South Street Seaport, on the eastern side of the tip of Manhattan, was pretty terribly affected by Hurricane Sandy. It was right in the firing line, so to speak, and although it's been cleaned up, it's still suffering the effects somewhat.
H1 and I went down there recently for a bit of a wander and a good lunch. We hadn't been since before the storm, and at first glance, nothing was different. It was calm, tidy, and clean, with boats on the water, helicopters flying in and out, and seagulls cawing. People were walking about, enjoying the sunshine. You wouldn't know anything had happened.
After a few minutes, though, it dawns on you that it's a bit too quiet for a sunny day, and there aren't actually that many people walking around. Up close, you notice that the edge of the pier is all raggedy. And when you walk off the pier and onto Front Street, all the shops are boarded up, closed to their usual business.
It came as a bit of a shock, seeing familiar names like J.Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Coach all shut down like that. The storm happened seven months ago, and these are big names; surely they could have reopened already? Of course, what I didn't think about is that it's probably not up to them. They almost certainly merely lease the premises, and the owners are still probably battling insurance companies.
What is awesome is how much is open, however. South Street Seaport clearly reacted quickly and decisively to get something happening by summer, and all around us signs advertised free outdoor cinema evenings, mini food festivals, pop-up markets, and even a 'rooftop bar'*. Without trying to hide the devastation, they've pulled together a whole lot of awesome events and happenings to work around it anyway. With the shipping containers, ingenuity, and good design, it reminds me a lot of Christchurch's response to the earthquake – and I do wonder** if that served as a case study for South Street Seaport.
Even though it's all the way downtown*** I'll definitely be going back to South Street Seaport this summer – to watch a movie or two, sit in the sun and have a drink, or possibly**** just to eat at Smorgasburg again. Obviously, I wish it hadn't been so badly hit by the hurricane, but I think I actually kind of like it more now. After all, if you really want to go shopping, there are stores all over the city. South Street Seaport's offering something different and something cool, and all New Yorkers should be making the most of it while it lasts. Let's all hope that even when it's up to full speed, the containers and the pop-up food stalls remain – but just in case, go check it out now.
*On the roof of a couple of shipping containers.
***How does living in NYC make one lazier?! Apparently getting across the river is no longer the greatest challenge I face, and getting all the way downtown has become a total achievement.