NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -“I’m at the point where I’m going to shut down completely. I’m in the last leg or inch of this business. I just can’t.. I can’t pay bills. I can’t get nothing done,” Mid City business owner Nick Barakat told us.
He survived what’s been a tough Pandemic year, but what’s happened outside, in front of his shops, he says has been a business killer.
“They just dug the street, opened it up and they left,” he said. The 2700 block of Conti from Broad to North White is all torn up, and Barakat says it’s been months since any work crew has been out there. He explained he waited for work crews to return in November, December, January, February and March, and it’s now April and he’s not seen a worker.
For nearly five months, the two-way street has been reduced to one lane. The side that’s off limits drops off a foot or two, and for car repair type shops like Barakat’s customers can’t get in, or out.
“Our business is people coming in for oil changes, brake jobs, tire business. We also have a used dealership so now we cannot even bring cars from auction or sell to the customers,” Barakat said.
Next door, Vinny Calamari’s trim shop is suffering too. “Customers are being you now deterred away. They can’t find places to park. We can’t even access them an estimate or something like that. It’s really taken a toll on everybody,” Calamari said.
Plus they say it’s dangerous. They’ve witnessed drivers who’ve gone over the edge and gotten stuck. “It’s constantly under water, and you can’t really judge where it goes,” Calamari explained.
What they say is worse, they’re in the dark about the whole project even after reaching out to City departments. “They all lead to the same points where, ‘we’ll get back to you, but no one ever does,’” Barakat said.
That’s why he turned to the FOX 8 Defenders to help track down answers.
“No citizen and no business should have to deal with this, and I wanna apologize that they’ve had to endure this,” New Orleans Council member Jay Banks said. The block falls in his Council district.
The same day we went out to the neighborhood and heard concerns, I emailed Banks and his staff, looking for answers. “We responded and got the responses back from DPW (Department of Public Works) and Sewerage and Water Board with the commitment that on next week, both departments will be out here fixing this,” Banks said.
A City Hall spokesperson says while excavating, crews discovered a leak. “It took some time to identify the source of the leak and determine a course of action with the SWBNO and the contractor, Hard Rock Construction,” according to the spokesperson. Once the leak is repaired, construction will resume. A search on roadwork.nola.gov lists a construction end date for the project between this month and June.
“They’re tearing up Iberville now. Well let’s finish Conti first, then start on the next one,” Bonney Chatallier said.
“We didn’t know about this until a few days ago, and I’m hoping that there aren’t others that I don’t know about because again this is totally unacceptable,” Banks said.
For Nick Barakat’s businesses, the damage may already be done, but he’s glad someone has followed-up, and he’s hopeful knowing work crews are expected to now return next week.
If you’ve got a consumer issue, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women, the NCJW or, fill out our online complaint form.
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