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Clobbered by a Train They Didn’t See Coming


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Clobbered by a Train They Didn’t See Coming


Published: January 27, 2008


EDDIE CROWE, a 38-year-old former bar manager from Galway, Ireland, thought he had hit the jackpot.


In June 2006, after more than a year of searching for a suitable place to open a bar and restaurant, Mr. Crowe found a prime location on Second Avenue near East 93rd Street: a 1,500-square-foot space previously occupied by Hooligan’s Tavern, a dingy bar whose lease was not renewed. The site was on a busy avenue with heavy foot traffic in Yorkville, where Mr. Crowe was sure that his Irish stouts and homemade shepherd’s pie would find a loyal clientele.


Mr. Crowe happily signed a 12-year lease and sank his life savings into a $350,000 renovation. But soon after installing a 22-foot-long mahogany bar, a kitchen and flat-screen televisions, Mr. Crowe began to fear that the location for the Crowe’s Nest Bar and Restaurant, which opened last January, was not a blessing but a curse.


“I don’t want to get into detail, but from May until now it’s been very bad,” he said one recent evening as he slumped in a chair inside his nearly empty bar. “After all these renovations, suddenly I was thrown a curveball — the Second Avenue subway until 2014. If I’d known, there’s no way in hell I would have signed that lease.”Although business was steady for the first few months, April brought groundbreaking for the subway line literally outside Mr. Crowe’s front door. Soon, Second Avenue from 91st to 95th Streets was transformed into a maze of chain-link fencing and concrete barriers around a gaping hole surrounded by backhoes and dump trucks.


Some of the dozens of business owners on Second Avenue in the 90s, who had been forewarned about the project, say their income has fallen up to 35 percent because of the construction. But there is a particular irony in the stories of Mr. Crowe and of Young Yoo, who opened the Buddha BBeeQ restaurant on Second Avenue near 91st Street last February and has a 10-year lease.


Both say they knew little or nothing about the subway when they signed leases shortly before the beginning of the first phase of construction on the subway line, which has an estimated cost of $4 billion and involves burrowing beneath Second Avenue from 63rd to 105th Streets and building four new stations.


According to Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, that information was communicated starting in 2004, in letters to property owners, public presentations and visits to individual residences and businesses.


“We’re very straightforward,” Mr. Soffin said. “This is a huge public works project that involves certain inconveniences, and we’re doing everything we can to mitigate the inconveniences.”


But Mr. Crowe and Mrs. Yoo say that such information never reached them.


Mr. Crowe said that his landlord, Alvin Glick, who sold the building a few months after the lease was signed, never discussed the subway project with him. Mr. Glick did not return several calls from a reporter seeking comment.


Mrs. Yoo said that a real estate agent — she can’t remember the agent’s name — mentioned the construction, but Mrs. Yoo added that she did not understand the magnitude of the undertaking. She also said that the local Korean-language newspaper she reads had not reported on the project.


Mrs. Yoo, a widow in her 60s, says she spent $200,000 to open Buddha BBeeQ, a pan-Asian restaurant that she had hoped would sustain her into her old age. “People said the subway wouldn’t bother the business much,” Mrs. Yoo said, gazing at the heavy machinery outside her empty restaurant. “They said after it’s done, this place will be better. But I don’t know how long I can wait.”

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