NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With subway ridership down, businesses underground and near transit stops are suffering.
A few weeks ago Turnstyle Underground Market re-opened at Columbus Circle. It was once a busy spot. “It’s usually hopping,” customer Lynne Wu told CBS2’s Alice Gainer. However, now 20 of the market’s 39 businesses are closed. “It’s like every other place is closed,” Wu said.
Gainer checked in Tuesday with those still going. “We are still doing orders for catering,” one employee said. Doughnuttery and EZ Paella are able to do delivery in addition to in person. “It’s better,” an employee said.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says of the 392 retail slots at various places, 72 have become vacant since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Of that number, 24 are at Grand Central Terminal.
But the agency notes not every single vacancy is due to the pandemic. Over at the dining concourse at Grand Central, it’s mostly emptied out. The iconic Oyster Bar is closed for now. Some shoe shine and repair spots are covered up.
“I went home and I told my husband, ‘You’re not gonna believe what it’s like.’ I mean, the two of us are New Yorkers. We know this area and he was like, Oh, because they closed down the oyster bar?’ And I was like, ‘No, everything is closed downstairs,’” said Ruth Callahan of the Upper West Side.
The obvious issue is a lack of foot traffic, but there are some people who are actually going there just to go to certain businesses, Gainer reported.
“We’ve been here since 1952,” said Steve Kivel, president of Grand Central Watch.
A line formed outside of Grand Central Watch while CBS2 were there. The metal gates are pulled down covering displays, but they are doing business, though not as much in person as the 100 customers a day they estimate they used to see. “Now, probably about 15 that come in,” Kivel said. “Still do stuff by mail. We have wholesale accounts, so we’re going to survive, but at the end of the day we miss our people.”
Next door at Grand Central Racquet,” We used to have almost 15 racquets a day and now we’re down to maybe three or four,” stringer technician Eusebio Pinto said.
The store has other locations to pick up the slack, too, but those patrons still around said they are saddened to see that so many others have had to close up shop for good. Last month, the MTA announced a financial relief plan for the duration of the pandemic for these businesses, moving from a fixed-rent system to a percentage-rent system. If a business succeeds, the MTA just gets a percentage of its revenue.