Steps to Recovery for Small Businesses

Georgia Kral |
Updated: November 14, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Encore: November 14, 2012

UPDATE: Nov. 14

The flood waters have long receded in Red Hook and other areas but many businesses have lost everything and will be shuttered for months to come. The city’s Department of Small Business Services has instituted policies to help businesses rebuild.


Commissioner Robert Walsh of the NYC Department of Small Business Services discusses what his agency has been doing to reach out to business communities affected by Sandy, including those in Lower Manhattan, Red Hook, DUMBO and the Rockaways. MetroFocus airs Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. on WLIW21 and on Nov. 15 at 8:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN and 10 p.m. on NJTV.

The day after Hurricane Sandy hit, Brooklyn Ice House owner Trevor Budd was cleaning up his bar on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, his basement filled with water all the way up to street level. Budd said the damage was worse than he thought.

But two weeks later, the Ice House has re-opened. Miraculously, their walk-in fridge still works. Their circuit breaker was not destroyed in the storm, so they had power just three days after the storm. They are serving a limited food menu, and their beer list has dropped to 15 varieties from 75.

“We were lucky,” said Maddie Bouchard, a Red Hook local and an employee at the Ice House for the last year and a half. “No one else seems to have power and [they] are having a more difficult time reopening.”

Everything in the basement at the Ice House was destroyed, including two freezers, a refrigerator, ice machine, some electrical equipment and “thousands of dollars in beer alone.”

“It was depressing. We had to compile a list of what was lost for insurance purposes, so in an assembly line we dumped all the beer out in the backyard,” said Bouchard.

Red Hook is still struggling, but there is at least one bright spot.

“We’re still making our pulled pork sandwiches,” said Bouchard.


For those New Yorkers that lost their homes, or saw their businesses flooded, electricity and subway service are the least of their problems. City agencies are already coordinating to assist small businesses in recovering from Hurricane Sandy.

The basement of the Brooklyn Ice House was completely flooded on Tuesday following Hurricane Sandy's visit to Red Hook, Brooklyn. MetroFocus/ Georgia Kral

Feeling Sandy’s wrath after the storm

In Red Hook, Brooklyn, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, Trevor Budd arrived at his business, the bar and BBQ spot the Brooklyn Ice House, to find the basement filled with water and the bar itself wet and dirty. Budd said he didn’t know if he had flood insurance, and was distraught about all he had lost.

“I knew my bar was underwater. I didn’t know how bad it was going to be, but I just assumed the worst,” he said. “And it was the worst.”

Most of the equipment Mr. Budd kept in the basement was destroyed, including two freezers, a refrigerator, ice machine, some electrical equipment and a supply of beer and liquor.

In the Carroll Gardens neighborhood in Brooklyn, in an artists warehouse complex next to the Gowanus Canal, artists saw their work completely washed away.

Darcy Macrae plays drums in a studio at 61 9th Street. He said his studio filled with water after the walls collapsed due to the force of the water surging into the building from the canal. Tamas Vajda, owner of Savaria Studios, at 61 and 65 9th Street, said 25 music studios and recording spaces are located inside the buildings.

“It’s hard. I’m still taking it in,” he said. “Irene was nothing compared to this.”

The New York Art Foundry studio was completely flooded after the banks of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn were breached by Hurricane Sandy's storm surge. Owner Paige Tooker lost everything. MetroFocus/ Georgia Kral

Around the back of the complex is the New York Art Foundry, founded in 1986 and located next to the Canal for two years. The massive space, with soaring 40-foot ceilings, was completely flooded, leaving a water line about 6 feet above the ground and perhaps $100,000 in damages.

“I’m like in shock,” said owner Paige Tooker.


The city’s NYC Small Business Solutions office offers this advice for small business owners:

  • If you have insurance that will cover your damages, contact your agent immediately
  • Survey any damage; enter a severely damaged building ONLY after local authorities have deemed it safe to do so
  • Photograph any damage to your business and save receipts for replacement items or repair work
  • Look for safety hazards such as live wires, leaking gas or flammable liquids, poisonous gases, and damage to foundations or underground piping and notify the appropriate utility companies or emergency responders of any such safety hazards
  • Dry all areas and items quickly and thoroughly to prevent mold growth; food establishments especially should examine all surfaces, including sheet rock, for evidence of mold and take appropriate action immediately
  • Begin salvage as soon as possible to prevent further damage; cover broken windows and torn roof coverings immediately to protect merchandise / business from further damage
  • Separate damaged goods from undamaged goods, but beware of accumulating too much combustible debris inside of a building
  • Call in key business personnel and notify contractors to start repairs – after ensuring that safety systems are fully implemented before any work is allowed to begin

Emergency Loan Fund

If you are a small business in need of an emergency loan to recover from business interruption, you can now access loans up to $25,000. See the NYC Business Solutions site for more information.

Temporary Work Space

The New York City Economic Development Corporation has a list of temporary work locations that have offered storm impacted businesses free use of office space in the five boroughs.

Other Help from Department of Small Business Services

Temporary locations called Business Solution Centers in the city will have city, state and federal agents who can provide help and answers about grants, loans and permits. Call 311 to find out the locations. To request on-site assistance, see the website for a form to contact an account manager.

The website of the Department of Small Business Services also has information to help business keep employees rather than laying them off during this downturn time.

The Federal Small Business Administration may also be able to help with SBA disaster loans.


MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.


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