It is no surprise that the South Street Seaport is still heavily feeling the effects of Superstorm Sandy. At a recent legal clinic aimed at helping small business owners in the area, several owners spoke about the difficulties they are facing.
“The whole neighborhood, which to me is the most important neighborhood in New York City, is dark” said Amanda Byron Zink, owner of the Salty Paw, a South Street dog grooming business.
Issues of damage repair, applying for grants, paying back loans and qualifying for insurance are just a few of the challenges these small business owners face. Not to mention the question of when, if ever, they can put that “open” sign back on their front doors.
Amanda Byron Zink has lived in the South Street Seaport neighborhood for 17 years, with 6 of those years dedicated to running The Salty Paw along historic Front Street.
“I am raising my family here so this is personal,” Zink said. “It’s not just about getting my business up and running again, which is still closed along with 13 other storefronts in long historic Front Street.”
Even businesses that know they will be re-opening soon have found little cause for celebration just yet.
Stella was, and will be again, a Front Street neighborhood bistro owned by Fernando Dallorso. He appears to be better off than many with his restaurant ready to re-open, but as any true South Street Seaport patron knows, true success will only be established in numbers. These small businesses have an unparalleled sense of camaraderie and pride in diversity that has made them historic, and will keep that history alive.
“It’s all hands on deck, or it’s not going to happen,” said Dallorso.
Linda Marini, co-owner of the Italian restaurant Barbarini, intends to re-open as well, though unfortunately it will not be in South Street Seaport. As one of the first storefronts to open on Front Street seven years ago, it will be hard for her to leave this neighborhood. Where does Barbarini go from here?
“I don’t know, right now it’s a lot of question marks,” said Marini.
But in the midst of this four-month haze of uneasiness and uncertainty, there appears to be a little glimmer of hope and help.
Last Thursday, local business owners participated in the first 100 percent pro-bono legal clinic intended specifically for those in the Seaport neighborhood, hosted by Senator Daniel Squadron, law firm Proskauer Rose LLP, Manhattan Community Board 1, and the City Bar Justice Center.
On the third floor of the Seaport Museum, numerous business owners and lawyers gathered to discuss both the challenges and possible solutions for these local businesses.
“They are going to provide hundreds of hours of pro bono legal services not once, not twice, but on an ongoing basis to those who are affected down here,” explained Senator Squadron in a press conference shortly following this first session.
On the city, the state, and federal level, Senator Squadron acknowledged that there is a lot that still needs to be done. The senator himself, along with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, are sponsoring tax relief legislation for businesses and residents affected by Sandy.
There’s also a simple way for residents to help these businesses.
“One of the most important things is to walk with your feet and your pocketbook and support the businesses that have re-opened, and encourage them to stay open,” said CB1 Chair Catherine McVay Hughes.
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