Hurricane Sandy’s Lingering Threat to the Small Businesses of South Street Seaport

It’s been six months since Hurricane Sandy. New York City and New Jersey were hit hardest and communities are still rebuilding. People are still struggling to get their lives back on track. It has been particularly difficult for small businesses. The South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan, a hub for shops, restaurants, and entertainment, was under water during Sandy. Many of those businesses are still closed, or in the process of being renovated. As I recently walked through the Seaport, I felt the cold of its cobblestone walkways. Few people were out, and the few I saw were mostly tourists taking pictures of the now gated property. Doors with huge locks on them and sandbags are now the neighborhood’s main attraction. Fulton Market is completely closed.

The mall is like a ghost town. Some stores are closed, and those that are open remain empty. Booths that were once surrounded by people are gone. Of the few that remain, only one person lingers there. The food court is quiet. Some of the popular restaurants are closed, including the Harbour Lights Restaurant. People congregate outside where the Brooklyn Bridge is seen in the distance. Damage to the exterior of the pier is still evident.

In spite of its ghostly appearance, there are signs of improvement at the Seaport. Plans to launch a new summer program during Memorial Day weekend are in the works. The Howard Hughes Corporation, which manages the development of the Seaport, plans to host events that will highlight culture, food, and new retail. These events will go on throughout the summer season. This is an effort to rebuild businesses and bring revenue to the Seaport after Sandy. The corporation also has plans to revitalize and create a new South Street Seaport.

But this change is not sitting well with some business owners. A business owner I spoke with told me the redevelopment of the Seaport may force small businesses like his candy shop to move. “Where are we going to go?” he asked. “We have to move. This place won’t be the same anymore.” When asked how it would affect his business, his reply was abrupt: “Not good.”