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South Street Seaport Six Months After Sandy

by Matt Gillis
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 Mira (on the wall), Flickr

Cowgirl Seahorse restaurant still struggles following Sandy.

A recent report by the Downtown Alliance says that over 90 percent of businesses are reopen in district one of Manhattan.  But for some businesses at the South Street Seaport, such a claim doesn’t represent their reality. 

The area in Lower Manhattan used to be a popular tourist destination.  But, now it seems like a ghost town.  In the heart of the Seaport stands Cowgirl Seahorse, a Mexican style restaurant and bar that managed to reopen its doors in December. 

The restaurant’s fast recovery was aided by its lack of a basement, according to co-owner and general manager Maura Kilgore. She says it did not suffer extensive electrical problems like other stores and restaurants in the Seaport.  She adds the restaurant did suffer its fair share of damage.  In the dining room, visitors will see a blue line on the wall that’s approximately five feet tall.  That’s how high Sandy’s water rose during the storm.  Kilgore says most of the restaurant was rebuilt and the equipment is still being replaced every week due to the corrosive effects of salt water. As if dealing with physical damage has not proven difficult enough, Cowgirl Seahorse lacks the customer base that they once had.

“There’s a lot less businesses open and a lot less residences as well.  People are displaced by the storm…People are beginning to come back, but it is definitely challenging,” says Kilgore.

The restaurant is staying afloat thanks to their local customers.  But Kilgore says it’s having trouble attracting tourists that usually flock to the area.  Kilgore says they are not attracting tourists because major anchor retailers like the clothing store Guess remain closed.  She fears this problem will bring hardship in the coming summer months.  

“We’re lucky that we have a good, strong base of local customers.  I’m curious to see what the summer will bring.  The warmer months tend to be more dependent on tourist business,” she noted with a hint of uncertainly in her voice. 

The city is also preparing to renovate Pier 17 and the Fulton Fish Market this fall. The plan for District One was in the works before Sandy hit.  Because of the renovations many businesses did not bother to reopen after the storm.  That’s added to the emptiness of the area. Regardless, businesses like Cowgirl Seahorse are pushing along.  Kilgore says that all they can do is keep their fingers crossed that the future brings better luck than the last 6 months.

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