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South Street Seaport businesses get one last summer

The exterior of Pier 17 at the South

The exterior of Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan. (April 1, 2013). Credit: Charles Eckert

New Yorkers will have one last summer to enjoy the South Street Seaport they've visited for years.

Dozens of Seaport businesses that were ravaged by superstorm Sandy are still closed and those that stayed open continue to suffer from dwindling foot traffic and a depressed aura since the October disaster.

Come the fall, the season won't be the only noticeable change on the east side waterfront. Pier 17, known for its restaurants, shops and breathtaking waterfront view, will be torn down by the Howard Hughes Corp., which owns the lease on the property. In its place will be a glassy new complex set to open in 2015, complete with larger stores and a green roof. There's even a talk of a first-class hotel and apartment buildings later on.

Pier 17 businesses were supposed to be out this week, but the City Council late last month granted them one last summer up to Sept. 9.

One of those businesses is House of Crepes, which will close after 10 years on Pier 17. Its owner said he won't apply for a spot in the new complex.

"I can't stay. I'd be closed for two years," Alex Kofman said. "I don't know where I'm going to go. I have to look, but the Seaport is the best place for my business."

Kofman is skeptical that many existing tenants will return. Of 92 tenants in Hughes' directory for the Seaport, 35 are closed. All Hughes tenants on Fulton and Front streets, including chains like the Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch, are still shuttered.

Though most shops in Pier 17 suffered little damage, Kofman said he lost 30 percent of business over the winter after Sandy virtually closed down the neighborhood.

Rebecca Robertson, who co-runs the boutique wine shop Pasanella and Son on South Street, said it took two months to return to pre-Sandy conditions. But even after reopening, the shop struggles with fewer customers.

Losses "are ongoing, because we're a neighborhood wine shop and we've lost the majority of our neighborhood," Robertson said.

Some are hoping the warmer months will help heal the area.

"I am confident that a robust summer season will help these businesses recoup the losses [from the storm]" said Councilwoman Margaret Chin, whose district includes the Seaport.

With Tim Herrera

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