TIGHT SQUEEZE - Shoemaker struggles to make ends meet, care for sick wife after Constant Spring Market eviction
For almost 40 years, Lloyd Livingston operated a shoemaking business in the Constant Spring Market. Day after day, he went to the small shop to carve out a living for himself and provide for his family. With the road-expansion exercise in the area, Livingston’s business was dealt a death blow, landing him flat on his face, now struggling to even find food to survive.
Through tears, he related to The Gleaner how he has been struggling to earn his keep since the Government demolished the Constant Spring Market in March to make way for the US$20-million road rehabilitation project. The highly trafficked corridor has now been transformed into a four-lane dual carriageway.
Despite resistance from vendors, who pleaded for a suitable alternative to be provided for them to conduct their trade, they were served eviction notices by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) to vacate the premises by March 31, 2018. They were granted a temporary injunction until September 30 last year, but the market was eventually bulldozed earlier this year. The vendors watched hopelessly as the building came tumbling down, taking with it a chunk of their earning potential and crippling their trade as the lack of a proper location and the resulting dust nuisance and traffic nightmare from the roadwork drove customers away.
“It’s very different, very different. I can’t even find my food,” Livingston told The Gleaner yesterday.
Before the roadwork began, he was able to pocket between $8,000 and $10,000 weekly. Now, it’s a different story.
“No customers anymore, no customers. The customers desert [us] and find somewhere else because to the amount of dust and ting like dat,” a dejected Livingston said.
While the KSAMC had offered vendors relocation payments upwards of $100,000, Livingston, who operated a shop just outside the market where he also sold small items, did not take up the offer.
“I tell them that that money cannot help because my likkle ting weh me did have here worth $800,000, suh mi couldn’t take $250,000,” he said. “I’m so upset. I’m on the streetside right now … . I have to turn back to two drinks, two cigarette and two bag juice.”
He, along with a few other vendors, is still at the site of the old structure, trying to woo passers-by and hoping for a return of his customer base as he is still without a market. While the space is not adequate, it’s the best he can do and he has put out a few shoes in hope that he will get them sold.
Livingston said summer is usually a peak period as parents shop for back-to-school supplies for their children.
“I could make back my money to send my children to school, buy all their books and necessary things to return to school. Now, I just can’t manage,” he said.
He no longer has school-age children, but the shoemaker is now the sole caretaker of his six-year-old grandson.
He broke down in tears as he spoke about his sick wife, whom he has to care for.
“Every turn she turn, a me haffi turn wid har. I don’t know what to do, but I’m trying to hold on. Plenty people come and say, ‘Mr Livingston, I’m really sorry for what happen, but we just couldn’t help’.”
Livingston said that even though he received an eviction notice, he did not expect that his shop – made of blocks, cement and zinc – would have been included in the demolition because it was not inside the main market building.
He explained that he had received permission from the KSAMC to build the structure and had been paying his dues.
Further, he is not convinced that the demolition had to take place.
“At no time at all dem nuh occupy di market spot,” he told The Gleaner.
Livingston, who is being represented by attorney-at-law Bert Samuels, has filed a claim against the KSAMC. The local authority has not responded to a letter from Livingston.
“Based on the development, I’m anxious to see who it is that will get the land that was to the back of the Constant Spring Market. Who is the prince? Who will get it? Who is the favoured child of this Government?” Samuels said. “Bearing in mind that all the persons, apart from their relocation fee, have been thrown on the scrap heap of unemployment, ... I’m the grandson of a higgler, so I can’t leave higglers.”
The Gleaner ’s attempts to get a response from the KSAMC were unsuccessful.