said “It’s so slow because the subway is not working. It’s almost dead.”

Once construction is completed, there’s no reason the area can’t compete with other shopping areas on Newkirk Avenue and Cortelyou Road, say the shopkeepers.

Alison Morea and her husband Alfred Digrazia, owners of Midwood Martial Arts and Fitness Center two storefronts west from Salud, say they’d like to see more people who live in the neighborhood walking to local stores — so they’ve spearheaded an effort to create a merchants association to help brand the area. They met last week with a representative from Flatbush Development Center and are organizing a steering committee.

“We’re trying to organize the merchants to gauge their interest,” said Robin Redmond, director of FDC.

But getting everyone together might not be that easy — even though there are just a few stores in the area, the strip is literally cut in half by the train tracks, where Avenue H hits dead ends.

“I’ve lived here for a while and I didn’t even know some of the other businesses on the other side of the train tracks,” said Morea.

Introductions have since been made, and shop owners are drafting a pamphlet to distribute to community groups encouraging people to shop on their strip, and they hope host an event promoting the area when the station re-opens.

“I remember what Cortelyou Road looked like in 1999,” said Redmond of that area’s rebirth. “I think this area has that kind of potential.”

Updated 3:18 pm, October 19, 2011
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