Battered but buoyant after Sandy, Seaport Shops reopen 1 year later

Sandra Tedesco, co-owner with Calli Lerner of Keg 229 on Front Street, in the bar on Oct. 19. It had been closed since Oct. 29, 2012, when Superstorm Sandy flooded the Seaport. Tedesco said that Keg 229 opened for the block party but will close for another week, after which the bar will reopen, with the kitchen open by the early part of November. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Sandra Tedesco, co-owner with Calli Lerner of Keg 229 on Front Street, in the bar on Oct. 19. It had been closed since Oct. 29, 2012, when Superstorm Sandy flooded the Seaport. Tedesco said that Keg 229 opened for the block party but will close for another week, after which the bar will reopen, with the kitchen open by the early part of November. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER  |  Two messages were neatly written on the chalkboards over the bar at Keg 229 on Front St. between Beekman and Peck Slip. One of them said, “Screw You, Sandy.” The other said, “We Are Back. Credit cards aren’t. Cash only.”

Keg 229, a bar specializing in American craft beers, was among the South Street Seaport stores and restaurants flooded by Superstorm Sandy that celebrated their reopening with a party on Oct. 19 organized by a newly formed consortium of merchants called the Old Seaport Alliance.

Sandy roared through the Seaport a year ago on Oct. 29, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Some stores such as Il Brigante and Jack’s Coffee are still closed but will reopen in the next few months. Some will never reopen.

Keg 229 opened just for the party. It will close for another week and then the bar will reopen, followed by the kitchen in early November, said Sandra Tedesco, co-owner with Calli Lerner of the bar and another one on Front St., Bin No. 220.

Bin had a soft opening around a month ago. Tedesco said that it cost approximately $90,000 to rebuild it and around $150,000 to restore Keg. She and Lerner received a $20,000 grant from the Alliance for Downtown New York and $5,000 from New York City Small Business Services.

They are now applying for an S.B.S. loan of $150,000 at 1 percent interest with a matching $60,000 grant but haven’t heard yet whether their application will be approved.

Their story and their struggle over the past year is typical of what the merchants of Front St. and Peck Slip have endured since Sandy.

“The first week after the storm, we were overwhelmed,” said Tedesco. “Then we thought, ‘we can do this. We can rebuild.’ I live in the neighborhood. I love this block. I’m excited to be here today.”

The party on the cobblestoned street featured a band, costumed actors dressed as some of the 19th-century denizens of the area (wealthy merchants in top hats, sailors, whores and beggars) and the presentation by The Howard Hughes Corporation of a check for $50,000 to the Old Seaport Alliance.

Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer Neighbors came out for the Old Seaport Alliance’s reopening party Oct. 19.

Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Neighbors came out for the Old Seaport Alliance’s reopening party Oct. 19.

In announcing the donation, Chris Curry, Howard Hughes executive vice president, said that though the company was based in Dallas, it was local. “We live here,” he said, attempting to deflect the oft-repeated accusation that developers with no roots in the Seaport were trying to remake it into a simulacrum of a suburban shopping mall surrounded by luxury apartments and hotels.

Two members of Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee who declined to be named said that while they were glad that Hughes had made a donation, it did not quell their fears about H.H.C.’s undisclosed plans for the Seaport.

“This represents one half of one day’s income for [Hughes],” said one of the members. “This was the cheapest P.R. they could buy.”

Amanda Byron Zink, owner of The Salty Paw, a dog grooming and pet boutique at 38 Peck Slip and one of the founders of the Old Seaport Alliance, said that the Hughes donation would go to pay for the Oct. 19 party and for subsequent events designed to bring people to Front Street and Peck Slip.

Several restaurant owners pulled out all the stops to be open in time for the celebration. Stefano Barbagallo, owner of Barbalu at 225-227 Front St., managed to reopen part of his store, with a limited menu. He plans to expand the restaurant into a neighboring space over the next few months.

Suteishi at 24 Peck Slip reopened on Oct. 18 after being shuttered since Sandy.

“We had six feet of water in the store,” said owner Victor Chan. “It destroyed everything.”

He said that it cost around $400,000 to rebuild and that he had managed to reopen “through the grace of God.”

He was also helped by a $211,000 loan from the Small Business Administration and a $91,000 loan from his landlord, the Durst Organization, to be repaid over the 10-year term of his lease. He received a $10,000 grant from the New York City Economic Development Corporation and expects to receive a $20,000 grant from the Downtown Alliance, which was contingent on his reopening. In addition, he received $500 from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.

He expressed special thanks to Jackie Goewey, owner of the neighboring Front Street restaurant, Made Fresh Daily. Goewey, whose building doesn’t have a basement, was able to reopen soon after Sandy and let Chan use her premises to prepare sushi for delivery to Suteishi customers.

“She was a blessing to us,” said Chan.

He said he was “gratified and relieved” to be back in business. “It’s good to see that we’re loved by our neighbors and patrons,” he said.

The South Street Seaport Museum held a block printing workshop at Bowne Printers, 209 Water St. and a collage workshop at Bowne & Co. Stationers at 211 Water St. The barque Peking was open for guided tours with historian Jack Putnam. Woodcarver Sal Polisi demonstrated his craft aboard the 102-year-old ship.

In the museum’s Melville Gallery at 213 Water St., Christina Sun and Naima Rauam displayed and sold their artwork. The Melville Gallery (also known as the Thompson Warehouse), lost its floor to Sandy. It has only recently been replaced.

Christie Huus, a member of the museum’s interim board of directors and a director of strategic planning and development for the mayor, read a letter from Mayor Michael Bloomberg in which he said his administration was delighted to support the Old Seaport Alliance’s efforts.

Asked about the future of the Seaport Museum, Huus said there was nothing that she could report at the present time.

Two days earlier at an event marking the beginning of construction at nearby Pier 17, Bloomberg privately told two attendees that a plan would soon be announced to save the museum, and David Weinreb, Hughes Corp.’s C.E.O.,  said publicly that he had a tentative agreement with the city to do just that.

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4 Responses to Battered but buoyant after Sandy, Seaport Shops reopen 1 year later

  1. Eager to have more info on the plan to save the Seaport Museum mentioned at the end of this piece.

  2. Any idea why it took Seaport areas shops longer than ones in Red Hook to re-open? Looking to learn from that answer.

    • Historic Front Street buildings had custom geothermal heating units. The entire infrastructure had to be replaced w conventional units and moved to the roof tops. Arranging both the financing to buy and source the new units may have contributed to the delay vs. Red Hook.

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