Recovery For Howard Beach Biz Underway
By Luis Gronda
Although many businesses along the busy strip of Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach have reopened in the three months since Superstorm Sandy, there are some that are still picking up the pieces from the storm.
Among the storefronts still shuttered due to the storm are 7-Eleven, TD Bank, Petco, Staples and the nonprofit New York Families for Autistic Children center.
Many of those businesses have had to completely gut the inside of their property and start over anew.
The NYFAC location in Howard Beach was set to open its new 10,000-square-foot facility in November after a number of delays last year. Sandy forced them to postpone once again.
According to Andrew Baumann, NYFAC’s CEO, the first floor of their Howard Beach center took on about 3.5 feet of water, causing about $175,000 in damages.
“Basically, it was a swimming pool,” Baumann said. “We had to start from scratch all over again.”
A video posted on their website showed surveillance footage of flood water seeping through the entrance of the building and mentions some of the property that they lost.
Baumann said they applied for help from the Small Business Administration, but they have not received any help yet. Most of the money received for their renovation has been from an emergency loan from a bank and through donations from the public.
“That’s the only thing that’s helped me get through this,” he said.
Baumann noted that storm renovations have finished and the non-profit is now waiting on several inspections before they can fully open its doors. They are also still running on temporary power from Con Edison, and they are waiting for the utility company to restore permanent electricity.
The autistic services center is eyeing its grand opening for the first week in April, Baumann said.
The TD Bank, at 162-02 Cross Bay Boulevard, still has its main location on the Boulevard shut down, but has been operating out of a trailer adjacent to the building.
John Spagnuolo, vice president at TD Bank Group and store manager of the Howard Beach location, said the building took a little more than 5.5 feet of flood water from the storm, wiping out computer and phone systems, furniture and other property inside.
“It basically had to be rebuilt. It was an expensive undertaking,” he said.
Spagnuolo said that the branch is expected to reopen on Feb. 12.
As for 7-Eleven, Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for the convenience store chain, said everything inside the store at the time of the storm was lost. Its entrance is boarded up with wood, commonly seen in the days leading up to the storm.
Chabris said that the franchise will remain in Howard Beach and the company expects the store to reopen this May.
Petco is also currently closed, but is expected to reopen later this year. A spokesperson for the pet store chain declined to go into the specifics of the damage it received from the storm and emailed a statement from John Drew, its vice president of Regional operations for the Northeast.
“Our landlord is currently working on repairs to the building where our Howard Beach store is located. When that’s complete, we’ll go in and begin setting up our store with an eye toward re-opening sometime this spring,” he said.
In contrast to the stores that will return in the future, there is at least one business that will not be coming back to the neighborhood.
The Duane Reade branch appears to have moved out of its location. A sign posted by a real estate company says that the space it used to occupy is available for rent.
Duane Reade and the realtor, Winick Realty Group, did not return phone calls for comment as of press time.
Reach Reporter Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127 or at email@example.com.