On Oct. 29, Sandy’s storm surge flooded basements, mixing East River water with sewage and shorting out the circuit boxes of many buildings. Electrical power returned to most of Manhattan by Nov. 4, but towers of condominiums in Lower Manhattan are still mostly dark.
In a usually bustling retail plaza, windows of shuttered shops were grimy, with mannequins in winter coats tipped over and stacked like corpses. The Seaport neighborhood was eerie and lifeless, with sputters of generators and whiffs of mildew pervading empty streets.
Marco Pasanella, 50, was one of thousands of New Yorkers taking control of his own situation, struggling to reopen his South Street wine store by next weekend. His damage was colossal but fixable, compared with his neighbors’. “We don’t have a basement,” he said. “That was our saving grace.”
When the East River rose above its banks, Pasanella & Son Vintners was one of the first properties inundated. The owner saw water shoot under his front door about 6:15 p.m. Tarps, sandbags, sump pumps were of no use. One hour later, he retreated to his building’s upper levels with his wife and young son.
Upstairs, also, were 10,000 bottles of wine, hauled in a human chain of friends and neighbors just before the storm hit. That amounted to half his pre-holiday stock, sales that represent 60 percent of his annual revenue. The other half remained downstairs, toppled by the water that engulfed his store.
Only three wine bottles actually broke, but the rest were too gunky to sell at full price. He recalled seeing a highly collectible vintage, a Romano Dal Forno red, worth several hundred dollars, “bobbing up and down in the puddle.”
After pumping and demolition, neighbors returned for a bottle-wiping party. Then through Facebook, Pasanella announced a flood sale. New Yorkers proved tough customers, of course. “Do you think you have any Barolo?” one asked. “Where’s your Bordeaux? I came all the way down here!” said another. Pasanella greeted all this with shrugs.
On Saturday, with workers sanding rebuilt shelves, Pasanella pointed to the water line on a wrinkled, stained window curtain. The brown squiggle was far above his head.
Around the corner, Jason Connolly, 38, knew a guy who knew a guy who could get him a work crew. As his pub, called Fresh Salt, was being blasted with dryers and gutted to the ceiling, Connolly walked outside and extended his tattooed arm toward a parking sign that he couldn’t quite touch. “That P is where the water was,” he said. Connolly is 6-foot-7.