7 On Your Side Investigates: New busway 'killing' small businesses in Queens

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ByDan Krauth via WABC logo
Thursday, March 17, 2022
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Dan Krauth talks to store owners who say a new busway is putting the breaks on their businesses.

JAMAICA, Queens (WABC) -- A new busway on Jamaica Avenue in Queens may have helped ease traffic, but store owners say it has also put the breaks on their businesses.

And if it continues, they're worried they'll be forced to shut down.

"Please help us," business owner Leran Ruben said. "Please save us from what the other administration did to ruin business here on Jamaica Avenue."

Ruben is now using colors, crystals and comfort to entice people into his store, Beverly Hills Furniture, but the third generation owner says it's not working.

His store survived the COVID-19 pandemic, but it may not survive what's happening outside his windows.

"So this street is now only for buses and trucks, that's it," he said. "There's no parking. It's been destroyed."

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Just before he left office, former Mayor Bill de Blasio turned the avenue lined with businesses into a major thoroughfare for public transit.

"The previous mayor is putting us out of business," Ruben said. "It's like he's coming after small business. He's trying to put us out, I don't understand why."

Cars are allowed to drive down the Jamaica Avenue Busway, but only for one block. Then, they have to make the first available right turn, and left hand turns are no longer allowed.

It's not only confusing, but some store owners say it's killing their businesses.

The owner of one restaurant says her business is down 20% since December, which means no profits. Ruben's furniture store business is down more than 50%.

Small business owners say the busway has cut down on foot traffic, and they're in the red.

"There's just no relief here," Ruben said. "There's no break. There's no chance for customers to come shop here in this area freely."

City Council Member Nantasha Williams, who represents Jamaica, recently toured the avenue.

"It really is a problem," she said. "A lot of people have complained."

Williams says the busway, which stretches for 12 blocks, is a pilot project and can still be changed.

"Trust that we've been reaching out and speaking to our partners at DOT and the administration to really look at a more comprehensive way to deal with the traffic and congestion in the bus lanes," she said.

The current mayor's street team says bus speeds have increased by 34% during the afternoon rush hour. In a statement, the team said the busway has "significantly improved the commutes of roughly a quarter of a million bus riders."

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Mayor Eric Adams' team insists it will be "engaging with businesses and conducting a survey to determine how the busway has been working and what further adjustments may be necessary."

"If people don't come to the area, there's no reason for us to be here," Ruben said. "We can go home."

And so the struggle between cars and public transit continues in New York City.

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