Mott Haven businesses unite after Sandy

Vanessa Polanco cleans up after flooding at her shop, Verde Flowers, on Lincoln Avenue.

Storm forces shop owners to rely on one another

Businesses in Mott Haven banded together in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s damaging blow, shop owners said after the storm had passed.

“The entire neighborhood came together,” said Gordon Roth, CEO of Gordon Roth Development Corporation, from his office in Mott Haven, where the company owns four properties. “It became a cooperative neighborhood of businesses with everyone having one thing in mind—helping one another.”

Many businesses lost power or were hit by flooding, but the Clock Bar on Lincoln Avenue was spared because it is about four feet above ground level, according to the café’s general manager, Michael Brady.

Since the Clock Bar is one of the few fully operational businesses in the area, Brady offered city workers and business owners everything from free coffee to permission to use the restrooms.  “Anything they need to make it through,” he said.

The Clock Bar also ran a long extension cord to help nearby Verde Flowers, which lost electricity during the storm.

“We still have no power,” said Vanessa Polanco, a co-owner of Verde, a few days later. “We have been working hard to clean up and have made some progress but we can’t officially be up and running until we regain the power.”

Another Lincoln Avenue business, Santana Auto Repair, pitched in to help the taxi service Superior Radio Group, which was in darkness right after the hurricane. When the electricity in both businesses failed, the repair shop hired a private electrical company that adapted a line in the shop to restore 90 percent of its power three days later, according to the shop’s assistant manager, Raphael Santana, 21, whose father owns Santana.

In turn, Superior Radio Group, which is located next door, also got back some power to operate its two-way radio dispatch service. Santana said that the fix for both businesses is temporary until Con Edison restores power completely.

Many of the business owners in the area heard about the disaster from their neighbors. Polanco said that at around 7 p.m. on October 29, a neighbor called and told her that her shop and several others on Lincoln Avenue were flooded.

“It came very quickly,” she said. “It filled the basement of this building almost eight feet and they’re still pumping out. They’ve been pumping for two days.”

Flooding also affected Santana Auto Repair and other nearby shops.

“Our basement was completely flooded up to the top, to the point where no one could go inside for anything at all,” said Santana. “There was a lot of smoke coming out of certain basements because a lot of the wires basically were burned out. It was terrible.”

Of the businesses in the area, Bruckner Bar & Grill on Bruckner Boulevard was hit hardest. Its basement and office space, along with several rooms in the popular South Bronx hotspot, were flooded. Everything in the bar’s kitchen will have to be replaced along with freezers, microwaves and refrigerators, said Joseph Diaz, the general manager.

Diaz anticipates that the bar will be closed for another week or two while damaged appliances, food and equipment are replaced.

“I knew it was going to be bad, but not as bad as it was,” he said. “Heavy freezers that weigh at least 300 pounds with food in them, like 500 pounds, were just floating. It was just really weird to see everything the way it was.”