Ang Mo Kio residents will welcome a familiar site back to their neighbourhood today when the market at Block 453A reopens after a six-month revamp. But it may not be a happy opening day for many stallholders.
Tenants of Chong Boon Market in Avenue 10 find their new stalls too narrow, with a fishmonger lamenting that she has to "do a crab-walk" to get behind the counter.
They also claim that the two weeks they were given to prepare for the reopening of the 37-year-old market was too short.
Mr Wee Lay Keong, 40, a second-generation chicken seller, said he found out how narrow his two stalls were only when he was handed the keys on Oct 15.
The distance from the storefront to the back is only about 1.5m, compared with 2.4m before the revamp, he said. A chiller for his chickens takes up about 1.2m, leaving him with just about 30cm of space to move about behind it.
"I don't even have enough space to chop my chickens," added Mr Wee, pointing to a row of pipes at the back of the stall. "When I chop, my arm will hit the pipes."
Madam Linda Kwok, 56, a fishmonger of nearly 20 years at the market, had to shave off about 25cm of the table on which her fish are displayed, so that she can fit behind it. "I have to walk sideways, like a crab, just to enter my stall," she said.
Stallholders noted that tenants of a nearby market at Block 409 which also underwent a revamp were given about a month to prepare for its reopening, compared with the two weeks for Chong Boon Market tenants.
"It's too little time. We need time to install shutters, put up tables and get permits for the electricity and water supply," said a fruit seller who declined to be named. This could mean that not all the stalls will be open today, she added.
When asked about the issues raised by stallholders, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said it has received feedback from two stallholders about the size of their stalls. But both their stalls were actually bigger after the renovation.
NEA added that the size of the stalls prior to the revamp was 3 sq m. Now, they range between 4.5 sq m and 5.4 sq m. While stallholders concur - they noted that the stalls are longer - they said the stalls are not deep enough for them to carry out their business properly.
Now, they are hoping the authorities will allow them to place goods outside their stalls, even though this may obstruct walkways.
Fruit sellers said they are not allowed to hang bunches of bananas outside their stalls, a rule that they hope will be relaxed. Mr Wee, whose chiller juts out slightly from the edge of one of his stalls, said: "I hope the authorities will 'close one eye' and let it pass."