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Pop’s is pushed to the brink

Pop’s Popular Clothing has been in business in North Brooklyn since 1949, weathering four wars, three recessions, and on rezoning. But the city’s constructions work on Kent Avenue, nearby the store’s 7 Franklin Street location, may force Pop’s to close its doors after 60 years on the waterfront.

The work clothing retailer sits adjacent to the Department of Transportation’s proposed redesign of Kent Avenue, which would add two bicycle lanes and cut traffic to a one-way northbound lane.

Pop’s owner, Steve Rosenberg, believes that the addition of the bike lane, which eliminated parking in the surrounding area last November, has prevented many of his most loyal customers, truck drivers, tradesmen, and construction workers, from visiting his shop.

“I’ve lost 70 percent of my business. Most of my customers come here by car or by truck,” said Rosenberg. “During the week, you cannot get a parking space here. You drive around for hours. Truckers do not come here anymore. My truck business is down to nothing.”

For Rosenberg, that is a major problem. He just completed a large order for Carhatt jeans and it’s Pop’s busiest time, when many construction workers come to restock on work boots and clothing they have worn out over the past six months.

“We get some orders over the Internet, but guys my age (over 40) don’t use the Internet,” said Rosenberg. “I’m going to keep supporting the business until I run out of money, and then I close down.”

On August 21, Rosenberg wrote a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Councilmember David Yassky, Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Community Board 1 District Manager Gerry Esposito, and DOT Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmieri, expressing disappointment in the way the city implemented the Kent Avenue plan and urging the DOT to restore parking on Franklin Street.

“Recently I have heard a lot of our leaders speaking about the benefits that the small businessmen provide to our economy and how we need to help them in these extremely tough economic times,” said Rosenberg, in a letter to Mayor Bloomberg. “I do not solicit or request any help monetarily. I only appeal to let me conduct my business without the DOT making it impossible for me to perform my business.”

A spokesperson from the DOT said they have spoken with Rosenberg and are looking into how they can address his concerns.

Rosenberg has proposed extending a shared bicycle lane one and a half blocks, allowing for parking and loading on North 14th Street and Kent Avenue, near his business.

At a recent Community Board 1 Transportation Committee meeting, DOT officials addressed the possibility of turning Banker Street into a two-way street and working with the Parks Department to change the triangle intersection at Calyer Street in Greenpoint.

Rosenberg stresses that he is supportive of cyclists and even has a special room for customers to store their bicycles when they shop at Pop’s.

Transportation Alternatives spokesperson Wiley Norvell knows that, saying he shops at Pop’s for Carhatt clothing and socks, but says he would hesitate to add a shared lane to Kent Avenue along that corner.

“On a street with trucks and high vehicle speeds, shared lanes do not tend to be safe for anybody,” said Norvell, while adding, “Pop’s is definitely an anchor in the neighborhood. It’s a business that everybody knows and it’s a business that everyone wants to keep.”

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