CB1 Holds Emergency Meeting to Assess Sandy Damage in Lower Manhattan

By Jeanmarie Evelly on November 5, 2012 6:03am | Updated on November 5, 2012 8:41am

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Manhattan’s Community Board 1 held an emergency meeting on Sunday to assess the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy, as the neighborhood struggled to regain its bearings after a hectic week, most of it spent without electricity.

Local leaders and residents met in the nave at Trinity Church, where Community Board chairwoman Catherine McVay Hughes said southern Manhattan — which withstood the devastation of the Sept. 11 attacks over a decade ago — fared better than many other neighborhoods across the city during Sandy’s onslaught, though problems persist.

“Compared to the destruction elsewhere, lower Manhattan was very lucky,” she said.

Still, the area is facing its share of issues. Though power returned to most of the borough this weekend, many buildings that suffered flooding are still without lights, while many others that rely on steam power are without heat and hot water.

“This isn’t going to be easy for a while,” Assemblywoman Deborah Glick told the crowd.

The children’s playground at Pier 25 in Hudson River Park sustained flood damage, and Pier 40 now has some infrastructure problems, according to board member Bob Townley, who heads the waterfront committee.

“I’m most concerned about the trees and plants, to see how they react to all the saltwater,” he said.

Townley, the founder and executive director at Manhattan Youth Downtown Community Center on Warren Street, said the center also suffered millions of dollar worth of damage due to flooding.

Another hard hit area is South Street Seaport, where businesses were wrecked by several feet of flood water, as DNAinfo.com New York reported last week.

“Front Street is a disaster area,” said board member John Fratta.

City Councilwoman Margaret Chin said her office is working to help business owners get loans to aid in their recovery, and that they’re also hoping to start a grant program for small businesses.

That would be good news to Jacques Capsouto, owner of Capsouto Freres restaurant on Washington Street in Tribeca, which celebrated its 32nd anniversary this year. The eatery was flooded with over six feet of water during the storm, he said. He came to Sunday’s meeting because he wasn’t sure where to turn for help.

“We’re doing everything on our own, and all the contractors, they want money upfront,” he said, saying he’ll need a loan or grant—either from the city, state, or federal government—to afford to rebuild.

“Hopefully we’ll get something. If not, we’re not going to make it,” he said.

Board members said the Hurricane has reignited discussions around better emergency planning for lower Manhattan.

“It is just astounding that half the city is dependent upon a single substation,” said planning committee chairman Jeff Galloway, referring to the explosion at Con Edison’s East 14th Street substation during last week’s storm, which knocked out power in Manhattan below 39th Street.

Over the last year, CB1 has passed resolutions addressing the city’s rising seawaters and the threat it poses to lower Manhattan. In January, the board requested a study be conducted to assess the feasibility of constructing storm surge barriers around the southern part of the borough, and last spring it supported City Council legislation that would require regular reports on climate change adaptation in the city.

“Weather patterns will become increasingly problematic,” Galloway said. “If we do nothing, New York City will not be a city for our grandchildren and our great grandchildren.”

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