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Two Lower Manhattans: Sandy spared some buildings, not others

November 05, 2012|By Andrew Tangel
  • Shops were closed or boarded up at the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan on Monday, a week after Sandy battered New York and the East Coast.
Shops were closed or boarded up at the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan… (Andrew Tangel / Los Angeles…)

There seemed to be two Lower Manhattans on Monday. Some hard-hit businesses closed while crews drained and gutted their interiors, and others were up and running with little visible damage.

Some people in residential high-rises had power restored and never had to evacuate. Others -- even across the street from functional buildings -- were emptied of their inhabitants after flooding ruined electrical, heating and water systems.

Eugene Song, who lives in one residential building at on Water Street along Manhattan’s southeastern tip, said power came back early Monday morning. Heat and hot water have yet to return to his condo, but elevators work, so he and his family no longer have to climb 25 flights of stairs.

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“The lights just came on -- we were sleeping -- which was a sweet surprise,” Song, 47, said. “Once we get the hot water back, we’re good.”

As Song waited for his two daughters to return from school -- the first day after a week off because of the storm -- frazzled residents lugged suitcases into an apartment building across Water Street. Flooding disabled their own building’s systems, prompting management to evacuate residents.

Francesco Ponti, 34, returned to fetch suits so he could dress for work Tuesday at an Italian commercial bank near Wall Street. He expressed frustration at what he said was a building manager’s suggestion that he should vacate while still paying rent for his $2,800-a-month studio and go to a public shelter (he’s instead staying with his girlfriend in Hoboken, N.J.).

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“It’s really a mess,” Ponti said.

To be sure, Lower Manhattan was not as hard-hit as parts of Staten Island, Queens, Long Island or the Jersey Shore, where scores of residents lost their homes or even died in the storm.

Still, as Lower Manhattan dries out, Sandy has disrupted lives beyond what’s visible. At the same Water Street apartment high-rise where Ponti came to retrieve his belongings, Albert Tache, who works in security there, was coming to grips with a potentially sharp cut in income -- perhaps 75% -- while the building is closed.

“I’m feeling it in my income,” Tache, 50, said. “I’m shocked, because what am I going to do?  I have to pay rent. I have to pay bills.”

The nearby South Street Seaport, an outdoor plaza of shops and restaurants with cobblestone streets along the East River, was empty. Stores were closed or boarded up.

At an Abercrombie & Fitch, strapping models were replaced by construction workers in white suits and blue hats yanking out wood and other detritus from the store’s interior, piling it in front.

Yet outside a shuttered Verizon store, a pickup truck towed up a mobile store, sort of a food cart for the latest mobile devices.

Wall Street giants also were coming back to life to varying degrees. The entrance to insurance giant American International Group, which reportedly suffered heavy flooding, was blocked off and employees were working elsewhere.

Across the island, on the southwestern tip of Manhattan, Goldman Sachs was up and running. The powerful investment was ringed with sandbags before Sandy and had power last week  when offices reopened Wednesday. The bank even handed out water and allowed nearby residents to charge their phones. By Monday, a spokeswoman said the vast majority of its employees had returned to work at its downtown office tower.

For some businesses wrecked by Sandy, it may take weeks -- or  longer -- to fully reopen.

The ritzy Delmonico’s steakhouse in the financial district hoped to reopen its first floor next week, and the basement by the holidays, said Allan Koval of Florida, who came to New York to oversee the building’s clean-up for a Maryland-based company.

Construction crews Monday were ripping out the restaurant’s newly renovated basement dining and party rooms, complete with leather walls and wood paneling.

“It was gorgeous,” Koval said. But now, “it’s all destroyed.”



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