No. 2 Warmest Winter on Record Has Businesses Seeing Green

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Private plow drivers and hardware stores selling salt and shovels have taken their licks this season. But the second-mildest winter in New York City history, which ended Tuesday, has been a boon to some businesses.

Overall, the mild winter was partly responsible for a 1.1 percent uptick in consumer spending last month, economists say.

At the driving range at Chelsea Piers on Monday, the temperature was almost 70 degrees, with mild breeze coming off the Hudson.
David Beltre, the general manager, said it was an exceptional season for business.

“We gotta be up at least 20 to 25 percent, so it’s great, we love it,” Beltre said.

New York City’s five public golf courses are also reporting higher than average business. In January, receipts were $679,000, up from $74,000 the previous year - a more than eight-fold increase.

“I went out and played Split Rock on New Year’s Day and it felt like a fall day,” said Lee Finkel, northeast regional director for American Golf, the company that oversees the city’s five public courses. “It was a fun thing to see on January 1st.”

Barring a major weather event, more than $19 million will be saved from this year’s snow budget, according to New York City Comptroller John Liu. (Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the savings is less, about $11 million). But put in perspective, it’s not much: the city spends on average $8 million dollars every hour of every day of the year regardless of weather.

The city’s Department of Transportation was able to get 36 miles ahead in its goal of repaving a thousand miles of roadway this year, according to Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Construction projects – including the rehab of Delta’s Terminal 4 at JFK Airport – are on or ahead of schedule.

“JFK can be a very hostile winter environment between the snow and the winds coming off of Jamaica Bay,” said Charles Murphy, General Manager of Turner Construction’s New York City office. “And this year because of the weather we were able to pour concrete without paying additional costs to heat the concrete.”

Typically, if the temperature dips much below freezing, heaters must be deployed to make sure the concrete sets properly. In rain, sleet or snow, steel beams are never erected because of the risk of slippage.

Of course, not every business has benefitted from the pleasant weather.

Ray Likar, owner of Ray’s Discount Auto Body in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said customers are not coming to his shop as frequently as they did last winter because no ice on the roads means fewer fender benders.

“Besides people not sliding into each other, the parts guys, they’re not selling anything,” he said. “The suppliers for the paints and the sandpapers, and everything that we use, they’re feeling the pinch. It goes right down the line.”