NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Business owners in Northampton are reaching out to Western Mass News outraged with the city's new Shared Streets and Spaces Project.

The temporary project added bike lanes and more walking space to keep people socially distanced, but owners say it’s driving customers away.

Over 30 business owners on Main Street have all signed a petition to have the project immediately reversed. Businesses owners also say stores will not be able to survive much longer with this project in place.

“Today was horrendous actually, every appointment was late,” said Peter Kerantzas, co-owner of Haven Body Arts.

Kerantzas said he’s spent the last few days frustrated, angry and confused after changes to Main Street’s infrastructure were put in place, negatively impacting his business and many others.

“They’ve completely restricted how many people we can get in town and these businesses are immediately suffering from this and they’re not going to make it,” he said.

The city received a $200,000 grant for the Shared Street and Spaces Project. Its goal was to temporarily expand spaces for socially distanced walking, biking and shopping.

But Kerantzas said the new changes negatively affect already struggling businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic taking away parking spaces for customers, adding a one-lane traffic nightmare, and ultimately driving away customers.

“Where we are specifically it went from 26-29 spaces to 12, right in front of our studio went from 12 to four and there’s still only two handicapped spaces,” he said. “The traffic backed up so bad EMS couldn’t get to where the accident was. They had to remove the concrete barriers to get where the accident was.”

The project has only been in place the last few days, but he said the feedback from neighboring businesses has been overwhelmingly negative so they’ve created a petition to have the changes immediately reversed, which 34 business owners have signed.

Western Mass News reached out to Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, who said in a statement, “The mayor appreciates all of the feedback the city is receiving, both positive and negative, about the temporary redesign of Main Street.”

“He says it’s temporary, it’s only a few months, but he doesn’t seem to understand in the next few weeks people are going to be closing their doors, that’s how dire the situation is,” Kerantzas said.

Kerantzas said he was personally not given any notice about the changes and he believes the situation is urgent.

“After Saturday, they literally told me this was the worst Saturday we’ve had since we’ve reopened,” he said. “For the businesses in the worst position it will kill them, without a doubt it will happen, for those of us in better positions it is affecting us but we can deal with it.”

Right now, the project is in place until Nov. 15, but the mayor on Thursday told Western Mass News there are talks in the works for the designs to be in place permanently.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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