NEW YORK—A fresh coat of paint was drying on the entrance doors of the Pasanella & Son wine shop. A shiny 1967 Ferrari with a trunk filled with wine bottles was parked as a centerpiece of the brightly lit room.
It’s hard to tell that just a month ago a catastrophic hurricane drowned the store and its neighborhoods at South Street Seaport. The interior of the store was spotless, but the storeowner would like to have seen it blemished by a few more customers.
“We are really hurting. There’s nobody living around here anymore,” said Marco Pasanella, owner of store. The wine shop has been named the “Best Wine Shop” by New York Magazine, and is a favorite of Martha Stewart. But its reputation means little when the neighborhood residents are gone.
“Wines are heavy. People don’t carry wine from neighborhood to neighborhood,” Pasanella said. “The bread and butter of our business was people coming home from work.”
Businesses in the hardest hit areas of New York are reopening one by one, but devastating consequences lie ahead. Hurricane Sandy is said to be the second most destructive natural disaster in the United States, trailing behind Hurricane Katrina, which claimed a much larger number of lives. But Gov. Cuomo said at a press conference Monday that Sandy has caused significantly more economic damage.
The government estimates that 265,000 private sector businesses were affected, including 22 million commercial square feet in Manhattan and 2,000 miles of damaged roads.
In the first week after Sandy, there were 46,000 unemployment claims. A total of 236,082 households registered or contacted FEMA as of Tuesday, according to Ed Conley, public affairs officer at FEMA based in New York.
The city government is offering a $5.5 million grant program for New York City businesses impacted by Hurricane Sandy, among other initiatives, but many businesses are still unable to find funding or customers.
Pasanella & Son is one of the few places open in South Street Seaport. Fish Market NYC, a bar and restaurant down on the next block was not as fortunate.
“All of my fridges, freezers, and ice breakers are finished,” said Lynn Yong, manager of Fish Market NYC. Her business was not eligible for FEMA. “There’s only loans out there, but we need money.”
She managed to receive $600 through fundraising, spent $800 to replace the shattered windows, and still needs at least $20,000 to replace the broken equipment alone.
To carry on with making a living, Yong borrowed money from a friend to partially open her bar. It brought in seven customers Tuesday. “It’s a dead city,” she said.
Her son runs a cigar lounge down the street. “We have two family businesses, both were destroyed,” Yong said. The lounge, Cigar Landing, normally attracts 30 customers a day.
“We get 5-10 customers a day now. … We are not stocking up because there are no customers,” said Adam Lin, manager of Cigar Landing.
Businesses in other heavily damaged areas such as Coney Island mostly remain closed, although Tom’s Restaurant on the boardwalk reopened days after the storm. A few other places are beginning to open, and some expect to fully open in two to three weeks.
Liana Stevens, owner of Lago Furniture, estimates that her business has endured a loss of $200,000. With only partial insurance, and no flood insurance, the $200,000 will most likely not be reimbursed, she said.
Most stores were open in Far Rockaway, but moving southwest into Rockaway stores remain badly damaged.
For several blocks, nothing was open except a liquor store that was operating without power and a CVS that operated out of a trailer set up in front of the store.
Additional reporting by Zachary Stieber and Charlotte Cuthbertson
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