NEW YORK — Hundreds of businesses displaced by the massive explosion at the World Trade Center scrambled Sunday to find alternative office space as far away as Minnesota, while Port Authority officials said the damaged skyscrapers would remain closed through the week.
With billions of dollars in trading and other financial activity at stake, many companies desperate to resume operations plan to double up at other New York-area offices or pay tens of thousands of dollars to rent office facilities from companies that specialize in providing such space during emergencies and disasters.
"We've gotten more than 100 calls this weekend from people seeking office space" in the wake of Friday's World Trade Center explosion, said Ken Israel, president of Exchange Resources, which operates a temporary office facility on Staten Island as well as a smaller facility in Minneapolis.
The two damaged skyscrapers, World Trade Center Towers 1 and 2, house more than 900 businesses, ranging from Mrs. Field's Cookies to offices of the giant Japanese bank Dai Ichi Kangyo Bank.
Israel said he has not heard from any banks or trading exchanges in the World Trade Center seeking emergency quarters. But he said Port Authority officials called his Minneapolis office asking about space for some World Trade Center tenants. And some brokerage firms and smaller businesses in the complex have asked about temporarily leasing space in New York, he said.
The New York Mercantile Exchange, New York Cotton Exchange, Commodity Exchange, and Coffee, Sugar & Cocoa Exchange closed early Friday shortly after the noontime blast rocked the complex. But officials of the exchanges, which employ nearly 14,000 people at the World Trade Center, say they persuaded authorities to allow them to resume operations today.
The reopening of the four commodity exchanges is "critically important to the world economy," Jim Neal, general manager of the Commodities Exchange Center, told the Associated Press. "The contracts are worth in the billions of dollars."
The New York Stock Exchange, which has several dozen employees working in the World Trade Center, said its trading operations on Wall Street have not been affected. The exchange's World Trade Center staff was awaiting word Sunday afternoon on where they should report to work today.
Dean Witter, one of the largest tenants in the World Trade Center, with 4,500 employees, began airing radio advertisements Sunday listing emergency telephone numbers that clients and employees could call to learn about any new developments.
Jim Flynn, a senior vice president at the financial services firm, said most employees who work in the center have been temporarily reassigned to Dean Witter's eight other New York and New Jersey offices. He said most of the company's data processing work is being handled by Dean Witter offices in other states.
"We were lucky because we already had a contingency plan in place for emergencies," Flynn said. "We don't expect any disruption (today). All of our employees are raring to go to work."
Meanwhile, Shearson Lehman Hutton, which employs about 100 people in the World Trade Center, said it is making arrangements to provide temporary space across the street at its World Financial Center headquarters and that they expected no disruption in business.
Stanley Brezenoff, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the World Trade Center, told the Associated Press that the two damaged buildings will be closed "in excess of a week." Officials said they have faced more difficulty than they initially anticipated in completing critical repair work to the 110-story buildings. Teleport Communications Group, which provides local telephone and data transmission for many World Trade Center businesses, said late Sunday that its major telephone switching facility beneath the towers was still operating on emergency power and undergoing repairs.
"We are continuing to work on restoring the (telephone) network; it's still affecting communications," said Robert Atkins, senior vice president for regulatory affairs at Teleport who maintained a nearly round-the-clock vigil at his office over the weekend.
"This is going to be a bigger challenge" than many people expected, he said.
Who's Located in World Trade Center Here's a list of some of the major financial services businesses located in the World Trade Center complex: EXCHANGES OR THEIR STAFFS New York Mercantile Exchange Commodity Exchange Coffee, Sugar & Cocoa Exchange New York Cotton Exchange New York Futures Exchange New York Stock Exchange, division of enforcement BROKERAGE FIRMS OR STAFF Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. First Boston Inc. Shearson Lehman Hutton, asset management division BANK ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICES Sumitomo Bank Ltd. Fuji Bank Ltd. Shizuoka Bank Ltd. ACCOUNTING FIRMS Deloitte & Touche