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Coronavirus Impact: Popular Columbus Circle Underground Market Attempting Climb Out Of Pandemic's Clutches

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There was another sign of optimism Wednesday about New York City's road to recovery.

A popular underground market reopened in Columbus Circle to the delight of commuters after months of hardship and closure, CBS2's Christina Fan reported.

There's a lot to see and do near Columbus Circle. But one of the best treasures is underground, as soon as you exit the subway turnstiles. Like the rest of New York, this iconic market is making a comeback.

"We really thought that it would be closed. We were like, okay we'll try. It was so exciting that there was nothing here that said it was closed. We could look at jewelry, get some bubble tea," said Natalie Straton of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.


Of the 39 kiosks at Turnstyle Underground Market, 20 did not make it out of the coronavirus pandemic. Those which did survive, like EZ Paella, struggled even more than most businesses because of their indoor location. Owner Alex Del Gallego opened on March 15, the day the city went into lockdown.

"We were living out of our savings. We didn't qualify for any loans because we opened the business right after the deadline. We didn't qualify so it was very hard. But we made it," Del Gallego said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says in order to help businesses thrive, it is developing a financial relief plan, moving from fixed rent to a percentage rent system.

"If they succeed we would just get a percentage of their revenue," said Janno Lieber, president of MTA Construction and Development. "And we would put that in effect for the duration of the pandemic until ridership starts moving back to normal levels."

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

That return to normalcy will likely take a while. On a typical weekday, this station sees 240,000 riders, but now it's seeing just 75,000. Still, there are new businesses with big dreams planning on moving in, like Mario Vivas' empanada shop.

"Being an immigrant and coming to New York City is already a huge risk and it's a really huge challenge. There's no option. I mean, if everyone is not brave enough, then it's an opportunity to be brave," Vivas said.

And help play a part in restoring the vibrancy and energy of this city.

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