NEWBURGH — Efrain "Gordo" Acosta, the owner of a barbershop on Liberty Street, has been hit with a double-whammy.First, COVID-19 forced a temporary sh
NEWBURGH — Efrain “Gordo” Acosta, the owner of a barbershop on Liberty Street, has been hit with a double-whammy.
First, COVID-19 forced a temporary shutdown of his services. Then months-long construction obscured the walkways into his shop and took away customer parking.
“It’s like COVID all over again. There is zero traffic. If I’m lucky, I maybe get one or two walk-in a week,” he said, noting his business depends on walk-in customers.
He continued: “It’s not safe for my clients and it’s not cool that I have to apologize to them for what the city is doing.”
Acosta opened his shop, Casa De Fxdes Barber Parlor, at 126 Liberty St. a little over two years ago.
As a Newburgh native, he was excited to be part of the small business revival in the city’s now-bustling Liberty Street corridor. He believes he is one of the first Hispanics to open a business in that area. But now, recent setbacks out of his control have made him worry about the longevity of his business.
Construction for the project that will make over the sidewalks and roadway between Ann Street and Broadway began in April.
Acosta said he was first notified that the work would take two to four weeks. Then it was extended to July 14. Then on Aug. 9, the city granted contractors Consorti Bros. Sealcoating and Paving Inc., an extension until Sept. 30.
The owners of Consorti Bros. did not return email or phone messages left at a company phone number and email address on Thursday.
He’s not the only business owner who feels exhausted and frustrated with the combined hits of COVID and the construction.
Several other businesses, including the Wherehouse restaurant and bar, Kabil and Noil Boutique and Design by Sue, said they have suffered because of both COVID and the ongoing work to revamp the block, known as the Liberty Street Streetscape Project.
“The point-blank hell we have been put through for the past three months… has been unacceptable,” Sue Young, owner of Design by Sue for 40 years, said at the Aug. 9 City Council meeting.
For the boutique, barbershop and graphic design business, the primary issue is customer access to their stores and attracting walk-ins via foot or vehicle traffic. For the Wherehouse, co-owner Michele Basch told the City Council on Aug. 9 that dust from the construction could be a health hazard for customers eating outside.
Clarissa Godinez opened a joint-storefront for her Kabil & Noil Boutique at 118 Liberty St. with Glenny Medina and her Estilo Muneca Boutique in late-February.
“At the beginning, when this (construction) wasn’t happening, we used to get a lot of walk-ins,” Godinez said Thursday. “We are new. With our sales, we were doing really good and construction started happening and we lost people who could eventually come in and shop with us.”
They may get one or two new customers a day now, Godinez said.
On Thursday, the city issued a notice about the block being closed to traffic until Sept. 11 for milling and paving.
“Access to local businesses along this section of Liberty Street will be maintained for customers with access from Ann Street via the sidewalk,” the notice read.
Mayor Torrance Harvey said Thursday he believes the contractors will meet the Sept. 30 deadline and that they are acting in good faith.
“I get it. I am not minimizing their (business owners) challenges at all,” Harvey said. “I truly am not. But there are certain things that are out of our control, especially when it comes to bad weather events, like Hurricane Ida, the remnants of that, Hurricane Henri, COVID last year….
“Honestly, in my heart of hearts, I don’t think that the Consorti Bros. are delaying their work intentionally.”
Councilman-at-Large Omari Shakur pointed out that the contractors at one point stopped working at the site near Broadway and went further up the street to finish a project.
“It’s sad because all that work right there, these are minority businesses that have opened up over there, and we’re basically about to lose two of those businesses because of the time it has taken for them to complete this project,” Shakur said during the Aug. 5 work session.
Harvey said Thursday the appearances of the contractors juggling work “does not look good.”
When the work extension was granted, the city also approved a change order to account for unexpected, complex underground issues workers found while digging under Liberty Street.
It included finding underground vaults, staircases, window wells and coal chutes found on the east side of project while excavating a sidewalk, City Engineer Jason Morris said during the work session.