Edited to include MTA response and commentary.
On the heels of a devastating year for the hospitality and restaurant industries, Italian and Middle Eastern mash-up restaurant Pomp and Circumstance (577 Lorimer Street) is now facing another impending roadblock, this time at the hands of the MTA.
Upon receiving news that the MTA plans to build a new subway entrance in front of the restaurant which will inhibit outdoor dining, Pomp and Circumstance is working to raise awareness of the unsurvivable project and call on community members to voice their opposition in solidarity.
Despite the MTA having been in talks to install accessible elevators for the Lorimer-Metropolitan station since the early winter, the news of the new subway entrance and forthcoming construction was only revealed to owner Melissa Morales last Tuesday during a meeting set up with help from assembly member Emily Gallagher’s office. Morales was also told that the two-year project is set to begin on May 1, right in conjunction with outdoor dining season, which has been crucial for many restaurants’ survival; the MTA contests that the exact schedule for the project is still in progress as community outreach and planning remains underway (as well as taking other efforts to minimize impacts including ending work near the restaurant by 3 PM and “installing decorative fence wrap promoting the business,” according to spokesperson Shams Tarek).
“A 15-by-30-foot hole will be in the sidewalk for two years, so we’re going to completely lose any chance of what’s gotten us through this past year as far as revenue streams,” Morales explained. “The basic issue is the timing of it all right now and taking into account the businesses above ground that need to recoup.”
Though a general sentiment suggests helplessness in the face of MTA projects, Morales still urges community members and local legislators to remain aware of the issue and how it impacts struggling businesses.
“I’ve reached out to every congressperson and the city council, every single person I could possibly think of, all the community board members — most of the people I’ve spoken to say there’s nothing you can really do, the MTA does what they want to do,” Morales said.
Instead, Morales is hoping to at least sway the MTA to delay the project for a few months, giving Pomp and Circumstance an opportunity to recover some of the money lost during months of shutdowns and limited dining capacities.
“Everyone seems to throw their hands up at the thought of stopping it, so we’ve kind of all accepted that aspect of it. So we just have to hope to at least give ourselves a few months,” Morales admitted.
The project also includes similar construction across the street in front of Zona Rosa. Supporters of both restaurants can join this week’s virtual Transportation Committee Community Board No. 1 meeting on Tuesday, April 6, at 6:30 PM to voice their thoughts and urge committee chair Eric Bruzaitis to aid in pushing back against the project’s start date.
“Our whole survival has been based on the community; we only opened in June of 2019, so we’re a fairly new restaurant,” Morales said. “During the pandemic we provided food to the Greenpoint Hunger Program for 12 weeks; we have a donation set up in our restaurant for people to help out and sponsor meals. We’ve had tremendous feedback and we’ve built a regular clientele that has really supported us and this is just going to put us out of business.”
In response, the MTA has specified that this project includes elevators providing ADA-compliant access to the G and L platforms, ADA boarding areas, ADA-compliant sidewalk curbs, wheelchair-friendly access gates, booth modifications and Braille signage, new public staircases for Lorimer Street, long-term flood resiliency upgrades, structural rehabilitation, and systems upgrades including security camera, fire alarm ,and electrical components.
“The MTA is committed to making the transit system more accessible for generations to come and we’re working closely with communities to minimize the short-term impacts from construction,” spokesperson Shams Tarek said. “The Metropolitan Av-Lorimer St complex is one of the busiest and most critical in Brooklyn, serving more than 60,000 daily riders before the pandemic, and once this work to improve accessibility at the complex is done the entire community will reap the benefits. The MTA has worked closely with the local community throughout this process and will continue to do so.”