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LIC Businesses Struggling From Sandy Look for Help

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 20, 2012 9:34am

QUEENS — Three weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit New York, The Waterfront Crabhouse, a landmark seafood restaurant on the Hunters Point waterfront, still has no electricity.

Tony Mazzarella, who founded the famed eatery in 1977, estimated the damage from the monster storm at about $150,000, but the extent of the destruction remains unknown.

“We can’t even begin to assess the damage of any equipment because we have no power,” said Mazzarella's daughter, Chris.

Ever since the hurricane, which flooded the Borden Avenue restaurant with 6 feet of water, they have been working from dawn to nightfall, she said: “just scrubbing and cleaning."

With no working computer and with communication difficult because of her cellphone’s dropped calls, she said it is impossible to even fill out an application for help.

On Monday, she was among the dozens of business owners and residents who came to a meeting organized in Hunters Point by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Representatives of various government agencies offering assistance to hurricane victims, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), were there to listen to complaints and discuss various forms of financial aid.

“My father can’t do this,” Mazzarella said, referring to filling out aid applications. “SBA needs to get to the site and help people with it. And you need to see the damage.”

Steven Weintraub, the founder of Art Preservation Services at 44-45 Vernon Blvd., which specializes in the environmental preservation of collections in museums and archives, said his facility and stock suffered extensive damage during Sandy. “I’ve lost everything,” he said. “And I didn’t have flood insurance.”

He, as well as others with businesses located close to the waterfront, said they did not know what kind of help they may be eligible for.

Weintraub said he tried to get flood insurance after Hurricane Irene last year but was told that because his business was located in Zone A, designated by the city as an evacuation zone and therefore in danger of being flooded, that he would be unable to buy it.

Representatives from FEMA and SBA said the best way for affected businesses to proceed is to register and fill out applications for help. Loans of up to $2 million are available. “We just want you to complete the SBA application,” said Alana Chavez from the SBA. “Let SBA determine if you qualify or not.”

Gayle Baron, president at Long Island City Partnership, said  “a lot of businesses were hurt in a lot of different ways.”

“Some were flooded out, like Fresh Direct. They lost 150 trucks,” she said. “But what about a smaller company that didn’t lose equipment but lost power for a while, and with the trains out they couldn’t even get their employees to work?”

Some business owners who were able to reopen after being flooded also came to the meeting to find out how to get help with expenses related to recovery.

Riverview Restaurant was able to reopen last Thursday. “It’s a miracle,” said Doris Nowillo, the restaurant’s manager. Furniture and refrigerators were among the items destroyed when the restaurant was overwhelmed by three feet of water.

She said she and other employees volunteered without pay to help with the cleanup. Now the restaurant is struggling to recover from its financial losses.

Some residents from The Foundry, a condo at 2-40 51st Ave., also came to the meeting to report that after six feet of water had flooded their building they still have no power or water.

The residents said the building is practically empty and that the problems might continue for up to six more months due to damage to the building's infrastructure.

The federal agencies said they would return to help residents and business owners fill out paper work for aid next Monday and Tuesday at Manducatis Rustica Restaurant at 46-31 Vernon Blvd. in Hunters Point.

The SBA has also opened a recovery center in Queens, at LaGuardia Community College at 30-20 Thomson Avenue, Suite BA02, to help firms get back on their feet and provide assistance with disaster loan applications. The hours are: Weekdays: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.