A world of hurt for city businesses in Sandy's wake
For Brooklynite Trevor Budd, getting from his home in Bedford Stuyvesant to the bar he owns in Red Hook on Tuesday morning meant navigating streets that were flooded the night before and overwhelmed with downed trees, abandoned cars, piles of garbage and a sheen of oil that stuck to most every surface. When he got to the Brooklyn Ice House on Van Brunt Street at 9 a.m., he was confronted with his personal disaster area. The basement had been inundated when Superstorm Sandy blasted the city Monday night. Most of the equipment Mr. Budd kept there was destroyed, including two freezers, a refrigerator, ice machine, some electrical equipment and a supply of beer and liquor. "I pretty much assumed the worst," Mr. Budd lamented, "and it was the worst." The most damaging storm in many a New Yorker's memory left city residents and business owners to grapple with a raft of difficulties. For the tens of thousands who lost power Monday night, it was a day of emptying out refrigerators and freezers. For those who had to get to work, it meant figuring out ways to do so without using the still-shuttered public transit system. Early estimates suggest Sandy caused twice the damage that last year's mega-storm, Irene, did. One insurance-research firm, Equecat, estimated that insurers would pay $10 billion in claims for damages or destroyed property. Irene, by comparison, generated $4.3 billion worth on insured losses. Among the insurers expected to write the biggest checks are State Farm, Allstate and Travelers, which in the states affected by the storm are the No. 1, 2 and 3 top writers of homeowner and commercial multi-peril insurance policies, according to SNL Financial. While most homeowner policies provide coverage against wind damage, most don't pay claims when damage is caused by flooding. After 2005's epic Hurricane Katrina, insurers and homeowners along the Gulf Coast fought in court for years over whether residences were destroyed by the hurricane's devastating winds or the surge of flood waters that came later. It seems likely that homeowners in the Rockaways, Coney Island and other seaside parts of New York may face the same sort of battle. One almost inevitable consequence of Sandy is that insurers will charge New York consumers and business owners substantially higher rates in the years to come in light of the fact that the region has suffered two major storms in the past two years. In the near-term, higher prices for gasoline and home heating oil seem a sure thing. The storm forced 70% of the East Coast's oil refineries to go idle. Within the five boroughs, damages to businesses initially seemed greatest in Red Hook and in the financial district, although the New York Stock Exchange declared it would reopen Wednesday. In Breezy Point, Queens, large-scale fires early Tuesday morning destroyed approximately 80 homes, including the house of Rep. Bob Turner, R-Brooklyn/Queens . In waterlogged Red Hook, several other enterprises near Mr. Bud's bar reported heavy damage. Kamal El Sayed, owner of H&K Grocery on Van Brunt Street, was nearly speechless as his surveyed the interior of his store with a flashlight. "Look," he said, pointing the beam at the watermark several feet above the floor. "You see?" The floor was littered with soggy food and overturned shelves. Mr. El Sayed said he would be looking for government assistance as he begins to clean up. "I have insurance," he said. "But it's not going to be enough."