Downtown Businesses Still Struggle After the Storm

One month after Sandy, business is still very much disrupted in downtown Manhattan.

Take Wall Street Wine Merchants. The store rebuilt its flooded basement and reopened right before Thanksgiving. But manager Kumar Kamdar says the downtowners who used to buy his alcohol are leaving.

"They're breaking lease, they don't want to stay here anymore," Kamdar said. The store's sales volume is half or less than half the normal level, and just at the worst time of year.

"December, Christmas, and no one's around to buy or no one wants to spend that much money," Kamdar said.

It's not clear how many residents have left the area. 

A survey this week by Jones Lang Lassalle finds 23 major office buildings closed, amounting to nearly 20 percent of downtown's available space. Some giants of law and finance, like Standard & Poor's, are still shut out of their offices, and recovery workers are a more common sight than lawyers and bankers in some downtown streets. 

Tristan Ashby, JLL's director of research, says the problems are concentrated east of Broadway.

"There wasn't really a correlation between the building's age and the damage. The newer buildings didn't fare better. The most important factor seemed to be location," Ashby said.

The Battery Conservancy lost its home at 1 New York Plaza, close to the East River. Warrie Price, the conservancy president, said the organization lost everything. But thanks to cloud computing, her staff can work from home.

"Work goes on because we're so virtual. So much is already beyond walls beyond desks beyond paper," Price said.

The conservancy is now looking for a new home, because its landlord says the space can't be occupied again.