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20 Percent of Downtown Offices Remain Closed After Sandy, Survey Finds

By Jeanmarie Evelly | November 22, 2012 1:27pm

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Twenty percent of Downtown offices shuttered by Hurricane Sandy last month are still not funtionally open, according to an updated survey released earlier this week.

Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate firm that surveyed office buildings below City Hall and in TriBeCa, found that a fifth of the offices — or 25 of the 183 offices canvassed — remained closed more than three weeks after the superstorm swept through the city, the survey found.

"The Water Street corridor and the southern tip of the island were most affected," said John Wheeler, the firm's managing director for Lower Manhattan.

Most of the buildings are still closed because of flood damage to their utility equipment, he said.

Among those still shuttered is 125 Maiden Lane, a 17-story office building that is home to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the fundraising arm of the humanitarian aid group United Nations Children's Fund.

UNICEF spokeswoman Susannah Masur said the organization's 200 employees who work at the downtown office had to relocate after the storm. About 50 workers were able to set up shop at the group's contingency office in Harlem, which they keep open specifically for emergencies.

"We had a contingency plan in place basically for circumstances such as these," she said. "We're very well equipped to respond quickly, but usually it's not an emergency that happens in our own office."

Other employees initially worked remotely, but the company has managed to open seven temporary locations over the last two week, five of which were donated space. 

"We're functional, up and running, and still trying to raise money," Masur said.

Repair crews are still working at 199 Water Street, a 35-story, 1.1 million-square-foot tower where the tenants include Allied World Assurance and BGC/Eurobrokers.

Steve Solomon, a spokesman for Jack Resnick & Sons, which owns the property, said the building was "really heavily flooded."

"They're working as hard as they can to fix all the problems and repair all the damages. As soon as they do, the building will open," he said.

Solomon declined to give a timeline for the construction, however.

Wall Street Plaza, a high-rise of offices at 88 Pine St. — where tenants include the Gilbane Building Company and accounting firm Meaden & Moore — is still closed. A security guard there Wednesday said electricity is back on but that crews are still repairing the building's fire alarm system.

Yellow caution tape was blocking off 55 Water Street, too. Tenants there include the offices of Standard and Poor's and the corporate headquarters for Emblem Health. The building is still without power, according to its website, which notes that "management is working with ConEd to restore power as soon as possible."

Workers in white hazmat suits were swarming around 4 New York Plaza Wednesday. The 22-story office building on Water Street is home to the New York Daily News and JP Morgan, and might not reopen for several months, according to an Atlantic Wire post last week.

Still, there's progress: the number of closed office buildings has dropped to 25 this week from 49 on Nov. 5, the first day Jones Lang LaSalle surveyed the area. Wheeler said several management companies had initially estimated longer time periods for repairs.

"They’ve had their engineers appraise the situation they’re accelerating their timeline," he said.

Among the buildings that recently reopened is One New York Plaza, a 2.6-million-square-foot office building on Water Street at the southern tip of Manhattan, where Morgan Stanley has offices. Owner Brookfield Office Properties began allowing tenants back in on Nov. 17, according to a statement.

“Our property operations and maintenance personnel worked around the clock to remove all water, restore services and ready the building for our tenants’ safe return,” Brookfield executive Dennis Friedrich said in a statement.