Mayors discuss cities’ options after bridge closure

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – City officials here are taking steps to see what — if anything — can be done to reverse Lincoln Park’s recent closing of the bridge that links Harrison Street to Goddard.

Wyandotte Mayor Joseph Peterson told his City Council on Monday that he met with Lincoln Park Mayor Frank Vaslo Jan. 20 regarding the Lincoln Park council’s decision Jan. 4 to close the bridge. “He was not aware when he did it that it was part of Wyandotte property,” Peterson said.

Peterson added that Wyandotte engineers are looking at the bridge and may hire a consultant to inspect it as well.

“Our battle is just beginning as to what we can do to fix it,” he said. “I’ve had numerous calls and people whose businesses (are affected) stop in to the mayor’s office.”

He said Vaslo told him he did not learn that the bridge was partly in Wyandotte until after the partial closure had been initiated and work had begun.

Meanwhile, nearby Lincoln Park businesses have seen their business decrease significantly since the partial closure, then the total closure on Jan. 15.

Korkis Market owner Steve Shaya said Monday that his business is down 50 percent.

“In this kind of business, it’s a nickel and dime business,” Shaya said. “Not much of a profit. Electricity has to be paid … the stuff that you buy is not cheap.”

He is unsure how long he can stay in business with his Wyandotte customer flow cut off.

“Cutting our paychecks, cutting the employees’ hours,” Shaya said. “We have a few customers still coming around, and we thank them.”

As for whether he can last through the predicted three-year closure, Shaya said, “I’m leaving it up to God.”

He said he has a family and has put his heart and soul into the store. He has talked to Peterson, who told him he is looking into the situation.

“I got my fingers crossed. I’ve got hope from him,” Shaya said. “If one of my customers hits the big game (the lottery), maybe they can help.”

Shaya has been in his store for 13 years, while Pizza King owner Steve Baker next door has been in his spot for 33.

“I hope that we can reach somebody higher, that we can get help from somebody,” Shaya said. “Otherwise, if the customers stop coming in, it’s going to be hard.” He owns the building that houses the two businesses, and said that while there are a lot of empty storefronts in the two bridge-connected cities, it takes money to relocate.

Baker said both his delivery and carryout business will be affected negatively by the logistics of trying to get around the bridge closures. He said he was frustrated by his attempts to speak to the Lincoln Park City Council before members voted.

“They gave myself and Steve next store three minutes to speak,” Baker said, “and they had already made their minds up. I went online and found all the bridge surveys of Lincoln Park for the past two years, and there are four other bridges in Lincoln Park that have the same rating as this that are in the same condition. I told them if you shut this one down, you’re setting a (criterion).”

Baker’s business has been affected by the economic downturn like everyone else.

“We’ve changed our advertising, and cut back on our costs,” he said. “But we’re not doing the volume we were doing for the last couple years.”

Baker already has spent over $600 on an upcoming mailing that will be negatively impacted by the bridge closure.

“I’ve spent my whole life here,” Baker said. “I started when I was 20. Thirty-three years. I don’t have another job to fall back on.

“It’s going to be tough. I didn’t expect to be here this long, and I didn’t expect to run into this type of problem with the city government.”

No one notified either business that the closure was imminent, he said.

“Someone happened to look at the City Council docket and saw the Harrison Bridge closing,” Baker said.

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