Commons merchants protest the impact of the construction project last night at City Hall.

Ithaca, N.Y. — A few dozen people, including many Ithaca Commons business owners, packed City Hall on Wednesday to express dissatisfaction with the Commons construction project.

“You’ve heard from every level of retail here,” said the owner of the building that housed Evolution on the Commons. “We’re struggling. Please help. We all need help.”

Alderperson Seph Murtagh said the public display of dissatisfaction was “very distressing.” (Another delay in the project was covered by The Voice today.)

“The more this gets delayed the more the area starts to get a reputation … It does create a real problem,” Murtagh said.

The Commons construction. (Jeff Stein/IthacaVoice)
The Commons construction. (Jeff Stein/IthacaVoice)

Also speaking out in frustration were the owners of the Titus Gallery on the Commons, which was closed by the Simeon’s crash.

“I feel that reconstruction of the Commons has been a nightmare and a fiasco from day one,” said Matthew Peterson, of Titus Gallery, according to WHCU.

Adil Griguihi, the co-owner of the Casablanca pizzeria on the Commons, had strong words for Council members.

“We have a big problem. The first problem is this job was done with no plans since day one. We don’t have a strong leadership,” Griguihi said.

Griguihi said he was $80,000 in debt because of the Commons construction project.

“It looks like nobody cares about small businesses. This is the truth I’m going to tell you guys,” he said. “You need to do something very fast, please.”

He said he was on the verge of bankruptcy.

“Excuses, excuses are not going to pay for our bills,” Griguihi said.

“We just need this job to be done as soon as possible…All the business owners are complaining … We are really suffering.”

Many attendees said this is the worst they’d seen the Commons in 50 years.

After the public comment period, Mayor Svante Myrick said the work was necessary to protect the long-term health of the Commons.

“This is the first time we will have to replace all our underground utilities,” Myrick said.

Still, Myrick said the work should be better.

“We clearly need to do better. We need to do better for the folks who are suffering,” Myrick said.

Some business owners said the city didn’t appear to care about the economic health of downtown. Myrick said this wasn’t true.

“We do care. We need the Commons to be successful,” Myrick said.

Myrick said he was open to a discussion about improvements.

“I hear that you feel like we haven’t done enough,” Myrick said. “I’m willing to talk about doing whatever it takes.”

Alderperson George McGonigal said he hopes the city can provide free parking to help the businesses.

“I want to apologize to the business owners that this has happened,” McGonigal said.

“I did not realize it was this bad … we need to make this happen faster. Period.”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.