The historic cobblestone streets and 19th-century mercantile buildings near the water's edge in lower Manhattan are eerily deserted, a neighborhood silenced by Superstorm Sandy. Just blocks from the tall-masted ships that rise above South Street Seaport, the windows of narrow brick apartment buildings are still crisscrossed with masking tape left by their owners before the storm. Store interiors are stripped down to plywood and wiring. Restaurants are chained shut, frozen in time, saddled with electrical systems that were ruined by several feet of salt water that raced up from the East River and through their front doors.
"People have no clue that this corner of Manhattan has been hit so badly," said Adam Weprin, manager of the Bridge Cafe, one of the city's oldest bars that sits on a quiet street near the seaport. "Right now, it's a ghost town and a construction site." Nearly four months after the storm, roughly 85 percent of small businesses near the South Street Seaport are still boarded up. It could be months before some reopen, while others may never return. On Fulton Street, the wide tourist-friendly pedestrian walkway that comprises the seaport's main shopping district, not a single one of the major chain stores -- which include Coach, Ann Taylor and Brookstone -- has reopened.
Among local business owners, there is a pervasive sense that their plight has been ignored by the rest of the city. A state senator who represents the area estimates at least 1,000 jobs were lost in lower Manhattan -- 450 of them in the seaport neighborhood alone. From its red wood-frame building in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Bridge Cafe has dealt with its share of changes over the last two centuries, including stints as a Civil War-era brothel and a bootlegging speakeasy during Prohibition. It has endured economic slumps, nor'easters and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But after the basement was flooded to the rafters and water destroyed the building's wood foundation, Weprin faced the prospect of shutting its doors for good.
"The neighborhood's been beaten," Weprin said. "You walk around here and it's like Chernobyl. At night, it's vacated." The small businesses of the seaport were far less resilient than the neighboring skyscrapers that house many of lower Manhattan's large financial companies.
Some corporations were displaced for weeks after the storm, forced to relocate to temporary office space farther uptown while flood-damaged skyscrapers fixed their infrastructure and moved electrical systems to higher floors. Con Edison said 10 major buildings remained without power as of Feb. 13, most operating on emergency generators.
At 110 Wall St., a 27-story office tower that occupies a full block near the New York Stock Exchange, all leases were terminated because the building was so badly damaged by flooding. It remains empty while its management company comes up with a long-term plan for weathering future storms. "How do we protect the lobby?" said William Rudin, the company's CEO. "How do we protect the retail spaces?"
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Hurricane Sandy Destruction -- An Epic Storm
Lower Manhattan 4 Months After Superstorm Sandy: Deserted and Still Struggling
Rising floodwaters caused by Hurricane Sandy rush into a subterranian parking garage on Monday in Manhattan. Sandy's storm surge was estimated to affect hundreds of thousands of homes along the East Coast.
Vehicles are submerged on 14th Street near the Consolidated Edison power plant in New York. The storm forced the shutdown of mass transit, schools and financial markets, sending coastal residents fleeing, and threatening a dangerous mix of high winds and soaking rain. It ranks high among other recent natural disasters that have destroyed urban areas.
A general view of submerged cars on Avenue C and Seventh Street in Manhattan after severe flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy, with widespread power outages and significant flooding.
Lower Manhattan goes dark during Hurricane Sandy. Power has been out in parts of New York all week and might not be turned back on until the weekend. It may make many consider whether to buy a standby generator.
The town of Long Beach, N.Y., is submerged by the storm. It was one area where homeowners were desperately trying to prepare for Hurricane Sandy's onslaught.
A person tries to cross the street in Atlantic City, N.J., as Hurricane Sandy churns toward the East Coast. The city was like a ghost town, with casinos shuttered, tourists fleeing and many parts of the town inundated in knee-high water.
A home in Manalapan, Fla., shows the severe damage it sustained when Hurricane Sandy passed through. Many homes were left ravaged in the wake of the storm, leaving homeowners worried about what their insurance would cover.
A wave crashes against the shore in Montauk, N.Y., while a person stands on a porch as Hurricane Sandy moves up the coast.
Ocean waves kick up near homes along Peggoty Beach in Scituate, Mass.
Aerial view of the coast in Belmar, N.J., after Hurricane Sandy left widespread damage along the Eastern Seaboard. Homeowners are likely to be turning their attention to how to recover from the storm.
Homes are left destroyed on Highland Street in the Tri-Beach area in Milford, Conn., by Hurricane Sandy. For people in hurriance-prone areas of the country, here's how to hurricane-proof your home.
Waves wash over a ruined roller coaster from a Seaside Heights, N.J., amusement park, after the pier beneath the Star Jet coaster collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Sandy. New Jersey got the brunt of the massive storm, which made landfall in the state.
Caleb Lavoie, 17, of Dayton, Maine (front), and Curtis Huard, 16, of Arundel, Maine, leap out of the way as a large wave crashes over a seawall on the Atlantic Ocean during the early stages of Hurricane Sandy in Kennebunk, Maine.
Sailboats rock in choppy water at a dock along the Hudson River Greenway in New York.
Waves pound a lighthouse on the shores of Lake Erie near Cleveland. High winds spinning off the edge of Hurricane Sandy took a vicious swipe at northeast Ohio, uprooting trees, cutting power to hundreds of thousands, closing schools and flooding parts of major commuter arteries that run along Lake Erie.
Firefighters look up at the facade of a four-story building on 14th Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan that collapsed onto the sidewalk during Hurricane Sandy.
Downed power lines and a battered road is what Hurricane Sandy left behind as people walk off the flooded Seaside Heights island.
Richard Thomas walks through the floodwaters in front of his home after assisting neighbors in Fenwick Island, Del.
People wade and paddle down a flooded street as Hurricane Sandy approaches in Lindenhurst, N.Y.
An ambulance is stuck in more than a foot of snow near Belington, W.Va, in Sandy's aftermath. The storm buried parts of West Virginia under more than a foot of snow, cutting power to at least 264,000 customers and closing dozens of roads. At least one death was reported.
The view of storm damage over the Atlantic Coast in Mantoloking, N.J. Americans sifted through the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy after the storm passed, with millions left without power. The storm carved a trail of devastation across New York City and New Jersey, killing dozens of people in several states, swamping miles of coastline, and throwing the tied-up White House race into disarray just days before the vote.
A woman walks over the flooded streets of Hoboken, N.J., after Hurricane Sandy hit. The storm was one of the largest in history to hit the East Coast.
A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of Hurricane Sandy in Hoboken, N.J.
A 168-foot water tanker, the John B. Caddell, washed ashore on New York's Staten Island from Hurricane Sandy's powerful winds.
Brian Hajeski, 41, of Brick, N.J., reacts after looking at debris of a home that washed up on to the Mantoloking Bridge in Mantoloking, N.J., the morning after Hurricane Sandy rolled through.
Foundations and pilings are all that remain of brick buildings and a boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., after they were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
This aerial photo shows burned-out homes in the Breezy Point section of Queens, N.Y., after strong winds whipped a fire into an inferno. The tiny beachfront neighborhood had been evacuated before it was inundated by floodwaters, transforming a quaint corner of the Rockaways into a smoke-filled debris field.
A fire fighter surveys the smoldering ruins of a house in Breezy Point. More than 100 homes were destroyed in a fire which swept through the oceanfront community during Hurricane Sandy.
A car is buried in sand that was washed in from Hurricane Sandy in Long Beach Island, N.J.
In this aerial photo, people survey destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in Seaside Heights, N.J.
Jim Margiotta digs sand out from under his garage door, which was caused by Hurricane Sandy, in Long Beach, N.Y.
This aerial photo shows a collapsed house along the central Jersey Shore coast.
Heavy surf caused by Hurricane Sandy buckles Ocean Avenue in Avalon, N.J.
Cars are submerged at the entrance to a parking garage in Manhattan in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. A wall of seawater and high winds slammed into the city, destroying buildings and flooding tunnels.
A woman stands near destroyed homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the Rockaway section of Queens, N.Y. The death toll has risen to nearly 100 in the U.S., with 41 in New York City alone.
Boats are piled on top of each other at the Morgan Marina near Sayreville, N.J.
A man walks by the remains of part of the historic Rockaway boardwalk in Queens, N.Y., after large parts of it were washed away during Hurricane Sandy.
Waves break in front of a destroyed amusement park wrecked by Hurricane Sandy in Seaside Heights, N.J.
This aerial photo shows burned-out homes in the Breezy Point section of Queens, N.Y., after a massive fire that was fanned by Hurricane Sandy's winds.
Robert Connolly, left, embraces his wife, Laura, as they survey the remains of the home owned by her parents that burned to the ground in Breezy Point. At right is their son, Kyle.
Andrew Seemar, 13, removes items from a room as he and his mother, Kathleen, clean up after their home in Brick, N.J., was flooded during Hurricane Sandy.
Rescuers bring people out by boat in Little Ferry, N.J., in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Olivia Loesner, 16, hugs her uncle, Little Ferry Deputy Fire Chief John Ruff, after she was rescued from her flooded home in Little Ferry, N.J.
The remains of homes destroyed by a fire that swept through the Breezy Point neighborhood in New York City's borough of Queens.
Brian Hajeski, 41, of Brick, N.J., reacts as he looks at debris of a home that washed up on to the Mantoloking Bridge in Mantoloking, N.J., the morning after Hurricane Sandy rolled through.
Virgen Perez, left, and her husband, Nelson Rodriguez, center, look around their home which was flooded by Hurricane Sandy in Atlantic City, N.J.
Johnny Adinolfi is comforted by neighbor John Vento, right, as he stands in what was once the living room of his home in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Massapequa, N.Y.
People take photos of water filling the Bowling Green subway station in Battery Park in Manhattan as New Yorkers cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
This satellite image shows the monstrous size of Hurricane Sandy before it made landfall on the East Coast.