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Foot Traffic Picks Up in NYC Explosion Zone

As pedestrians tried to figure out the best way to navigate the Grand Central Terminal district Sunday, retailers affected by last week's steam-pipe explosion were hoping the increased foot traffic would be a sign of improved sales.

NEW YORK — As pedestrians tried to figure out the best way to navigate the Grand Central Terminal district Sunday, retailers affected by last week’s steam-pipe explosion were hoping the increased foot traffic would be a sign of improved sales.

After Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the repair work would extend into this week, Kathryn Wylde, president of Partnership for New York City, estimated Friday the zone’s commercial area could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues, depending on how long traffic restrictions are in place.

On Sunday, a policeman at the corner of Third Avenue and East 41st Street noted how some stores had reopened, buildings in the area were being power-washed, and, for the first time in days, pedestrians were allowed onto the north side of East 42nd Street. While most police officers stationed in the area Sunday were not wearing face masks, as they had been last week, some closer to the blast site were, he said.

Con Edison workers grabbed doughnuts from an aid station outside the closed Ann Taylor Loft store on the south side of 42nd Street. Across the street, Bolton’s and Kenneth Cole remained closed at noon, but Banana Republic planned to reopen by 1 p.m., according to a company executive standing outside the store who requested anonymity. She declined to comment on the estimated sales’ loss caused by the closing, but said Thursdays and Fridays are typically significantly busy shopping days for the store.

Instead of shopping, some women snapped group photographs of the many firefighters on call.

Strawberry’s, on the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue at East 42nd Street, had reopened and planned to keep its normal hours, said sales assistant Deyaniri Garcia. All in all, Sunday’s store traffic was “no different than any other Sunday, and it always gets busier late in the afternoon,” she said.

Montreal resident Cynthia Beauvais, who was here for a dance convention at the Grand Hyatt, shopped at Strawberry’s and said she was unfazed by the commotion outside. Cristine Remollo, a tourist from the Philippines, said she felt the same. En route to Grand Central with shopping bags from nearby Modell’s and Payless ShoeSource, she said, “Asbestos or not — we were coming.”

Lauren Border, a Weston, Conn., high school student, had come into the city with two friends “to shop and to eat.” After buying a hoodie at the East 42nd Street Gap, she headed west to Strawberry’s. “We thought there would be problems with Grand Central, but there weren’t,” Border said, adding that Bloomingdale’s would be the trio’s next stop.

Orlando Miles, Super Runners Shop manager, said business was picking up a little, due partially to shoppers participating in Sunday’s Nautica New York City Triathlon. “Hopefully, by Monday, everything will be back to normal,” he said.