By Arielle Dollinger
Almost three months after a tow truck tear overhauled nearly two-thirds of the 235-space Gerard Street parking lot, there is smooth pavement atop now-level ground. The development signifies the near conclusion of the construction project and the imminent reopening of over 100 blocked-off parking spaces.
The first phase of the two-phase parking lot construction project, projected to end in mid-October, is in its last stages, said town spokesman A.J. Carter.
“At this point we’re running a little ahead of schedule, but hopefully the weather holds out and the work can keep on going,” Carter said Wednesday. “There’s still a few weeks’ worth of work.”
The construction crew started laying pavement on Tuesday. Next comes the installation of light poles, the plantings, and then the striping of the lot to mark parking spaces, Carter said. When phase one is over, the estimated 150 spots that have been closed since mid-July will open and the 75 or so remaining spots on the west side will be closed for the second construction phase.
Businesses alongside the parking lot have been without directly accessible parking for their customers and employees since the start of the project.
Massa’s Coal Fired Brick Oven Pizzeria Manager Tom Gallo said that the sight of pavement and progress is like seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
“[In the beginning,] we didn’t know what the plan was or how it was going to be, but now it looks good,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like [the end of construction is] going to be too far from now.”
For Massa’s, business is still slow during the day but the nights have been busier; the construction predominantly hurt the restaurant’s curbside “to-go” orders, Gallo said.
Meanwhile, for Rookies Sports Club, in a location that will also be affected by phase two of construction, the project has meant losing “thousands of dollars,” said General Manager Deanna Bradshaw.
“It has hugely affected our business, even more so now, in September, than it did in the summer,” she said, noting that the sports bar has been losing the customers it usually brings in during football season. “To be honest with you, I think that people want convenience… The meters are a dollar an hour up until 8 p.m., which is up to dinner time.”
Deliveries of food and beer bring six trucks per week to Rookies, she said – six trucks that, according to Bradshaw, hold up traffic on Main Street.
“I don’t think they [the town] realize that the restaurants [are] the heartbeat of this town,” Bradshaw said. “I just would like more communication [with the town,]… The information that I get, I get from the workers. I go in there and I befriend them and every day I try to find out what’s going on.”
But when the lot does reopen, Bradshaw said, customers will notice that the restaurant has been making its own improvements – a fresh coat of paint, an upgraded menu and a patio.
And Rookies owner and manager Michelle Wright told Long Islander News in July that she was “optimistic” about the result of the construction.
“I do believe that it’s actually going to increase the business once it’s done,” Wright said in July.
Improvements to the parking lot itself, as outlined by town officials at the start of construction, include resurfacing, the installation of a bioswale drainage system and added spaces.