Mayor Bloomberg has announced federal plans for a $1.8 billion Sandy relief fund to be allocated for New York City. While eligibility details will not be concrete until the U.S. Department of Housing approves the plan in April or May, this is a step in the right direction for hard hit neighborhoods, such as the Financial District.
Months after the superstorm battered Lower Manhattan, the devastation lingers. A quick stroll through the South Street Seaport area takes one past numerous boarded up businesses, many of which have no timetable of reopening. Some will. Others won’t. Even with closed eyes it’s possible to sense the condition of the area, as countless generators hum and exhaust glides on the echoes. The global business center seems to boast more construction workers than bankers at the moment.
Businesses with corporate backing are likely to recover, if they haven’t already. However, the future is uncertain for many small businesses. While construction is completed or underway on several locations, others, such as Bridge Cafe, are in danger of permanent close. Bridge Cafe, New York City’s oldest bar, has even taken to asking for donations in order to replace damaged equipment and some 85 percent of its wooden basement supports. The owner estimates that it will cost between $300,000 to $400,000 in repairs. Bridge Cafe is not the only business struggling to reopen. Even brand name stores like J.Crew and a Holiday Inn Express hotel are still closed due to storm damage. The lack of shopping, dining, and lodging has had an obvious receding effect on tourism.
Despite the struggles, some incredible progress is being made. Verizon has taken advantage of the situation by rewiring the Financial District with fiber-optics. As of February 5th, over 90 percent of the Sandy damaged office and commercial buildings have had their voice and high-speed data services restored. The operation so far has resulted in the removal of 150 tons of copper, and the installation of 6,500 miles of fiber optics cable. “There is much more work to do,” stated senior vice president of global operations for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, Martin Burvill, “but when we are done, our customers in lower Manhattan will have one of the most advanced communications networks in the world."
The Financial District of Manhattan is no stranger to change. The oldest neighborhood in the City has transformed from Dutch Colony, to the center of global banking and business, and more recently to a desirable new residential neighborhood. While many business are still closed, the Financial District still offers several options for dining, shopping, and museums. The neighborhood boasts some of the City’s most cutting edge green buildings and unparalleled mass-transit connections, all of which points to an inevitable recovery.