The holiday shopping season is eagerly anticipated by many business owners because it can make the difference between a losing year and profitable one.
But for merchants along Mount Kisco’s North Bedford Road an unexpected change in Con Edison’s schedule to complete gas line installations over the past couple of weeks has potentially dealt a crushing blow to the first part of the most important period on the calendar.
About a week before Thanksgiving, Con Edison made the decision to work on the gas lines during the daytime hours. The result has been paralyzing traffic tie-ups on Route 117 on weekdays and for part of Saturday, angering business owners and frustrating drivers.
A similar situation has extended into Bedford with problems for merchants and motorists on that side of the town line as well.
“If you live locally and this is where you shop and you can go instead to Katonah or Chappaqua or Bedford, you would just be trained now for the next few weeks if you needed to run out to the supermarket or get a case of wine or whatever,” said Jim Diamond, owner of Diamond Properties, the operator of The Park complex at 333 N. Bedford Rd. in Mount Kisco. “You would know I should avoid that road. I just don’t want to get stuck again.”
Diamond said the Saturday before Thanksgiving it took him about 45 minutes to travel from the Ford dealership on the Bedford side of Route 117 to his North Bedford Road office. Last Wednesday crews blocked the entrance and exit to the mall where the Shop-Rite is located in Bedford as well as his property.
The contractor also parked a truck in his complex’s parking lot without permission early on Thanksgiving week, and blocked the property’s northern exit, he said.
Meg Burdick, owner of Vine & Co. on Bedford Road estimated that business has been down at least 40 percent compared to the same period of time last year.
Mount Kisco Village Manager Edward Brancati said there was no notification from Con Edison about the move to daytime work, which was a surprise to his office.
“We hope they wrap it up pretty soon,” Brancati said.
Con Edison spokesman Bob McGee said the utility has added daytime hours to its evening work in hopes of getting the project done more quickly. He said the projected completion date is this Friday, Dec. 8.
The gas line installations are for businesses in both Mount Kisco and Bedford, McGee said.
Repaving of the road will be done in the spring so crews can do the job without having to contend with winter weather, he added.
Last week, traffic was once again crawling in both directions, particularly in the afternoon after crews had taken took a respite for the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. The Examiner observed several drivers making U-turns last Thursday rather than endure bumper-to-bumper traffic along that stretch.
Bedford Supervisor Chris Burdick said while there was notification from Con Edison in late summer that the gas line project would start this fall, there was no meeting involving officials from his town or Mount Kisco officials and no notification that the utility would be adding daytime hours to the schedule.
“We were taken aback and really shocked that without any notification they completely changed their work schedule from a night work schedule to a daytime schedule and did so at the peak of the shopping season for our merchants and our residents and visitors to town,” Burdick said. “It has had a devastating impact for our residents and our businesses along (Route) 117.”
The work has caused major headaches for businesses inside Diamond’s property. He said traffic volume into the complex reaches about 400 cars an hour during peak periods as people head to the Saw Mill Club, Safe Haven Self Storage and other businesses.
Diamond said the whole episode has been “a blatant disregard” for the public.
“I understand construction. I’ve been doing it a long time,” Diamond said. “I understand to some extent there’s no way to avoid the impacts, but this has been going on for like five months. I don’t mind a little bit of an inconvenience, but you’re getting into the high traffic season leading up to Thanksgiving and between Thanksgiving and Christmas when things are really busy. There needs to be a little more consideration given to what they’re doing, given the whole economy and the street and when they’re working.”