A Month After Sandy, Many Businesses Still Fending For Themselves

warSasha von Oldershausen The manager of Rudy Volcano
unpacks new merchandise.

A month after Sandy, and with the deadline for federal and city-wide emergency loans looming at the end of December, East Village businesses are still struggling to get back to normal — and many of them aren’t getting assistance.

Several businesses contacted by The Local said they were still dealing with technical and equipment issues, limited phone lines, the cost of replacing lost merchandise, loss of business, and damage from mold, not to mention the red tape of applying for loans.

Some, like The Sunburnt Cow on Avenue C, are still contending with gas and electricity problems. Last Friday, the restaurant’s manager, Matilda Boland, said she was still without gas, and was only open for weekend brunch. “We’re currently cooking on what’s essentially camping equipment,” she said.

Ian Pearl, owner of Royale on Avenue C, has been dealing with his own equipment issues. “Stuff keeps breaking. The power surges blow, then it’s the compressors. There’s all that to deal with on top of the refrigeration, which was ruined, and all of the ruined inventory.”

Mr. Pearl, who estimates a $100,000 loss of business, has applied to a number of emergency loans without much luck. The city’s Department of Small Business Services, which offers emergency loans and a matching grant program, rejected his application; now he’s waiting to hear back from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“I’m just trying to wrap my head around it. It’s really a lot. With all this combined, it’s just not a good time,” he said.

Several small-business owners complained about heavy paperwork and unanswered applications, where loans program were concerned.

“We applied two weeks ago and still haven’t heard a word,” said the manager of Rudy Volcano, who goes by the name of War. The six-month-old store sells clothes and crafts made by indigenous peoples in developing countries.

More than 120,000 New Yorkers have applied for assistance through the FEMA’s website, according to the agency.

And the Small Business Administration, which provides low-interest loans to homeowners and small businesses, received a total of 10,444 emergency loan applications from Manhattan alone. Of that number, 12 applications had been approved as of Friday, a spokesperson said.

Of the dozen East Village businesses interviewed, only one, CHP Hardware, had been approved for a FEMA loan. But the store’s owner, Carlos Pedreros, had been hoping for a grant instead, and declined the loan.

“I’m taking my loss completely,” Mr. Pedreros said, adding, “I’m using my savings, little by little.”

He estimated a loss of $30,000 worth of damaged merchandise, none of which was covered by his insurance policy.

Other businesses in the area, like Sixth Street Specials, Figlia & Sons, Kramen Iron Works, and Michael Mut Gallery also decided to take their losses without outside assistance. The Movement Dance Studio, which suffered mostly from loss of business during the weeks without power, had to look elsewhere for assistance since it did not meet eligibility requirements for FEMA loans that primarily cover structural damage.

Rebecca Wender, the managing director of the studio, told the Local that they applied for an independent loan through the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.

For the manager of Rudy Volcano, the most disconcerting part of the post-Sandy recovery has been a lack of support from customers. “There seems to be a kind of a gloom,” War said, adding, “If the people don’t come and shop, I will not be here in January.”

Mr. Pearl concurred. “It’s definitely more quiet than usual around here,” he said.