CB1 Addresses Recovery Needs at Emergency Meeting

Councilwoman Margaret Chin addresses residents at Community Board 1's emergency meeting on Sunday at Trinity Church.


Electricity had been turned back on in most Lower Manhattan buildings, but many others remained dark. Some businesses—even in areas untouched by flooding—were still closed. Some tenants lacked steam, with a winter storm on the horizon.

With these challenges in mind, Community Board 1’s executive committee came together for an emergency session at Trinity Church on Sunday, Nov. 4. It was the first time the board had met since Downtown was evacuated, and a first chance for residents to address a question on everyone’s mind: What would it take to get Downtown back to normal?

“Where do people turn for re­sources?” asked Doug Smith, a Battery Park City resident and owner of the World Trade Art Gallery in the Financial District. “I’ve been inundated with people from the neighborhood…they really don't know yet where they go [for help.]”

The challenges facing the community after the storm appeared twofold: helping residents get home and addressing the needs of local businesses.

The most immediate needs were steam for heat, and electricity in buildings still without power, Community Board 1 chair Catherine McVay Hughes told the gathering, seated in church pews. Although Con Edison had turned on the Downtown grids, power was still off in numerous buildings because of issues with inspections or damage.

The Community Board office had begun compiling a list of buildings where residents had been displaced, but reports were still trickling in. “Our community has been hit hard,” CB1 Chair Catherine McVay Hughes said before passing a resolution asking for any hurricane aid passed by Congress to include Lower Manhattan’s residents and businesses.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had recently announced an assistance program for residents who have been displaced, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick said, but details about the plan had yet to be disseminated to her office.

“There is going to be something, we just can’t tell you exactly what it is today,” Glick said.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who had just been able to return to her home at 3 Hanover Square the day before the meeting, said her office is trying to get FEMA to set up a disaster relief center Downtown.

In the meantime, volunteer efforts were helping to fill in the gaps for residents in need. Donors had been dropping off blankets at Southbridge Towers, though more would be needed to make it through the temperature drop, CB1 member and Southbridge Towers resident John Fratta said.

“It’s going to be tough,” Fratta said. “We have a lot of elderly residents.”
If the situation facing residents was grim, businesses, especially in flooded areas of the Seaport were in equally desperate need of grants, federal aid, and basic information.

“My store is full of oil. Not just water but oil,” said Tazz Latifi, owner of the pet store Petropolis at 91 Washington St.. Latifi said she needs information on when she can return to her store. “I was told I would have to leave and that I can’t come back there because it is dangerous. They are putting red stickers everywhere.”

The New York Waterfront Alliance told the committee it had conducted a “quick and dirty” survey of businesses in the Seaport. Businesses there—and across Downtown—will need grants and ongoing help from volunteers to clean out their wrecked shops. Although FEMA funds were being made available, businesses would need help with that, too.

“It took me nine hours to just fill out the first two pages of the [FEMA] application,” Latifi said.

One way to help, the board suggested, would be to form a small business committee to address specific needs.

“It is going to take a long time to get businesses just up and running,” Fratta said. “We really are going to have to figure out what we can do to help.”