Bishop St. Merchants filed lawsuit against city – being left in the dust
Bishop St. Merchants – Last October, Bishop Street merchants learned construction would take place in their area for a new mechanical ventilation station for the STM. It was considered necessary work to replace an older ventilation tower located just a few blocks away on Rue de la Montagne and which will be torn down once the new one is completed.
The newer tower, one of 80 ventilation towers that bring air to the metro system, is located at 1421 Bishop, between Ste. Catherine and De Maisonneuve. But what the merchants did not know, was the construction mess would cover a much larger area than they had been made aware of and their businesses would practically become inaccessible until 2020, when the work is supposed to be completed. Both the STM and the city (once again) were not forthcoming about the very serious problems they would face. They had promised ‘measures to minimize the impact of construction on the movement of cars, cyclists and pedestrians’. Well, it’s a disaster.
There are white tarps, signs and fences so high that people cannot even see the establishments. Even tourists have been unable to find them. The street now has only one lane for traffic and forty parking spaces have been removed. Sidewalks are in a mess, mud is being tracked inside stores and restaurants, and there is ongoing noise and vibrations from the digging. To add ‘salt to the wound’, cyclists and pedestrians were actually told to avoid the area until the project is completed – a scary thought considering the city’s history of ‘unexpected’ delays.
They were left to their own and basically given the all too familiar shrugging of the shoulders and the drone of ‘it has to be done’ – but not one word of how the STM or the city would help them survive what would clearly be threatening their very livelihoods. And so, they have taken action themselves.
On April 12th 2017, five Bishop Street merchants filed a lawsuit against the STM and the city, seeking $2,500 per month in financial compensation. I spoke with Jamie Benizri and David Kynan from the law firm Legal Logik who are representing them. They explained the lawsuit was being approached as an indemnity to be used to re-invest in marketing and advertising, as well as improvements for pedestrian access to their establishments. The sad part is that these tax paying businesses had to file a lawsuit in the first place. The STM and the city are not taking any real initiatives to help them out – and they should be.
Mayor Coderre and his team, who often claim to be doing what is best for the financial health of the city, seem to be doing the very opposite and potentially forcing them out of business.
The five merchants include restaurants and bars: Mesa 14, Ferrari, the Gourmet Burger, Kafein and Craft-Grilled Cheese. You can get details on the lawsuit at Legal Logik’s website at https://legallogik.com/newsroom/new-bishop-merchants-sue-montreal-stm/
Here is what they are seeking:
– Improving the visibility of their businesses through free advertising in the Peel and Guy-Concordia metro stations and in the streets adjacent to Bishop Street
– Making access to their shops easier for pedestrians by constructing a path offering direct access from St. Catherine Street and for motorists by prohibiting construction workers from monopolizing the parking spaces reserved for shops
– Prohibiting machinery that produces excessive noise from being used during peak hours, namely between 11am and 2pm and between 4pm and 9pm
– The beautification of Bishop Street with plants and decorative signs that would make the environment more pleasant and attractive to potential customers.
‘Beyond these measures, Bishop Street merchants are requesting financial compensation in the amount of $2,500 per month for each month since the beginning of the work to indemnify them against the troubles and inconveniences they’ve suffered and that they will continue to suffer until 2020. The 5 businesses are also requesting an amount of $25,000 to commission an engineering firm to examine the conditions of the work and determine whether the timeline can be shortened.’
Because the lawsuit is before the courts, the STM and the city will not comment. Both parties are presently examining the lawsuit and are expected to be back in court this September. In the meantime the merchants have to live with the problems and watch their businesses decline – some wondering if it will actually be their last summer in business.
Should the expenses incurred from the loss of business due to long term construction work automatically be included in the budget? Or should the merchants just have to grin and bear it – hoping the outcome will not prove to be devastating?