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Queens Chronicle

Hunters Point businesses cleanup damage from Hurricane Sandy

Westen Queens’ hardest hit area raises money and pumps water

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Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2012 10:30 am

The residents and business owners in the Hunters Point South neighborhood of Long Island City, where Borden Avenue meets the East River, are slowly picking up the pieces in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

This low-lying swath of Western Queens suffered the most damage in the area.

The Waterfront Crab House at 2-03 Borden Ave., which serves up inexpensive and delicious bowls of clam chowder and has papered its walls with boxing memorabilia, filled with about 5 feet of water when the storm hit. Unfortunately the restaurant is no stranger to disaster; it was flooded during Hurricane Irene and hit by a major fire in 2009.

This time thanks to Sandy, “The Crab House is totally devastated,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens, Manhattan) said.

A worker at the establishment pointed to the waterline on Monday afternoon, which can be seen on the filmy windows when the sun hits just so. The upstairs area is still a jumble of chairs and soggy flooring.

When asked about the cleanup, the staffer shook his head.

“We just finished pumping out the basement,” he said. “There’s no FEMA for commercial.”

Although FEMA assistance is only available to individuals, there are other government loans for businesses.

“Loans can come pretty quickly and you don’t have to pay for a couple years,” said Dana Frankel, district services manager at LIC Partnership, a group advocating for economic opportunities for the neighborhood. “That might be the easiest route.”

Additionally, businesses buying major equipment as part of their rebuilding process can be excluded from sales tax; the Department of Small Business Services and the Economic Development Corp. can help find free temporary office spaces; and there are loans for establishments that lost significant revenue because they couldn’t open their doors.

“Businesses are hurting from a loss of income — even just from the two or three days they were closed,” Frankel said.

LIC Partnership has a comprehensive guide of what help is out there online at licpartnership.org/HurricaneUpdate. The organization also has a list of recommended cleaning crews, electricians, plumbers and other contractors that it has deployed to businesses in the neighborhood.

The Alewife bar a couple blocks over at 5-14 51st Ave. is taking cleanup into its own hands. On the night of the storm four feet of water flooded the pub, wiping out the ground level and basement flooring, equipment, refrigeration, tables and chairs and the food and beverage inventory.

The neighborhood bar is trying to raise the $60,000 needed for repairs through GoFundMe, an online money- raising platform. On Tuesday the business had raised a little less than $3,000.

“It’s an awful thing to have happened. I can see it in the faces of these business owners,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “To see their businesses get destroyed — it’s not just about money, which is important, but their heart and soul is in their businesses. I want to let them know that we care.”

The Riverside Restaurant and Lounge, Water’s Edge Restaurant and Catering, City Vet and Little Ones Pre-School sustained major damage as well.

In addition to raising money for itself the Alewife collected supplies for Staten Island, Long Beach and the Rockaways, and one bartender donated all her tips from a night — $377 — to the American Red Cross.

Up the street at the Murano condos, at 5-19 Borden Ave., residents were evacuated and the board members are trying to get the building cleaned up. The 76 high-end units are in Zone B across the street from Zone A. The building did not flood, but backed-up sewage pipes spewed six feet of feces into the basement.

“Everything was brown,” board Vice President Dan Barnes said.

The lights and hot water were still out on Monday night, which caused all but three units to evacuate. Residents carried a senior woman down eight flights of stairs and out of the building in lieu of working elevators.

For now the company Serv Pro is drying out the basement. Residents and the board also assisted with ridding the electrical room of feces. Con Edison will not check out wiring if human excrement is there, Barnes said.

Van Bramer said Con Ed, which did not visit the neighborhood until Sunday, did not respond quickly enough. The councilman estimates that several hundred LIC residents are still without power, down from the initial 1,000.

The board is urging each of the condo owners to register with FEMA, which can help individuals, but not the building as a whole, Barnes said.

The next step in the cleanup process is to get an insurance adjuster to visit the building, Barnes said, adding that the board can’t begin additional repairs until it knows what its insurance provider covers. The Crab House, too, would like to see to an adjuster visit the establishment.

“We can’t sign off contracts until we know,” Barnes said. “We can’t bankrupt the building.”

During a Community Board 2 meeting a week after the hurricane, the board made reconstructing sewers in Hunters Point South its number one priority on its capital budget list.

Additionally, safety concerns for the thousands of people who could be moving into the planned apartment complexes in Hunters Point South in the coming years were brought up at Thursday’s meeting.

“After seeing it all under water, I’m becoming very concerned,” CB 2 member Sheila Lewandowski said.

Lewandowski added very few streets run into and out of Hunters Point South, making it difficult for evacuation.

“Do we need to redesign Hunters Point South? I don’t know,” said Penny Lee, of the Department of City Planning, adding that her office would look into it.

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